A Medical Device Daily

Isis Pharmaceuticals reported that its subsidiary, Ibis Biosciences (both of Carlsbad, California) has been awarded a subcontract of a National Institutes of Health (NIH; Bethesda Maryland) grant to aid in influenza surveillance research through application of the Ibis T5000 biosensor system. The NIH grant, applied for jointly by Ibis and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) and subcontracted to Ibis by LRRI, provides funding for research studies, including assay development, and sample characterization in order to expand the understanding of transmission of influenza viruses, including the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza viral strain.

The award to Ibis will fund the development of expanded influenza detection capabilities with assays to identify and characterize influenza strains and aid in the tracking of influenza transmissions. Additionally, because of the high-throughput, cost-effective and highly specific characteristics of the Ibis T5000 Biosensor System, as part of the funded research, Ibis will be analyzing a large number of samples generated from the influenza surveillance research.

Ibis’ universal flu surveillance capabilities were described in a recent research study published in PLoS ONE in May 2007. In the study, the company reported that it detected and correctly identified 92 mammalian and avian influenza isolates, including 29 avian H5N1 isolates. They also analyzed 656 human respiratory samples and showed correct, simultaneous identification of the viral species and subtypes with greater than 97 percent sensitivity and specificity.

Isis has 17 drugs in development for cardiovascular diseases.

In contract news: Stem Cell Sciences (SCS; Edinburgh, UK) reported that it is to lead an EU-funded, multinational novel drug screening collaboration using stem cells. The project, named “NEUROscreen”, will use Stem Cell Sciences’ neural stem (NS) cell technology and has received a contribution from the EU’s 6th Framework Program for Research and Technical Development (FP6). The EU’s contribution to the NEUROscreen project is worth 2.4 million over three years, of which about 0.42 million will flow directly to SCS over the three year period.

NEUROscreen brings together a partnership of European academic research institutes and biotech companies from several nations, including the UK, Germany and Italy. The program involves designing unique bioassays based on SCS’ neural stem cell technology, which will then be used to discover new candidate medicines for the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy. Neural stem cells can differentiate into neurons and glia, and therefore offer potential in treating CNS disorders.

SCS’ NS cells grow stably and uniformly, consistently producing neurons after many months in culture. The cells adhere to tissue culture vessels and can be expanded to large volumes using laboratory robots. These are features that provide a direct advantage to users of neural cells for drug screening. SCS has validated a process for NS cell expansion using robotics from its commercial partner, The Automation Partnership. This process guarantees a consistent production of high quality cells delivered in quantities to suit most drug screening campaigns. SCS’ component of the project will be performed at its automated stem cell production facility in Cambridge (UK) by the SC Services team of assay design specialists.

SCS’ Neural Stem (NS) cell is the first tissue-specific cell identified that can grow stably in the laboratory as a pure population of stem cells and without ongoing differentiation. The new cells can be grown indefinitely in monolayer, serum-free conditions in fully defined culture media, developed by Stem Cell Sciences. It is a cell type that shows maintenance of stable biological potency even after prolonged periods in culture.

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