Thursday, 13 December 2012

URMC opens new high tech stem cell facility

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC)  announced the opening of a new stem cell facility called the "The Upstate Stem Cell cGMP", which stands for "current good manufacturing practise". The facility was created with support both from the private and the academic sector and had a total cost of about 3.5 million dollars. It's main aim is to allow researchers and scientists to extract, study and produce stem cell material for clinical use. The Upstate Stem Cell cGMP facility covers 3,600 square foots, consists of three separate labs (each intended for different stem cell projects) and is located in the URMC’s DelMonte Neuromedicine Research Institute.

The main goal behind the creation of the facility is to participate in future stem cells clinical trials, and this is why it follows some of the strictest guidelines. Air circulation is constantly controlled and monitored, personnel follow standard manufacturing protocols, products of the facility are continuously tested for quality and safety, walls are covered with a fibreglass glass gel. Additionally the facility utilises unidirectional flow which means that personnel and materials always enter through a specific air lock and exit from a different one, in order to minimise the danger of contamination.

Currently the University of Rochester Medical Centre features more than 40 stem cell-research labs with a total man power of more than 260 personnel, including scientists and technicians. The new facility is expected to greatly accelerate the progress of current stem cell projects run by the university.

“Our scientists have made tremendous progress over the last several years unlocking the potential of stem cells to treat a long list of diseases,” said Bradford C. Berk “I anticipate that this new facility will accelerate research across that state and make Rochester a centre for the development of new cell-based therapies.”

According to Mark Noble, the new facility will also allow them to start human clinical trials sometime in the near future:

“This facility represents the key bridge to early stage trials in humans. We are now poised for early stage clinical studies in a wide range of conditions, including efforts to repair damage to the central nervous system, re-grow bone and cartilage, and even selectively target and destroy the stem cells that are the source of some forms of cancer.”

Some very important stem cell projects that will immediately start in the new facilities are the following :
  • Noble, Chris Pröschel, Ph.D., and Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Ph.D., who research the use of glial progenitor cells in the treatment of spinal cord damage.
  • Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., Martha Windrem, Ph.D. and Su Wang, M.D., Ph.D. who work with researchers in Syracuse and Buffalo. Their research is focused in the use of glial progenitor cells for the treatment of multiple sclerosis patients.
  • URMC orthopedic researcher Edward Schwarz, Ph.D. who is developing a new method to culture mesenchymal stem cells. His main goal is to use these stem cells to enhance bone transplants efficacy. He is also participating in another project focused in the production of antibodies which will target certain bone infections.
  • Sally Temple, Ph.D., her research is focused in retinal stem cells and age-related macular degeneration 
State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. made the following statement:

“This facility is a true boon to stem cell researchers across New York State. This state-of-the-art facility will help take the basic research findings of the state's outstanding scientists and help move them into the clinic, all the while ensuring that any cell products are produced in accordance with the strictest standards for use in human patients. Not only is the facility supported by the NYSTEM program, but it is a key component of several of the Consortia to Accelerate Therapeutic Applications of Stem Cells recently awarded by the Empire State Stem Cell Board. Together, the facility and the consortia will help bring therapies for devastating diseases to the people of New York State.”

- Mark Noble is Ph.D., director of the URMC Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute.

- Bradford C. Berk is a , M.D., Ph.D., CEO of URMC and a member of the Empire State Stem Cell Board.

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