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DefiniGEN, a leading provider of stem cell products and services, today announced that it has strengthened its IP portfolio with a licence for cutting-edge cholangiocyte liver technology from Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge. The technology will be used by DefiniGEN to develop optimised liver cell products and services for various applications such as disease modelling, drug screening and therapeutic target validation.

Cholangiocytes are specialised liver cells that form the bile duct. Diseases of these cells are responsible for 30 per cent of all liver transplants. The new technology licensed by DefiniGEN uses induced pluripotent stem cells to reproduce highly functional cholangiocyte cells. Crucially, these cells have been successfully used to model cystic fibrosis and have shown that small molecules can restore the function of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR).

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Marcus Yeo, CEO of DefiniGEN said: “This licence enables us to use stem cells to grow highly functional cholangiocyte cells on an industrial scale for the first time. These cholangiocyte cells provide an excellent model system for deepening our understanding of liver disease, and they can accelerate the development of new, more effective therapies”.

DefiniGEN is focused on serving the growing need in the pharmaceutical industry for more precise ways to predict efficacy and toxicity in candidate drugs prior to clinical trials. Its platform technology OptiDIFF is a revolutionary stem cell production platform for the generation of high-functionality cell types, including liver, pancreas, intestinal and lung cells. These cells can be used as predictive in vitro human models to support the development of safer and more effective treatments for patients.

The cholangiocyte liver technology was invented by Professor Ludovic Vallier, Dr Nick Hannan and Dr Fotios Sampaziotis from the Anne McLaren Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Cambridge. The research that led to this invention was supported by charitable funding from SparksAddenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) and the European Research Council.

Dr Jenny Longmore (Director of Research at ACT) said “We are very proud to have been able to support Dr Sampaziotis and research that, importantly, has contributed to making available a new laboratory system to identify new therapeutics for patients with biliary liver disease”.

Image by Franck Genten