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In like a laminin, out like a lion
BASEL, Switzerland—Early March brought news that Roche and Stockholm, Sweden-based BioLamina had signed a research and development agreement to jointly develop new cell culture systems for various applications, including stem cell research.
Specifically, the collaboration will focus on assessing laminin-based in-vitro cell culture matrices, reportedly "offering highly physiological microenvironments for living cells."
Laminins are proteins located in the extracellular matrix providing the stability essential for cell growth and behavior, the companies explain, and they are so far the only known protein group in this environment that have a tissue-specific distribution, including expression of specific laminins during embryonic development.
This makes them a very interesting target for new biologically relevant cell-culturing techniques, notes Ruedi Stoffel, head of the Biochemical Reagents & Custom Biotech unit at Roche, who tells ddn, "This collaboration was driven by market forces. You've had this first generation with cell extracts that are not very well defined, but now we're more into targeting for certain cell lines, which hadn't happened much in the past. There is more and more evidence that some of the laminates for certain cell lines have a very special effect, and there is demand in the market for cultivation of certain cell types."
"Our aim is to develop laminin-based culture systems that provide biologically relevant, standardized environments," Stoffel explained in the news release about the deal. "We are looking forward to this collaboration to build on the revolutionary cell cultivation techniques developed by our colleagues at the Karolinska Institute and BioLamina."
Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will provide research and development funding and scientific expertise to BioLamina. Financial details were not disclosed.
As BioLamina CEO Kristian Tryggvason noted in the announcement about the deal, "We're delighted that Roche has recognized the potential of our products and technology, which we believe will significantly complement their expertise and capabilities in cell culturing. By resolving many of the technical obstacles currently blocking the road to modern cell therapy, we expect this collaboration to accelerate the development of innovative cell culturing solutions that possibly can enable cell therapy."
Tryggvason tells ddn that Roche approached his company roughly a year ago, at a point when BioLamina, with its staff of 10, was looking for various opportunities. The two companies had not previously worked together.
"Of course we think we have the best technology in the world," Tryggvason says, "but we don't have the resources to do all the things we want to, so we were looking for different options to help develop new products, and Roche is known for their good, high-quality products and their ability to structure a good R&D deal."
The deal is open-ended with no specific timeline or end date, Roche's Stoffel says.
BioLamina's current product offerings number about nine, Tryggvason says, though only one is being commercialized in a major way right now, as it is the one with the most validation data behind it. All of those products are based on recombinant laminins developed by Prof. Karl Tryggvason at the Karolinska Institute.
According to BioLamina, "The use of laminins solves practically all the technical problems confronting stem cell culture. When cell culture dishes are coated with biologically relevant human recombinant laminins, many primary cells, including stem cells, feel comfortable and do not change their phenotype. In principle, this allows infinite culture of stem cells and other primary cell types in completely defined environments in vitro."
Laminins provide solutions to issues of repeatability and undefined and complex culture systems, BioLamina notes, making cell biological research and development of clinical applications faster, easier and more reliable. The company has been producing laminins for different cell types and distributing them to all continents since 2009, and its goal is to become the "one-stop shop for superior reagents for scientists working in the primary cell culture and stem cell therapy fields." With its proprietary technology, BioLamina sees its reagents as a potential key to accelerating the development of new cures in regenerative medicine therapies for many serious diseases.