Friday, August 28, 2009

The Stem Cell Chip is Expected to Be Available to the Market Next Year

28 August 2009

FLUIDIGM has announced it will provide a status update on its ground-breaking Stem Cell Chip at the World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, due to take place 21 to 23 September 2009.

The Stem Cell Chip is expected to be available to the market next year.

The World Stem Cell Summit hopes to bring together the stem cell universe of researchers, ReGEN industry leaders, funders, medical philanthropies, policy-makers, advocates, educators and regulators to chart the future of regenerative medicine.

Organizers say the comprehensive, multi-track program will cover advanced science, commercial perspectives, disease progress reports and in-depth reviews of policy, law, ethics, regulatory issues and global economic development.

Fluidigm says historically, gene expression profiling of single cells, such as stem cells, has been difficult and expensive to perform. The company believes results from single-cell samples can be obtained easily and inexpensively using BioMark System and the company's Dynamic Array integrated fluidic circuits (IFCs).

Fluidigm claims Dynamic Array IFCs are ideally suited for high-throughput cell-line studies to determine individual cell behaviour in a homozygous population.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Expansion, funding could inject new life into stem cell research

By Jay Wilcox
September, 2009
Corridor Inc. news magazine

Hospitals and research facilities are a major part of the corridor's economy. Added research funding, particularly in stem cell research, could boost the local economy.

"At the Greater Baltimore Committee, we see bioscience and health care as one of the center points of economic growth, because of all the educational facilities we have," said Don Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee. "Having a highly-educated workforce usually attracts people in the bioscience field to want to work in our region."

Because of facilities like Johns Hopkins Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical System, the corridor could see a sizable chunk of federal funding for stem cell research.

Right now, at least in Maryland, a lot of the primary stem cell research is in the academic institutions," said Richard Zakour, director of the Tech Council of Maryland.

"The Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund supports 141 research projects," said Dan Gincel, director of MSCRF. "These 141 grants are supporting research directly involving over 350 researchers, physicians, lab technicians and other personnel and an estimated 700 researchers indirectly working in labs supported by research grants. The Post Doctoral Fellowship Grants support high-paying new jobs for PhDs and MDs. Expanding the program would certainly create additional direct and indirect jobs."

Maryland currently is home to more than 400 bioscience companies and 50 federal centers of research, and medicine is a big part of the economy. New facilities are on the way, as more big names enter the corridor.

RNL Biostar, a subsidiary of South Korea's RNL Bio Inc., is investing $6 million in the construction of a new stem cell research and manufacturing facility in Germantown. The company aims to occupy a total of 20,000 square feet in Montgomery County by 2014. The majority of its employees will be cell-manufacturing technicians,with an average annual salary of $50,000.

Gov. Martin O'Malley recently cut another $3 million from Maryland's 2009 stem cell research budget, the fourth such cut in the past 15 months. The research fund is now at $12.4 million dollars, about half of the $24 million it had in 2008.

"The governor faced some pretty difficult decisions in having to reduce a $14 million office budget," said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for the governor's office. "The federal government has really revamped their effort and priority of funding stem cell research, which allows the state to not be alone in the game."

Despite budget cuts, research remains strong. In May, the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission evaluated 147 project applications, according to a release. The board of directors for TEDCO reviewed the commission's recommendations and approved 59 projects for a total of $18.9 million in funding.

In the research community, optimism abounds.

"Maryland cannot sit back and wait, and risk losing the momentum and investments in stern cell research and economic development made to date," Gincel said. 'When federal policies, guidelines and appropriations are solidified, Maryland's stem cell research community will be poised to successfully compete for federal funding, with years of data and research supporting their requests."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fluidigm Developing Stem Cell, Sample Prep, and Higher-Throughput Genotyping Chips
August 18, 2009
Newsletter: BioArray News
By Justin Petrone

Fluidigm is deep into a product-development cycle that will result in the commercialization of new biochips for stem cell studies, sample preparation, and higher-throughput genotyping, according to company officials.

While launch dates for the new products are still undetermined, the South San Francisco, Calif.-based integrated fluidic circuit maker expects the new chips to roll out over the next two years.
Founded in 1999, Fluidigm already makes and sells IFCs embedded in silicone for SNP genotyping, single-cell gene expression, copy-number, and gene-expression studies, second-generation sequencing sample preparation, and protein crystallization.

Fluidigm officials told BioArray News during a site visit earlier this month that the new products will build on the firm’s expertise in these applications.

Stem Cell Chip
Chief Scientific Officer Marc Unger said that the firm is developing a new chip that should address the needs of the stem cell research market. The chip will be based on a prototype developed by Fluidigm co-founder and scientific advisory board member Stephen Quake, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University.

