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Axiogenesis to Develop Heart Cell Apps to Sell with Roche’s xCELLigence Platform

Roche and molecular and cellular biology shop Axiogenesis this week announced plans to co-develop applications for Axiogenesis’ murine Cor.At atrial cardiomyocyte platform and distribute it with Roche’s xCELLigence cellular analysis platform.
A Roche official told CBA News the company believes that the addition of the Cor.At cell line will strengthen Roche’s organ-specific cellular analysis portfolio. Burkhard Ziebolz, head of global communications for Roche Applied Science, said the deal will play particulary well with Roche’s acquisition in February 2007 of second-generation DNA-sequencing tool company 454 and NimbleGen two months later.
“We see it as a very good future addition” to the xCELLigence platform, which was co-developed with Acea Biosciences, and launched in June.
The cell lines, which are derived from mouse embryonic stem cells, “have the ability to simulate certain disease states, which could be an important application for the xCELLigence system in the future, in terms of the development of pharmaceutical ingredients,” Ziebolz said.
He also said Axiogenesis’ Cor.At cells are quality-controlled and have unlimited availability, either fresh or frozen. In addition, Ziebolz pointed out that because it comprises murine cells, the Cor.At platform has no restrictions in its use.  
Cor.At cells are ESC-derived 99.9 percent pure cardiomyocytes that exhibit normal morphology and physiological behavior. They can be used for electrophysiology, cardiotoxicity, and other functional studies. They also have applications in transplantation experiments and RNA preparation.
Cor.At cells have high-throughput capability, and completely recover functionality after freezing, storing, and thawing.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Entering the Market 
In November 2007, Roche Applied Sciences and Acea Biosciences announced a plan to co-develop, supply, and distribute systems for real-time cellular analysis based on Acea’s impedance platform (see CBA News, 11/16/07).
These plans positioned the Swiss biotech to compete against PerkinElmer, GE Healthcare, and Thermo Fisher, which already had strong cellular-analysis product lines.

“They have the ability to simulate certain disease states, which could be an important application for the xCELLigence system in the future, in terms of the development of pharmaceutical ingredients.”

At the time, Roche Applied Sciences head Manfred Baier told CBA News that the company views cellular analysis as an attractive field, because results from an independent study showed that the market for cell-analysis products reached around $1.18 billion in 2006, and is growing at approximately 8 percent annually.
Since launching its xCELLigence instrument last summer, Roche has placed several at large pharma companies, including AgenoLabs and Bayer Schering. In November Roche launched the xCELLigence RTCA MP.
The company claims the MP instrument has a higher throughput and is more versatile than the RTCA SP.
This week, Ziebolz said “it is impossible to predict” if Roche will develop other organ-specific cellular reagents, adding that Roche will “try to further this system. Roche’s plans to look for other cell lines or improve existing cell lines will be decided in the future.”
However, Pat McDonough, vice president of Vala Sciences, a cell image-based reagent and cellular image analysis software vendor, told CBA News via e-mail this week that, “In general, I'm encouraged to see more of the industry value the study of cardiomyocytes.”  
He explained that better understanding cardiomyocytes’ electrophysiological behavior could be a valuable tool in helping drug makers develop new therapies.
Roche’s impedance-based system works a little differently than the image-based system under development at Vala, said McDonough. “Our system measures function, calcium transients, arrhythmia, and relaxation kinetics, all on a cell-by-cell basis,” he said.
Axiogenesis, based in Cologne, Germany, did not respond to requests for comment in time for the deadline. However, Heribert Bohlen, founder and chief executive officer of the company, said in a statement that, "it is an important milestone for the recognition of our technology to start a partnership with Roche, being one of the frontrunners in the life science industry…We look forward to working with Roche to greatly improve the users’ laboratory productivity and relevance in this important new area."

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