City of Hope awarded nearly $900,000 to develop technology to break down barriers to stem cell translational research

January 29, 2015
Innovative platform will allow larger scale production and storage of stem cells for research, treatments

DUARTE, Calif. — The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine has awarded City of Hope researchers a significant grant to help address a problem currently creating a bottleneck in stem cell research: The lack of a scalable and practical way to produce and store enough stem cells for therapies and clinical trials on a larger scale.

The $899,728 grant will enable scientists at City of Hope to adapt current cell culture techniques to a more scalable and controllable system that reflects Good Manufacturing Practices.

Existing cell production methods allow for pluripotent stem cells and progenitor cells, but it is not practical to scale up to the level necessary for clinical trials and some stem cell products expected to be in high demand. For example, cardiomyocytes – heart muscle cells – derived from stem cells show promise as a treatment for heart failure, which is occurring at epidemic rates. However, a large dose of these cells would be required, and current production practices don’t support scaling production to a practical level. City of Hope scientists will develop a bag-based bioreactor system for stem cell expansion – a technique already shown to simply, safely and effectively cultivate other types of cells and therapeutic agents. Bag bioreactors culture cells in specialized bags that are kept in motion, and have been shown to be superior and more cost effective in many cases to stirred-tank bioreactors made of glass or stainless steel.

“This addresses an existing need in stem cell research, which has reached the point that projects are stymied by bottlenecks in cell production capacity,” said Larry Couture, Ph.D., senior vice president and founding director of the Sylvia R. & Isador A. Deutch Center for Applied Technology Development. “Success in this project will remove a key barrier to developing many regenerative medicine products, especially those where high human doses are required, such as cardiomyocytes.”

Current stem cell suspension culture systems, first developed at COH, are limited to a few liters using spinner culture flasks, while a bag system could production scales of several hundred liters. This would open the door to large clinical trials and commercialization of other regenerative medicine cell products in coming years.

The award came as part of $30 million in Tools and Technology grants awarded by CIRM intended to overcome translational roadblocks to stem cell therapies.
“Sometimes even the most promising therapy can be derailed by a tiny problem,” said Jonathan Thomas, J.D., Ph.D., chair of the CIRM board. “These awards are designed to help find ways to overcome these problems, to bridge the gaps in our knowledge, and ensure that the best research is able to keep progressing and move out of the lab and into clinical trials in patients.”
Nicole White
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About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the nation. City of Hope’s main hospital is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with clinics in Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics.