Cambridge spin-out Definigen has completed a new funding round worth £1.3 million, led by Cambridge Enterprise. The investment of £525,000 is the most that the University seed funds have invested in a single investment round to date.

Definigen will use the funding to accelerate production and introduce new products to market. The company supplies human liver cells (hepatocytes) for preclinical drug development and disease modelling applications using human induced pluripotent stem cell technology.

The company represents one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from the University’s expertise in stem cells, and is based on the research of Dr Ludovic Vallier, Dr Tamir Rashid and Professor Roger Pedersen of the University’s Anne McLaren Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine.

Dr Vallier led a team, including Dr Rashid, Dr Nick Hannan and Candy Cho, that developed a method to generate stem cells by reprogramming cells from patients’ skin. These cells, known as human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSC), can be differentiated into almost any cell type, allowing the opportunity to have a ready source of human cells for testing new therapies.

Definigen has built on this technology to supply hIPSC-derived hepatocytes in a highly reproducible and scalable manner for commercial use.

Through its OptiDIFF platform, Definigen produces validated libraries of disease modelled human liver cells for a range of Inherited Metabolic Diseases. The phenotype and pathology of the diseases has been confirmed in the cells and the resulting products are available for utilisation in drug discovery lead optimisation studies.

Future growth areas for the company include providing hepatocytes for toxicology testing, pancreatic cells for testing new diabetes therapies, and developing a new long-term storage and preservation method for hIPSC cells.

Other investors in this funding round include 24 Haymarket and Jonathan Milner.

Image: B0007671 Mouse embryonic stem cells Credit: The Sanger Institute. Wellcome Images Fluorescent micrograph showing differentiating mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they have the ability to differentiate into any cell type depending on the signals they receive. These immature stem cells are just starting to differentiate and have a neuronal cell fate: the differentiated cells can be identified by using specific staining techniques. In this image immature neurons are shown in red and the glial cells are shown in green, nuclei are stained blue. (Bar, 30um) Fluorescence microscopy 2004 Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK, see