Scotland’s Roslin Cells, a leading supplier of clinical-grade pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), has raised its profile several notches with an agreement that gives Pfizer’s UK subsidiary access to Roslin’s PSC lines to assess their potential for “specific clinical therapies”.

The agreement with Pfizer Limited marks the first time Roslin Cell’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-level cell lines have been evaluated by one of the major pharmaceutical companies, it noted. No further details of the agreement or commercial terms were disclosed.

“We have made a substantial investment in establishing the capability to derive new stem cell lines to the standards required for their use as the starting material for a clinical therapy,” noted Aidan Courtney, chief executive officer of the company set up in 2006 by Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute with support from the University of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Scottish Enterprise.


These cells “are already being used in our own collaborative research programmes and I am delighted that they will now be evaluated for potential use by Pfizer”, Courtney added.

ACT agreement

The announcement comes less than a month after Roslin Cells announced a collaborative agreement with Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), one of the leading US players in regenerative medicine, to establish new clinical-grade human embryonic stem-cell lines using ACT’s proprietary ‘single-cell blastomere’ technique.

This technology can be used to establish stem-cell lines without destroying an embryo or multiple cell lines with potentially more stable properties than stem-cell lines derived from whole embryos.

In October 2010, Roslin Cells launched a Cell Therapy Partner Programme offering commercial and academic researchers access both to GMP-grade stem cells and to expertise in translating their research into cell therapies.

Keen interest

Pfizer has shown a keen interest in stem cells, both as research tools and potential therapies, and a substantial part of that interest has been focused on the UK.

The company announced plans in November 2008 to invest US$100 million over five years in Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, an independent research unit co-located in the “biotech hubs” of Cambridge, UK and Cambridge, US.

The aim was to explore the use of stem cells in developing treatments that might prevent disability, repair failing organs and treat degenerative diseases.

The following April, Pfizer entered into a collaboration with University College London to develop stem cell-based therapies for ophthalmic conditions, notably age-related macular degeneration.