The deal – financial terms of which have not been divulged – gives GlaxoSmithKline access to Plasticell’s CombiCult technology in order to screen combinations of its molecules to identify iPSC differentiation processes.
“The aim of the collaboration between Plasticell and GSK is to improve and optimise a number of key induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) differentiation processes identified as strategically valuable,” Plasticell executive chairman Yen Choo told this publication.
“The outputs of the work would likely be an increase in protocol efficiency, reduction in cost – as well as complexity – and reproducibility of methods across iPSC's from different sources.”
The CombiCult process will take place at Plasticell's facility at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, about 50km north of London, UK, though some parts of the assay development and validation process will be carried out at GSK’s own facilities.
According to Choo, Plasticell’s CombiCult platform has the ability to screen tens of thousands of protocols in parallel, significantly reducing the experimental burden.
It can also test across multiple cell lines in parallel allowing for the elucidation of protocols that either work across many different cell lines or are particularly efficient for a specific cell line.
CombiCult begins with the design of a matrix with a series of sequential process steps, each consisting of a number of discrete culture conditions.
The cells to be tested are then encapsulated within beads and distributed between the culture conditions of the first step, and after a defined time beads are pooled together and randomly distributed into the next set of conditions, Choo explained.
“This continues sequentially until the Combicult process is complete. At the end of the process, the beads are immunostained for a specific marker of interest, such as a cell surface antigen that defines a particular phenotype and analysed on a large particle flow sorter, which sorts positively stained beads from those which do not contain the marker of interest.”
After removing the cells from the beads, Plasticell is able to analyse the flow cytometry of the fluorescent tags associated with the positive cells, thus deciphering their culture history.
“Plasticell has developed a number of novel, highly productive protocols for the expansion of hematopoietic stem cells, in vitro derivation of functional brown adipose tissue from adipose-derived stem cells and differentiation of iPSC's into megakaryocytes for platelet production, amongst other examples,” Choo said.