Australian stem cell company Genea Biocells has received a research grant from the Friends of FSH Research and FSHD Canada Foundation.
The grant, reviewed and administered by the Friends of FSH Research scientific advisory board, will be used for the development of sensitive cellular assays to conduct drug screening for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), an inherited and currently untreatable degenerative disorder resulting in progressive muscle weakness.
“We are very pleased to have received support from Friends of FSH Research and collaborative input from the academic community to continue our efforts in designing tools that might facilitate the discovery of therapeutic drugs for this devastating disease,” Genea Biocells General Manager and lead Principal Investigator of the project, Dr Uli Schmidt said.
“We believe that disease modelling using human stem cells provides a more accurate tool for drug development and, with the support of the foundation, we will make these tools available to the broader research community fighting FSHD.”
Genea Biocells previously developed human embryonic stem cell lines carrying the genetic defect causing FSHD as well as the world’s first high yield and scalable process to differentiate those stem cells into skeletal muscle without cell sorting or genetic manipulation. Genea Biocells began a research program to investigate the differences between healthy and FSHD-affected skeletal muscle cells. In the current project, scientists will build on those findings and aim to harness markers associated with the induction of FSHD to develop a sensitive stem-cell-based system suitable for drug screening – a process that identifies therapeutic candidates by parallel testing of a large number of drug-like molecules. This powerful technology is expected to ultimately assist the development of pharmaceutical therapies.
“Genea Biocells has an excellent track record developing innovative tools for our community and sharing those resources to accelerate research. We believe that with extensive validation, the pluripotent stem cell-derived screening platform will improve the scalability and accuracy that is required for drug screening,” Friends of FSH Research Scientific Director Dr Gregory Block said.