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9 March, 2006 - 09:33 By Staff Reporter

Stem cell coup for Babraham

Stem Cell Sciences plc is understood to have chosen the burgeoning Babraham Biocampus as the venue for its new global headquarters, Business Weekly can reveal.

While neither Babraham nor the company will comment, we expect official confirmation to be announced via the London Stock Exchange in the very near future.

Stem Cell Sciences plc (SCS) is a global biotechnology company focused on the development of stem cell technologies.

The company has established a leading intellectual property (IP) and technology portfolio that enables the commercial application of stem cells in pharmaceutical and biotechnology drug discovery, providing the company with an early-stage revenue stream. In the longer term, SCS is developing regenerative, cell-based therapies.

Edinburgh-based SCS revealed exclusively to Business Weekly last June that it would use proceeds from a London IPO for new facilities in Cambridge UK and California, adding to its existing capabilities in Scotland, Japan and Australia.

Already a collaborator with The Sanger Institute, SCS says the Cambridge HQ will be used as a springboard to major pharmaceutical companies throughout the South East.

The company was also keen to get close to certain technologies that could accelerate the company’s progress, chief scientific officer Dr Tim Allsopp told Business Weekly last summer.

Dr Allsopp added at the time that in terms of pure research capability, the expansion would make SCS the largest stem cell business in the world – bigger in R & D base than Geron in California.

Austin Smith, from the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Edinburgh – who has been collaborating with Stem Cell Sciences – is also moving to Cambridge.

SCS is understood to be taking the remaining space in Babraham’s Minerva building. Named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, the new building provides grow-on units for early stage bioventures as they make the transition out of incubation facilities.

It is part of BBT’s innovative approach to supporting start-up and early stage biomedical ventures.

Minerva is the first of three bio-development buildings, offering flexible laboratory and office accommodation, designed to stimulate and facilitate the knowledge transfer process from research to commercial exploitation on the campus.

The first two tenants at Minerva were Cambridge Biotechnology Ltd, a drug-discovery research company developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of pain, inflammation and obesity, and Cyclacel, a Dundee-based biopharma company dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel, mechanism-targeted drugs to treat human cancers.

Babraham is now taking expressions of interest in the second building, Meditrina – named after the Roman goddess of medicine.

A start on site is scheduled for September and David Hardman, CEO of Babraham Bioscience Technologies said: "We are going ahead with the project regardless of securing pre-lets but given the success of Minerva, we are confident that interest will be high in this new building."

Meditrina will offer 20,000 sq ft of laboratory and office accommodation in units of 1,000 sq ft, which can be let as individual or multiple units on flexible terms to suit early stage bioventures.

Interested parties can contact David Hardman on +44 (0) 1223 496 004 or access the website, which is at www.babraham.co.uk

Founded in 1994, SCS has exclusive licensing rights to University of Edinburgh intellectual property. It was Australian-owned before raising substantial private equity, at which point a new holding company was launched.

The company’s cultures of cells – sold to drug companies – provide substantial additional data about toxicity and interactions with a cell’s basic biochemistry in a single test.

SCS’s latest discovery is a new type of neural stem cell culture that can be used to test drugs aimed at diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

"This is the first tissue stem cell that can be propagated in homogeneous, commercial fashion and in a monolayer," said CEO Dr Peter Mountford.

"This will provide more consistent and reliable results than those obtained from current technology, he added.

Stem Cell Sciences alr-eady has licensing deals with Big Pharma players such as Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Its people credentials are also highly impressive: Dr Mountford sits on Chancellor Gordon Brown’s elite stem cell research think tank. And Stem Cell Sciences’ chairman is Michael Dexter, formerly director of The Wellcome Trust.

o Chemicon International, Inc, a subsidiary of NASDAQ quoted Serologicals Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, and SCS are launching the ESGRO Complete™ product line for murine embryonic stem (ES) cell culture, following the establishment of an exclusive agreement last November.

The product, developed by SCS’s SC proven division, is the first complete, defined medium that enables the large-scale, consistent production of mouse ES cells for the use in worldwide research and drug discovery markets.

SCS chief executive, Peter Mountford said: "We are very excited about the launch of our first cell culture media product. This will generate revenue streams in the near term and marks a major milestone in our development. The launch validates our technology and will contribute to the wider adoption of stem cells within the global drug discovery market."

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