In 2008, Fluidigm and San Diego stem cell reagent supplier Stemgent received a $750,000 grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to develop a cell culture chip.

Fluidigm's IFCs are already being used by stem cell researchers for single-cell gene expression studies. In June, the firm said that Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and Toshio Suda of Keio University, both in Japan, had adopted its BioMark platform for use in their studies (see BAN 6/30/2009).

Unger said that the new chip in development should simplify protocols recently developed to turn differentiated cells into stem cells, and to reprogram stem cells to redifferentiate in a desired way.

"There are some very interesting developments that have happened in the stem cell field in the last year and a half," Unger told BioArray News. "Dr. Yamanaka, specifically, took stem cells and turned them into pluripotent stem cells," he said. "However, that protocol was long and with low efficiency. Yamanaka's protocol took 30 days and had 25-percent efficiency."

Even though scientists can now turn differentiated cells into stem cells, they must also redifferentiate them before attempting to use them therapeutically, Unger said. "Those cells can turn into anything and they do, like hair, fingers, or teeth. So you need to reprogram the cells into the appropriate type in order to use them therapeutically. "It is very difficult to do that using welled plates,” he added. “It's difficult to get the conditions uniform and it is very labor intensive."

According to Unger, Fluidigm will be able to simplify the protocol for turning differentiated cells into stem cells and redifferentiating them by locating the processes in one integrated fluidic circuit. This stem cell chip is expected to launch in late 2010. It will have 64 chambers with controls to automatically feed cells in the chambers and provide a medium in which the researcher can individually and automatically dose the cells in a chamber with up to 16 different reagents, according to Unger.

Fluidigm is also developing a supporting instrumentation system that will control the elements on the stem cell IFC and allow researchers to modify the composition of the medium delivered to each chamber in the chip over time, Unger said. The system will also provide time-lapse microscopic images in both transmitted light and fluorescence of the cells so the researchers can consistently monitor the progress of their experiments, he said.

Fluidigm spokesperson Howard High told BioArray News that the market for stem cell research tools is an "emerging and huge area" that the firm views as a "big opportunity." He said that Fluidigm currently has a presence in the market and "intends to remain a significant player as this stem cell area emerges."

Unger said that large pharmaceutical companies are beginning to show an interest in stem cell research, making them potential target customers for the stem cell chip in development.

"Big pharma is making small-molecule drugs, but they are kind of reaching the end of the road and it is getting more expensive to develop them," Unger said. "There are limitations on what small-molecule drugs can do that cells don't have. Cells take hold, grow, and can replenish themselves."

If pharma companies seized on that opportunity, it would "open up a new continent in terms of what therapeutics could do," Unger said.

Sample Processor and Higher-Throughput Genotyping
Another IFC in development at Fluidigm is being referred to as a sample processor chip. According to High, users could input raw samples, such as blood, directly into the integrated fluidic circuit and the chip would extract and purify what the user desires to analyze, such as DNA, RNA, proteins, or other biomolecules.

"This is the automation of the sample-prep process," High said of the system, which the company expects to launch in 2010 or 2011. "For us, it’s a way to simplify and reduce cost for the researcher by automating the process with the chip."

Fluidigm says the sample processor chip builds on its BioMark system, which enables users to perform quantitative PCR, gene expression, and genotyping on one system. "If you look at Fluidigm’s BioMark System for genetic analysis, it starts with DNA or RNA and then amplifies and analyzes those materials," High said. "The sample processor is one step upstream of what the BioMark system does."

While Fluidigm develops the sample processor it is also looking to increase the density of its integrated fluidic circuits. The current 96.96 Dynamic Arrays it sells for use on the BioMark allow users to run 96 different samples on 96 distinct genetic markers. High said that Fluidigm hopes next year to launch chips that will enable users to run 192 different samples in assays of up to either 24 or 96 markers.

Internally, Fluidigm refers to the new higher-density IFCs as "rectangular chips" because they don’t follow its existing square matrix. High said that the genotyping market would most immediately benefit from the higher-density IFCs.

"Genotyping will be the initial market segment where these chips will be targeted," High said. "It could ultimately be used in other areas, but the customers’ desire is to reduce the cost of a given data point by focusing specifically on their points of interest, [which] allows them to just study the markers they are after and minimize them to the greatest extent possible. These types of chips would allow them to utilize the capabilities of a given chip to the best of their ability," he said.

High cited the agricultural biotechnology market as a customer segment that is demanding higher-density chips that offer lower cost per data point. In May, for example, the firm said that Dutch seed producer Enza Zaden had selected its BioMark System for genetic engineering and would use its 96.96 Dynamic Arrays to ensure the quality of its feed supply .

