Clever use made of paradigm shift in cell research
Cellendes GmbH revolutionises the market for three-dimensional cell cultivation
Modern cell biology would be inconceivable without cell cultures. Several thousand cell lines - from humans and a good 150 animal species - are cultivated outside the original organism in the world's laboratories under controlled conditions and are supplied commercially. Yet growing cells on flat culture plates, as researchers have known for a few years, has one crucial disadvantage - the cells do not behave as they do in their natural environment. This is why scientists are now attempting to simulate the natural cell environment in the tissue medium or extracellular matrix using threedimensional substrates. Cellendes GmbH, founded in July 2009, has utilized the paradigm shift from twodimensional cell cultivation on culture plates to threedimensional cultivation within a defined hydrogel.
Biologists Dr. Brigitte Angres and Dr. Helmut Wurst, the company's founders and managing directors, have developed an innovative synthetic hydrogel for threedimensional applications that can be used by researchers to cultivate cells within a precisely defined matrix. The biomimetic gels from Cellendes GmbH have key advantages over other hydrogels already on the market. Conventional gels for threedimensional cultivation are made in most cases from animal substrates such as collagen. The disadvantage of this is that the composition cannot be varied and any unwanted components are retained; undefined impurities may occur and distort the study results. Synthetic gels currently on the market do not offer the flexibility to incorporate bioactive substances such as adhesion peptides and selected proteins designed to control cell behaviour, as is possible with the technology from Cellendes.
Cellendes is closing the gap in both directions - the gels newly developed in Reutlingen are fully synthetic, but it is also possible to include bioactive substances. "Users obtain a precisely designed matrix from the defined components and can test the impact of particular substances on the cells in a threedimensional environment," explains Angres. And, says Wurst, "production of the gel for each user is straightforward and doesn't require great experience or specific equipment - that was very important to us at the development stage."
Handling really couldn't be easier. Cellendes supplies two fluids - an activated polymer and a crosslinking agent that polymers use to link themselves together through a chemical reaction. Various biofactors can be bonded to the polymer prior to crosslinking. The hydrogel is ready in just a few minutes. In the transparent gel, the cells can be easily examined under a microscope and pigmented. Two of the three gels offered by Cellendes can be broken down again, enabling further work to be performed with and on the cells. "We are the first on the market to offer such a flexible system that is of equal interest for basic research in cell biology and for use in the pharmaceutical industry or regenerative medicine," say Angres and Wurst.
The two managing directors, who worked for many years in product development at Californiabased biotech company Clontech and also still employed by the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) at the University of Tübingen, had been thinking of setting up their own company for some time. The two entrepreneurs are currently being funded by the EXIST research transfer programme. The "proper" launch will take place in July 2010, exactly one year after Cellendes GmbH was officially founded. In the meantime, talks with potential investors and distribution partners in Germany, the U.S. and Japan are in the pipeline. Until then, the NMI offers the ideal setting. "The NMI is an excellent springboard to start up a company," explains Wurst, who is also very impressed by the promotion and assistance provided by BioRegio STERN Management GmbH. "BioRegio STERN is extremely helpful and has very proactive management that provides intensive support and expertise for entrepreneurs."
Cellendes GmbH was founded by biologists Dr. Brigitte Angres and Dr. Helmut Wurst in July 2009 as a spinoff from the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) at the University of Tübingen. The two scientists have developed a special synthetic hydrogel for threedimensional cultivation of cells that can be modified biologically, thereby meeting the challenging requirements of modern cell research. Cellendes GmbH is currently in funding phase 1 of the EXIST research transfer programme. The company will also be launching its commercial operations in July 2010 and offering its product on the global market.
BioRegio STERN Management GmbH
BioRegio STERN Management GmbH is a skillsharing network, providing a help and advice centre for founders of new businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers in the biotechnology sector in the region comprising Stuttgart, Tübingen, Esslingen, Reutlingen and Neckar-Alb in Germany. BioRegio STERN promotes cooperation between such different disciplines as medicine, biochemical engineering, sensor technology, dietetics, biochemical analysis and bioinformatics. Key areas of focus are regenerative medicine and medical technology. BioRegio STERN represents the interests of founders of new businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers when dealing with the political sector, the media and associations, coordinates economic promotional activities and marketing and provides advice for grant applications and corporate financing, all backed up with efficient press and public relations work. BioRegio STERN is supported by the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regional authorities and the municipal authorities of Stuttgart, Tübingen, Esslingen and Reutlingen. The Managing Director, Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, is a molecular and cell biologist and investment analyst.
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