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AvantiCell Science: Contributing to Drug Discovery and Regenerative Medicine

AvantiCell Science, a company specialising in cell-based analysis for use in drug discovery and development, is extending its expertise into the field of regenerative medicine. Positioning itself as a leading-edge provider of cell culture technology, it offers a growing list of products and assays based on physiologically-relevant cell types. Typically, these have been primary cells derived from human tissues but increasingly, they are based upon human stem cells. This expansion of expertise and capabilities allows AvantiCell to offer their growing customer base a range of products and services for use in regenerative medicine projects.

Located near Ayr on the west coast of Scotland, AvantiCell occupies laboratory facilities customised for the isolation and handling of human cells followed by their incorporation into robust cell-based analytical systems. Since its incorporation in 2006, AvantiCell’s founding investment has been supported by sales revenue that has doubled year-on-year. Modest external investment by Barwell PLC and the Scottish Enterprise Co-investment Fund has enabled company consolidation whilst being consistent with a model of organic growth fuelled by an existing service and product based offering.

AvantiCell’s founding principle is that cell-based analysis using advanced cell culture technology to support primary cells produced from ethically- sourced human tissues rather than aged cell lines provides a meaningful alternative or complement to animal testing in drug discovery, bioactivity evaluation and safety testing. Accordingly, the company has set in place strategic partnerships that give access to the correct starting material to produce physiologically- relevant cells and ensure the subsequent assays provide the best information. In particular, to ensure a culture environment that realises the cells’ full potential, 3D culture is being developed alongside methodology to capture high content information from the cells.

An alternative approach to building assays based on primary cells is to create assays around stem cells. These can be utilised as either pluri- or multi-potent cells, or following differentiation into a tissue-specific phenotype.

This strategy has the attraction of producing virtually unlimited quantities of physiologically-relevant human cells and has led AvantiCell to form partnerships with leading Scottish companies operating in the preclinical stem cell space as well as other wider connections with consortia involved in regenerative medicine.

Of course, cell-based analysis based upon physiologically- relevant cells has application beyond the field of drug discovery and AvantiCell is progressively adapting its assay platforms for application in the evaluation of natural products, including traditional medicines, and for nanosafety testing. AvantiCell systems have reliably measured bioactivity in materials as diverse as marine microbial and tropical plant extracts, as well as traditional Chinese medicines. Novel stem cell-based assays are now offering the means to screen such materials for utility beyond therapeutic development and to address a growing need amongst regenerative medicine practitioners for new tools to control the expansion and differentiated status of preclinical stem cell populations.

The company has formed new strategic partnerships to realise the potential of this assay output.

To complement this approach, AvantiCell is developing a high-content assay output in the form of cell-proteomic profiling, which will deliver the detailed analysis of stem cell populations required to detect even subtle changes in cellular function. The company has formed new strategic partnerships to realise the potential of this assay output. AvantiCell has ambitious plans to take its technologies into international markets and, with the company’s focus on natural products and traditional medicines, has forged growing links particularly in the North American and south-east Asian life science markets. These links, combined with customer focused services and products, are intended to position the company to make a significant contribution within the growing field of regenerative medicine as well as drug discovery.

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