SYDNEY, 8 May 2015: Australian stem cell company Genea Biocells has received a research grant from the Friends of FSH Research and FSHD Canada Foundation.
The grant, reviewed and administered by the Friends of FSH Research scientific advisory board, will be used for the development of sensitive cellular assays to conduct drug screening for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), an inherited and currently untreatable degenerative disorder resulting in progressive muscle weakness.
“We are very pleased to have received support from Friends of FSH Research and collaborative input from the academic community to continue our efforts in designing tools that might facilitate the discovery of therapeutic drugs for this devastating disease,” Genea Biocells General Manager and lead Principal Investigator of the project, Dr Uli Schmidt said.
“We believe that disease modelling using human stem cells provides a more accurate tool for drug development and, with the support of the foundation, we will make these tools available to the broader research community fighting FSHD.”
Genea Biocells previously developed human embryonic stem cell lines carrying the genetic defect causing FSHD as well as the world’s first high yield and scalable process to differentiate those stem cells into skeletal muscle without cell sorting or genetic manipulation. Genea Biocells began a research program to investigate the differences between healthy and FSHD-affected skeletal muscle cells. In the current project, scientists will build on those findings and aim to harness markers associated with the induction of FSHD to develop a sensitive stem-cell-based system suitable for drug screening – a process that identifies therapeutic candidates by parallel testing of a large number of drug-like molecules. This powerful technology is expected to ultimately assist the development of pharmaceutical therapies.
“Genea Biocells has an excellent track record developing innovative tools for our community and sharing those resources to accelerate research. We believe that with extensive validation, the pluripotent stem cell-derived screening platform will improve the scalability and accuracy that is required for drug screening,” Friends of FSH Research Scientific Director Dr Gregory Block said.
ABOUT GENEA BIOCELLS
Genea Biocells develops disease-specific and unaffected human pluripotent stem cell lines, differentiation protocols, chemical compound libraries and culture media for use in disease modelling, research, drug development and cell therapy.
Building on extensive stem cell capabilities as well as expertise in high-content screening, assay design and chemical biology, Genea Biocells partners with scientists in industry and academia to advance research projects using stem cell-driven approaches and customized solutions for drug development.
Genea Biocells has one of the world’s largest banks of pluripotent human embryonic stem cells and developed the world’s first consistent, scalable and high-yield differentiation process for functional skeletal muscle cells.
Genea Biocells is part of fertility group Genea, a public, unlisted company that has been operating world leading IVF clinics since 1985. The company has been supplying commercial stem cell solutions for 10 years, drawing on an almost 30 year research heritage within Genea. More information is available at www.geneabiocells.com
ABOUT FRIENDS OF FSH RESEARCH
For over a decade, Friends of FSH Research (Friends) has supported research studies that have contributed to our understanding of FSHD, offering the hope of treatment to the over 500,000 people living with the disease. Friends was started by the family and friends of Terry and Rick Colella, whose son has FSHD. The goal of the organization was to stimulate research on FSHD in the United States’ Pacific Northwest. By reaching out to investigators at the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Friends was able to provide seed monies for projects that would ultimately attract over $15 million dollars in funding.
Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD) is an inheritable muscle disease affecting about 1:7-8,000 people. There is no cure or treatment strategy for patients with FSHD. This debilitating disease slowly consumes skeletal muscle, robbing people of the active, healthy, and independent years of their lives.