The aim of the project – work on which began in February at the University of Toronto’s Banting Institute - is to create monitoring and control technologies that enable ‘robust’ growth of human pluripotent stem cells using Millipore’s Mobius bioreactor range, which will be made commercially available to academics and developers.
The collaboration - which is valued at C$500,000 (€348,997) – will focus on developing 3D tissue cultures as alternatives to the expensive, labour intensive 2D systems that currently dominate the biomanufacturing sector.
Robert Shaw – commercial director of Merck Millipore’s stem cell initiative – said: “As the demand for stem cells used in drug discovery and clinical applications grows, effectively translating the promise of stem cells into therapeutic reality will require large-scale, industrialized production under tightly controlled conditions.”
Merck Millipore – formed through German drugmaker Merck KGaA’s acqusition of Millipore in 2010 – is the first industrial partner to work with the CCRM, which is a Toronto-based not-for-profit corporation focused on the promotion of regenerative drugs and technologies that launched in summer 2011.
CCRM CEO Michael May said: “When CCRM was created, we had industry partnerships like this in mind,” adding that Merck Millipore’s "production expertise and technologies will help CCRM to develop products that will benefit industry, academia, and the patient community.”
For Merck, involvement in the project has a number of obvious benefits – foremost of which is that it extends the scope of its bioreactor technologies.
It will promote the use of those platforms to academics and biopharmaceutical developers, which is an approach is similar to that taken by GE Healthcare last month when it partnered with a Singapore academic institution to develop a biomanufacturing training programmes in which students are taught production technique using platforms developed by GE.
Beyond this the CCRM collaboration also continues Merck’s efforts to diversify its business beyond in-house drug development and production into the services area, which was a key driver for its acquisition of Millipore.