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Roche, IMI Lead Stem Cell Research Effort

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Roche today announced that it has teamed with the Innovative Medicines Initiative to lead a consortium of industry and academic partners that will use stem cells for drug discovery research.

The project, called StemBANCC, will be initiated and coordinated by Roche, managed by Oxford University, and include 10 pharmaceutical companies and 23 academic institutions. Researchers involved in the effort will use human induced pluripotent stem cells as tools for drug discovery with the goal of developing human disease models and enhancing drug development.

"The aim of StemBANCC is to generate and characterize 1,500 high-quality human induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from 500 patients that can be used by researchers to study a range of diseases, including diabetes and dementia," Martin Graf, head of the stem cell platform and coordinator of the project at Roche, said in a statement. "The cell lines will help implement patient models that will facilitate the drug development process thanks to the possibility of reproducing the disease mechanism in vitro."

The project will focus on peripheral nervous system disorders, central nervous system disorders, neurodysfunctional diseases, and diabetes. Researchers also will investigate the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells for identifying drug targets and biomarkers, screening potential drug treatments, and toxicology testing, said Roche.

Among the partners in the initiative are the UK Medical Research Council, University of Newcastle, University of Edinburgh, INSERM, DeCode Genetics, Pfizer, Abbott, Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Sanofi Aventis, and Merck.

According to IMI, StemBANCC has a total budget of €55.6 million ($72.7 million) and is one of its biggest projects to date.