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Scientists working for scientists
BERGISCH GLADBACH, Germany—Miltenyi Biotec and Boston-based Stemgent recently announced that the companies will collaborate on the co-development and commercialization of stem cell research products.
Miltenyi Biotec will make an equity investment in Stemgent, and Stefan Miltenyi, CEO of Miltenyi Biotec, will join Stemgent's board of directors. According to the agreement, Miltenyi Biotec will be responsible for worldwide marketing and sales of Stemgent's existing stem cell product portfolio outside of the United States, while Stemgent will continue to serve its U.S. customers. Both companies will jointly develop products to serve unmet needs of the international stem cell research community. New products developed as part of the strategic collaboration will be globally commercialized by Miltenyi Biotec on an exclusive basis.
"The philosophy of both companies is very similar—scientists working for scientists to enable high-quality research," says Miltenyi. "Additionally, the portfolios fit very well, and there are a lot of synergies using Stemgent and Miltenyi Biotec technology together. Stemgent small molecules and Miltenyi Biotec's magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS) separation technology for embryonic stem cell (ES) and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) research. Stemgent small molecules like the hES cloning and recovery supplement allow single-cell passaging of human ES and iPS cells, which is a prerequisite for MACS separations to enrich pluripotent stem cells. Furthermore, ES and iPS cell–derived cells can be influenced in their differentiation by using Stemgent small molecules and Miltenyi Biotec and Stemgent cytokines. In such differentiation, protocol results can be further improved by depleting unwanted cells or enriching the target cells with the MACS separation technology."
The molecular characterization of stem cells and the analysis of mechanisms governing reprogramming, self-renewal and differentiation of cells necessitate homogenous cell populations. Stemgent's expertise with antibodies for pluripotent cells and Miltenyi Biotec's expertise in MACS separations will result in straightforward approaches for the gentle and fast isolation of numerous stem cells and derivatives thereof, Miltenyi states.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell generation has traditionally been achieved by viral transduction of oncogenic transcription factors—a challenging process. Recent studies, however, have shown that some of the four genes originally thought to be required for iPS cell generation may be dispensable. Several alternative defined conditions are capable of improving efficiency and kinetics, generating more homogeneous iPS populations. These defined conditions are now made possible with the use of various combinations of Stemgent small molecules affecting reprogramming, self-renewal and differentiation.
Commenting on the collaboration, Ian Ratcliffe, president and CEO of Stemgent, notes that, "partnering with Miltenyi Biotec is a tremendous step for Stemgent, as we instantly increase our global reach with a top-tier partner allowing us to better serve our customers' needs. The co-development aspect dramatically increases our ability to combine Miltenyi Biotec's technologies with Stemgent's stem cell expertise. We are especially pleased to have Stefan join Stemgent's board and welcome Miltenyi Biotec as a strategic partner. Stefan's experience in building a world-class organization in the research tools space brings an invaluable perspective as we continue to build Stemgent."
Commenting on the commercial opportunities implicit in the collaboration, Miltenyi notes that research on pluripotent stem cells is growing rapidly and the funding situation is very strong in many countries.
"Additionally, numerous Big Pharma companies have recently shown strong interest in these cell types. Miltenyi Biotec and Stemgent aim at serving academia, biotech and pharma with innovative products to improve stem cell research," he states.
The United States is the biggest market for ES and iPS cell research with billons of funding (e.g., $3 billion over 10 years from California's Proposition 71), but there are many other countries which significantly invest in ES and iPS cell research, Miltenyi points out, naming, specifically, Japan, Australia and the European Union.
"Until now," he says, "a lot of money has been invested in infrastructure. We now expect that more money will be spent for stem cell research reagents and instruments. The stage of development is similar in these leading countries."
With approximately 1100 employees in 18 countries, Miltenyi Biotec develops, manufactures and commercializes innovations for both, research and clinical applications. Stemgent provides proprietary reagents and tools specifically optimized for and screened against stem cells, and includes small molecules for pluripotency, self-renewal and differentiation, viral- delivered transcription factors, matrices, cell lines, cytokines, antibodies and transfection reagents.