High said that rectangular chips will also "add value" for researchers conducting single-cell gene expression. "In this market segment, cost is not the primary concern," High said. "Here researchers want to study many genes using very little sample," he said. "The ability for maximum utilization off of a rare or small sample will have them tap into the properties of a 192x24 chip, for example."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stem Cell Action Honorees

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley Leads Distinguished
Group of 2009 “Stem Cell Action” Honorees

5th Annual Stem Cell Action Awards Presented at 2009 World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore

WASHINGTON--The Genetics Policy Institute (GPI) will honor Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), two leading Michigan stem cell organizations and two patient-advocates who serve on the Maryland Stem Cell Commission at its 5th annual Stem Cell Action Awards dinner on Tuesday, September 22, at the Baltimore Hilton as part of the 2009 World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

Here are the 2009 Stem Cell Action honorees:

1. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (National Leadership Award) - Since taking office, Governor O’Malley has spearheaded a number of strategic investments in Maryland’s bioscience industry. In addition to creating the Life Science Advisory Board, he has been instrumental in securing funding for bio initiatives, including $59 million over three years for Maryland’s Stem Cell Research Fund, thereby continuing Maryland’s innovative leadership in the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine. He serves as a national example of effective governmental leadership in the field of regenerative medicine.

2. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) (International Advocacy Award) - JDRF is the global leader in research leading to a cure for type 1 diabetes. It sets the agenda for type 1 diabetes research, and is the largest charitable funder and advocate of diabetes science worldwide. JDRF has played a historic role in advocating for new federal funding guidelines for stem cell research, and has also directly funded diabetes research into the use of adult, embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells in the pursuit of a cure for diabetes.

3. Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures (Education Award) - MCSCRC is dedicated to educating the citizens of the State of Michigan, including public officials and policy makers, about the complex science, the biomedical potential and the current policies affecting stem cell research in Michigan. In 3 years the organization engaged in over 300 presentations, 10 radio programs and 11 cable and television shows for a statewide educational program that reached over 2 million citizens throughout the state.

4. Cure Michigan (Grassroots Advocacy Award) - In 2008, 2.5 million citizens of Michigan voted to protect embryonic stem cell research in the state constitution. Cure Michigan organized this successful ballot initiative campaign and remains Michigan's leader promoting the advancement of state and national embryonic stem cell research and policy.

5. Margaret Conn Himelfarb, (Inspiration Award) - Margaret, whose son has type 1 diabetes, has worked tirelessly and effectively to promote stem cell research. She founded the coalition Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research and led the statewide grassroots campaign for stem cell research funding. She serves on the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission, the Johns Hopkins Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee, and JDRF’s International Board of Chancellors. A legendary advocate for JDRF, Margaret spearheaded the successful national campaign for a Diabetes Awareness postage stamp.

6. John L. Kellermann, III (Inspiration Award) - John has courageously battled Parkinson’s disease with his characteristic resilience and courage. He made an important leadership contribution to the grassroots organization Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research. An exemplary and inspiring voice for patients and their families, John testified both in Annapolis and Washington in favor of stem cell research. He serves is a member of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission.

"The Genetics Policy Institute’s Stem Cell Action Awards, presented at the World Stem Cell Summit, honor dedicated individuals and organizations that significantly advance the cause of stem cell research. These honorees are heroes. Their actions bring us closer to the day when scientific discoveries will translate into effective treatments and cures,” said Bernard Siegel, Executive Director of GPI.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm stated, "I congratulate Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures and Cure Michigan for this well-deserved honor. Stem cell sciences are the vanguard of innovation technologies that will spur economic growth in the coming decades and this recognition underscores Michigan's transformation as a biotechnology leader."

The World Stem Cell Summit is presented by GPI and by Johns Hopkins University, the University System of Maryland, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, Maryland Technology Development Corporation and Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund. This event has garnered more than 150 sponsors, supporting organizations and media partners. It is the flagship networking conference bringing together the world stem cell community.

For information on how to register for the World Stem Cell Summit or to sponsor and attend the Stem Cell Action Awards Dinner, visit Policy Institute (GPI) supports stem cell research to develop therapeutics and cures. GPI pursues its mission by honoring leadership through the Stem Cell Action Awards, producing the World Stem Cell Summit, publishing the World Stem Cell Report, organizing educational initiatives and fostering strategic collaborations.

For more information about GPI, visit or call 888-238-1423.

The Genetics Policy Institute
Bernard Siegel, 305-801-4928