Cellular Dynamics Adds to Stem Cell Work With Harvard Institute

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Cellular Dynamics International, a Madison, WI-based manufacturer of human cells, recently signed a collaboration agreement with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute that’s aimed at making greater quantities of stem cells available to researchers at the institute and its affiliates.

CDI concentrates in part on developing and commercializing therapies using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can be differentiated into any type of cell found in the human body. These cells in turn have a wide array of applications in regenerative medicine; for example, they could be used to make photoreceptor cells—also known as rods and cones—or even to create whole retinas.

The company said that its goal in working with the HSCI is to make iPS cells and technology more accessible to the institute’s network of researchers, who are scattered across hospitals and biomedical businesses based in the Boston area, as well as Harvard University’s various schools.

“Our intention is to partner with both pre-commercial and post-commercial partners and affiliates of HSCI to move these technologies to a higher scale and further toward technology productization,” said Bruce Novich, executive vice president and general manager at CDI, in an e-mail to Xconomy.

CDI will design, develop, and manufacture new cell lines for HSCI-affiliated researchers, and provide them with on-site training and support, Novich said.

During the past couple years, CDI has collaborated with several of the HSCI’s 200-plus faculty members, Novich said. The announcement of a more formal and extensive collaboration came last week.

Affiliates of the institute, which is funded exclusively by private philanthropy, include Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Novich said that the HSCI’s distribution of cells today involves delivering starting materials, known as stem cell “cores,” to its partners and affiliates. CDI is entering the picture to “offer scalable solutions to [researchers] to take [their] results to the next level,” he said.

CDI, which has about 160 employees and plans to move into a new manufacturing facility in the next couple years, operates as a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Fujifilm. That company acquired CDI in 2015 for $307 million.

Novich, who is also a division president at Fujifilm North America, said that the company’s investment in CDI has allowed it to significantly scale up cell production. Together, the two firms have the ability to support and facilitate “lab-to-clinic” iPS cell-based programs, a category that Novich said includes some of the technologies being developed at the Harvard institute.