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Synthetic Bio Company Manufactures Research Cells

Healthy neuron illustration

Healthy neuron illustration (NIH, Flickr.

15 June 2023. A synthetic biology company says it can now produce engineered cells from stem cells for research to precise specifications, and in large quantities and consistent quality. The company — spelled in all lower-case letters — in Cambridge, U.K., describes its technology today at the International Society for Stem Cell Research or ISSCR annual meeting in Boston, in a presentation and poster exhibits. is a seven year-old business commercializing discoveries in the lab of researcher Mark Kotter, professor of regenerative medicine at University of Cambridge. Kotter studies treatments for spinal injuries, particularly from stem cells that can transform into different functioning cell and tissue types in the body. But the process for programming and differentiating or transforming stem cells into working cells, say Kotter and colleagues, remains largely an individualized, labor-intensive, and time-consuming exercise, which limits use of stem cells in treatments.

In March 2017, a team led by Kotter published a paper describing faster and more reliable techniques for reprogramming human pluripotent stem cells, from existing tissue rather than embryos, into specific brain and muscle cells. The lab’s technology engineers stem cells to induce expression of transcription factors, proteins that convert DNA from the genetic code into RNA with instructions for cellular functions. The process also uses a technique from gene therapies called genomic safe harbors that enables safe delivery of genetic material without altering the host genome, and in this case makes it possible to express genes for producing many copies of functioning cells.

Engineered stem cells on-demand

In that paper, Kotter and colleagues demonstrate that the process called opti-ox — short for optimized inducible over-expression — could reduce the usual time needed for producing specified brain and skeletal muscle cells to no more than 10 days, from the usual three to 20 weeks. Science & Enterprise reported on the paper when published in the journal Stem Cell Reports. says opti-ox is now advanced to the point it can produce engineered stem cells on-demand for research and drug discovery at industrial scale with consistent quality. The company says it offers general-purpose human stem cells as well as cells engineered to express specified disease-related mutations. says its engineered cells are being used to identify targets for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, design bio-hybrid implant devices, 3-D brain printing models, and in high-throughput screening research.

At the ISSCR meeting, the company plans to describe its three different types of neurons or nerve cells found in the central nervous system, including glutamatergic neurons that produce the common neurotransmitter glutamate, and sensory neurons. Stanford University stem cell researcher Marius Wernig, an advisor to, says in a company statement, “Out of 20,000 genes, not a single one is differentially expressed across three independently produced batches of’s glutamatergic neurons. This seems like a watershed moment for biology.”

Kotter founded in 2017 and is now its CEO. “The team has developed solid processes,” adds Kotter, “and we haven’t had a single failed manufacturing run in the past two years. This is paving the way for groundbreaking research and future cell-based therapies.”

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