Under the agreement the firms plan to develop a monitoring methodology utilizing Sistemic's microRNA marker detection system that can be used to improve the growth of cell culture produced using Merck’s CellReady platform.
Glasgow, Scotland-based Sistemic’s approach is to analyse microRNA, which are small, non-coding RNA molecules that play a critical role in regulating gene expression, and identify the critical markers.
The firm then feeds this information back to - for example - drug developers who can use it to match a candidate therapeutic compound against a particular drug activity, class or mechanism of action.
However, in the context of the Millipore deal, the idea is to provide the microRNA information to the quality control teams responsible for ensuring that stem cell-based therapeutics are produced in a consistent manner.
“Sistemic makes full use of the fact that miRNA is stable and analytically robust and has developed products that fit seamlessly within companies’ current workflows. These products range from robust quality control (QC) for cells and stem cells, to toxicity and drug response based products for Pharmaceutical markets. “
Merck and Sistemic also suggest that in addition to being incorporated into Merck’s production systems the markers could also be incorporated into a commercially-available kit for quality control of stem cells in culture.
Merck spokesman Robert Shaw cited growing drug industry interest in cellular therapeutics as a driver for the agreement, explaining that: “To advance the progress of stem cell products toward clinical use, it is critical to ensure the consistency and quality of large-scale culture systems.”
"We are excited to be partnering with Sistemic, as the company's leading microRNA-based solutions will help us continue our efforts toward the commercialization of stem cell processing."