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European drug makers, universities team up on stem cell bank

StemBANCC’s objective is to develop 1,500 human-induced pluripotent stem cell lines, which the partners will then use for research and for developing new therapies for major diseases including peripheral nervous disorders, pain, dementia, migraine, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and diabetes. The cells will also be used to perform toxicology tests.

Skin biopsies will be collected from 500 patients with a variety of genetically linked diseases and then the cells will have their machinery reset so they can be turned back into stem cells. From there, the cells can be programmed to grow into any type of cell that will carry the same disease-causing genes of the donor. The stem cells will be stored in the U.K.

Scientists can then study these cells to learn more about how the disease progresses, and to see how the cells react to certain drugs.

Along with Roche, which initiated the project, other drug companies involved include Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Eli Lilly & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk A/S and Orion Oyj. The universities participating include, in addition to Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and University of Geneva.

The project is one of the biggest endeavors for Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, the continent's largest public-private partnership aiming to improve the drug development process by supporting a more efficient discovery and development of better and safer medicines for patients.

In similar news, last month the NIH Stem Cell Unit, a team of scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health dedicated to characterizing and comparing the available federally approved human embryonic stem cell lines, announced the availability of a new pluripotent stem cell database called StemCellDB.

StemCellDB makes available multiple genomic analyses of 21 human embryonic stem cell lines, which includes gene expression microarray data for undifferentiated and differentiated cells.

The web-based search engine allows users to easily interrogate the gene expression data for a specific gene of interest. It can be accessed at:

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