Packaged batches of stem cells for regenerative medicine

Posted: May 27, 2014 at 12:51 am

The Spanish start-up Aglaris Cell is close to launching onto the market the world's first bioreactor that cultures cell in a fully automated way, without using toxic additives. The device has attracted interest from the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant, Merk.

David Horna, a 33-year-old from Madrid and one of the co-founders of Aglaris Cell, whose offices are located in the Madrid Scientific Park (PCM), is in London this week to meet with investors to secure a second round of funding. Horna, alongside his two partners, Miquel Costa and Manuel A. Gonzlez de la Pea, created the company a little over two years ago with the aim of developing a device that would automate stem cell cultures thereby making advances in the production of 'live' medicines.

As David Horna explained, after four years of intensive research and development, the prototype called Aglaris Facer 1.0, patented in 2012 in Spain and in the process of obtaining its international patent, "is practically ready to be sold on the market."

The idea of developing this device came about when the partners, who worked in various fields of biotechnology, noticed that more and more industries were using cells and tissues in their production processes.

Fully automatic

"We saw that the way live medicines from stem cells were being produced was highly manual, and so we came up with the idea of designing and developing a cell culture bioreactor that could automate the entire process. We believe that the stem cell-based therapies sector is going to expand rapidly in the years to come and will become a very promising business," Horna stated.

He noted that there are other bioreactors on the market and some have been able to automate some of the stages in the process, "but ours is the first in the world to perform all the process stages in a fully automated way."

Until now, an additive called trypsin was usually used in this type of culture, however, trypsin is toxic for cells and removes part of the membrane's proteins. "It has been used up to now because there was no other alternative, but our technology does not need to use this product," Horna said.

"Instead, our development uses an iterative method of cell culture which enables us to completely automate and remove the need for human involvement in the cell separation and washing stages, without using any additives that increase the toxicity level. We have achieved this by using smart surfaces that make cell adhesion and de-adhesion possible depending on changes in the environment," the co-founder explained.

He also adds that "we are currently finalising the developments that also make it possible to use the same device to produce genetically-modified cell lines for cellular reprogramming and gene therapies." These advances build on the work Horna undertook for his thesis on smart surfaces at the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) and the Sarri Institute of Chemistry (IQS) which was published in the 'Advanced Healthcare Materials' journal.

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Packaged batches of stem cells for regenerative medicine

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