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Life Tech, Harvard to Further Develop iPSC Characterization Assays for PCR, Sequencing Platforms

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Life Technologies said this week that it has signed a collaborative and licensing agreement with Harvard University in the area of stem cell biology.

Under the agreement, Life Tech has acquired exclusive rights to further develop a panel of characterization assays designed to rapidly evaluate human induced pluripotent stem cells for their use in a variety of discovery and translational research applications.

The company said in a statement that the assay panel will be offered on its semiconductor sequencing and PCR-based genetic analysis platforms. Life Tech's semiconductor sequencing platforms include the Ion Torrent PGM and Proton. A company spokesperson confirmed that the PCR-based platforms will include the QuantStudio 12K Flex and ViiA 7.

Life Tech said that the assays will be designed to overcome major hurdles impeding stem cell technology from moving into the clinic. Current methods for evaluating pluripotency are laborious, costly, and can produce ambiguous results, the company said.

"As iPS cell research grows in scale and moves closer to the clinic, investigators are increasingly in need of characterization standards that enable them to make informed decisions about the quality of their cells," Chris Armstrong, general manager and vice president of primary and stem cell systems at Life Tech, said in a statement.

Alex Meissner, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard, developed the assays, and will continue to study and validate them in collaboration with Life Tech. Meissner was lead author of a study published in Cell in February 2011 that identified a range of expression levels among key genes associated with pluripotency.

By measuring gene activity in iPS cells against the study's gene expression range, Meissner's lab was able to accurately score cells for their potential to differentiate into particular cell lineages.

This is the third major licensing agreement in the past year for Life Tech in the area of stem cell biology. In June 2012 it retained non-exclusive global rights from iPS Academia Japan for its iPSC patent portfolio, enabling Life Tech to expand its range of products and services.

That same month, Life Tech announced a partnership with Cellular Dynamics International to commercialize a set of new products optimized to consistently develop and grow human iPS cells.

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