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Promethera Biosciences and EMD Millipore join forces to deliver a pre-clinical liver pharmaco-toxicological testing assay
The project will be funded EUR 900K (USD 1.25 M) in total by the Belgian Walloon region and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC)
Promethera(R) Biosciences, a company that develops innovative therapies for the treatment of liver diseases, today announces a collaboration with EMD Millipore to develop an improved ready-to-use microfluidic perfusion liver assay. This new product is designed to perform more robust studies in pre-clinical toxicity and drug metabolism. Early availability of reliable human liver-based assays is critical to the pharmaceutical industry when deciding to bring a lead compound in clinical phase development.
With their combined expertise and synergies, the companies are well positioned to develop a ready-to-use long-term liver-based assay. The Promethera Biosciences team is specialized in isolating, expanding and characterizing human liver progenitor cells for both cell therapy and liver cell based assays. EMD Millipore is a global life science company with an extensive portfolio of cell analysis instruments, research reagents and assays, cell culture and sample preparation products, plus advanced microfluidic cell culture as well as drug discovery services.
Promethera Biosciences has identified a novel adult human hepatic progenitor cell population that can be maintained in vitro in two-dimensional and three-dimensional cell culture conditions providing new models for testing in vitro drug metabolism: PrometheraH2Screen and H3screen. This technology is the object of a patent application filed by Promethera Biosciences. There are various benefits with this new technology. Promethera Biosciences cell-based models are derived from healthy human livers and acquire a metabolic capacity within the range of primary hepatocytes. They have long-term stability in culture as well as potential for large-scale production and reproducibility across batches.
EMD Millipore’s ‘Pearl’ microfluidic technology maintains hepatocyte functionality by mimicking the liver microenvironment. When liver cells are cultured in the ‘Pearl’ format they recover key metabolic functions and could display phenotypic profiles of the intact organ for over a month.
The project for developing a new product combining the strengths of EMD Millipore 'Pearl' microfluidic technology and of Promethera Biosciences H2Screen/H3Screen cells has been selected by the Belgian Walloon Region Biocluster (BioWin) and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC). It will be funded EUR 900K in total for both partners.
The Belgian Walloon region and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) are partners in the International Collaborative Industry Program (ICIP). The program’s objective is to promote and motivate collaboration between life sciences companies in Massachusetts, USA and other countries by facilitating partnerships, supporting exciting new projects and providing joint funding for helping to swiftly design and develop innovative products and services.
In April 2013 a call was launched with four partner foreign regions of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in the ICIP program. Promethera Biosciences and EMD Millipore were one of the four collaborative projects selected by independent Belgian and American panels of experts.
“We are very pleased to initiate this collaboration with EMD Millipore and to combine our expertise to develop a ready to use liver based assay. We sincerely thank the Walloon region and the MLSC for funding this innovative project,” said Eric Halioua, chief executive officer of Promethera Biosciences.
“The opportunity to work closely with Promethera over the course of the project speaks to the nature of our organization, enabling our partners to conduct potentially life-saving research,” says Robert Yates, president and CEO of EMD Millipore. “We are looking forward to building our relationship and more importantly to the outcomes this partnership has the potential to deliver. A sincere thanks to the MLSC for the opportunity to see what this collaboration can achieve and more importantly the continued support of the Massachusetts Life Sciences industry.”
An urgent need for reliable human liver-based assays for early preclinical testing
Early availability of reliable human liver-based assays is critical to the pharmaceutical industry in deciding to bring a lead compound in clinical phase development. Thirty per cent of drug candidates fail during clinical development due to toxicity issues. Hepatocyte (liver cells) based studies represent 85 per cent of in vitro toxicology assays. Current models are limited by key technological challenges such as long-term stability of hepatic functionality to allow chronic toxicity testing and obtaining a stable and consistent human cell source at acceptable cost.
About Promethera Biosciences:
Promethera Biosciences is a pharmaceutical company that develops innovative therapies for the treatment of liver diseases. In addition, it is currently developing two products based on human liver progenitor cells:
- Promethera(R) HepaStem is a cell therapy product based on the use of allogeneic stem cells isolated from healthy adult human livers (Heterologous Human Adult Liver Progenitor Cells, HHALPC). These cells can be used to treat a wide variety of liver diseases, from rare inborn metabolic diseases (which can be classified as ‘orphan diseases’ and mainly affecting children), to acquired deficiencies affecting adults, such as fulminant hepatitis or liver fibrosis.
- Promethera(R) H2Screen and H3Screen is a non-therapeutic in vitro product based on a recently discovered and patented liver progenitor cell type, isolated from healthy adult human livers. This novel biotechnology tool is designed for early preclinical pharmaco-toxicological evaluation of drug candidates and new chemical entities.
Promethera Biosciences is a spin-off of the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL), founded in 2009. The company is a spin-off of the lab of Professor Etienne Sokal, a leading expert in pediatric liver disease and cells. It is located in Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium.
Since its creation in 2009, Promethera Biosciences has raised EUR 34 million in two financial rounds, in capital, grants and loans from the Walloon Region. The main investors are Vesalius Biocapital, Mitsui Global Investment, BI Venture Fund, Shire and SRIW.
Promethera Biosciences has 46 employees led by an experienced management team.
About EMD Millipore:
EMD Millipore is the life science division of Merck KGaA of Germany and offers a broad range of innovative, performance products, services and business relationships that enable our customers' to succeed in research, development and production of biotech and pharmaceutical drug therapies. Through dedicated collaboration on new scientific and engineering insights and as one of the top three R&D investors in the life science tools industry, EMD Millipore serves as a strategic partner to customers and helps advance the promise of life science.
Headquartered in Billerica, Massachusetts, the division has around 10,000 employees, operations in 66 countries and 2012 revenues of EUR 2.6 billion. EMD Millipore is known as Merck Millipore outside of the U.S. and Canada.
Note: Merck KGaA or Merck shall mean Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany