The project, which is being coordinated by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), aims to use pluripotent human stem cells to improve toxicity testing for candidate products.
The idea is that because these cell-lines can be triggered to develop into any type of cell they can be used to create a range of predictive in vitro assays that more accurately reflect the behaviour of a drug or cosmetic.
CIT CSO Roy Forster told Outsourcing-Pharma.com the firm is going to be involved in assessing the assay's robustness and in its subsequent industrialisation, but could not provide additional information for reasons of confidentiality.
He went on to say that: "We are confident that our involvement in the project will potentiate our activity in in vitro testing," adding that the preclinical CRO has already invested in this field “which we see as an important area for both CIT and toxicity testing in the future."
Evreux-headquartered CIT is the fourteenth member of the ScreenTox project, joining drug firms AstraZeneca, CXR Biosciences, fellow CRO Covance, academic groups in Germany and the UK Health Protection Agency.
Five year project
The project, which is being part funded by the European Commission (EC) under its 7th RTD Framework Programme, will focus on four key research areas over its five year duration.
The first of these is “relevance”, which will see the development and maintenance of discrete stem cell phenotypes to provide large versatility to adapt to assays of specific pathways.
The group will then focus developing methods of automated cell production and differentiation in the “efficiency” stage using a variety of cell engineering, selection and genomics technology
The penultimate step is to "scale up" the project to develop cells and technologies that enable the industrial production of assays, the robustness of which will be examined in the final “normalisation” stage of the project.
CIT’s involvement in the latter stages of the project may prove to be a money spinner for the firm, at least that’s if predictions by network coordinator Marc Peschanski prove to be accurate.
In a press statement announcing CIT’s membership Peschanski said: “The evaluation of toxicants calls for new models that will allow assessing toxicity pathway responses in vitro.
“Derivatives of pluripotent stem cell lines are likely to be the best candidates to implement this new strategy, as these most relevant and reliable model systems can also be robust and scalable in order to meet the challenges of industrial-scale screens.”