Elpis BioMed Ltd, a University of Cambridge (UK) spin-out, recently announced that it has raised funds to bring its human cell products and services to market. It's proprietary “direct cell reprogramming” platform can produce pure, mature and highly consistent batches of human cell types for research, toxicology and drug development. The funds will be used to grow the Company’s catalogue of off-the-shelf human cell type products and expand its service offerings, marking its first step towards more complex products, including human organ-on-chip models, and cell-based therapies.
Mark Kotter, scientific founder and CEO of Elpis explained: “Elpis’ near-term goal is to allow every scientist to base their work on human cells, without the need of having particular expertise in stem cell biology. In the long term, we would like to develop our technology for clinical application.”
The use of human cells is becoming increasingly important in the context of research, toxicology, and drug discovery. Differences between commonly used cell and animal models and human biology contribute to high attrition rates at late stages of drug development. However, primary human cells remain restricted with respect to availability and lack consistency. Advances in human stem cell technology promised to increase the options available. However, the elaborate culture protocols required for traditional “directed differentiation” of stem cells into desired target cells result in limited scalability and considerable batch-to-batch variation, often yielding immature, foetal-like cells with a fundamentally different phenotype to that of mature cells in the human body.
Elpis’ proprietary cell reprogramming platform ‘OPTi-OX’ (optimized, inducible over-expression), overcomes the hurdles of availability, consistency and maturity. It enables highly controlled, efficient, and scalable “direct reprogramming” of human stem cells into homogeneous target cell populations with minimal batch-to-batch variation. Elpis’ manufacturing approach reduces the time required to generate desired cell types from months to days and offers a reliable source of somatic human cell types that is amenable to high-throughput applications.
Elpis’ technology is already generating skeletal muscle cells, blood precursors, neuronal (cortical neurons) and glial cells. The Company plans to expand its product offerings to human cells with distinct genetic backgrounds, e.g. from healthy and patient donors, as well as provide bespoke cells with synthetic mutations or gene insertions that meet specific research requirements. It also offers strategic consulting services for tailored implementation of human cell assays in target validation, drug discovery, and screening processes. Elpis is interested in partnerships and joint ventures for generating novel cell types, complex in vitro models, such as 3D or organ-on-chip systems, and developing its cells for future therapeutic and personalized medicine approaches.
Source: Elpis press release