Plasticell to produce red blood cell substitute from pluripotent stem cells

Combinatorial stem cell screening technology focuses on the early stages of stem cell differentiation

Plasticell, developer of cell therapies including hematopoietic cell replacement therapies will create a red blood cell substitute for human clinical transfusion.

The project is in collaboration with stem cell scientists at the University of Edinburgh and funded by Biomedical Catalyst, Innovate UK, to the tune of £920,000.

More than 90 million blood transfusions are carried out worldwide each year and alternative sources to donor-derived blood are being sought to meet rising demand.

In addition, there is a need to secure a safer supply of blood products, as supply chains solely reliant on human donors are vulnerable to newly emerging diseases.

Safer blood supply is also vital in developing countries where there is a relatively higher risk of transfusion-transmitted infection.

With stem cell-derived products, the process is costly, inefficient and gives rise to many immature cells.

“Pluripotent stem cells can be used to make red blood cells in the laboratory; however, as is often the case with stem cell-derived products, the process is costly, inefficient and gives rise to many immature cells, preventing the therapy from progressing to clinical trials,” said Yen Choo, Executive Chair of Plasticell.

“We will use CombiCult – Plasticell’s combinatorial stem cell screening technology – to improve the manufacturing process, focusing particularly on the early stages of stem cell differentiation into hematopoietic progenitors that give rise to fully functional red blood cells.”

The project is part of Plasticell’s hematopoietic cell therapy portfolio, which includes the expansion of umbilical cord and bone-derived hematopoietic stem cells; and the manufacture of blood platelets and immune cells for oncology applications.

During the past decade, Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) has chosen Plasticell to deliver stem cell R and D projects valued at around £10m, half of which were focused on the hematopoietic system.

Companies