Through the bundling of the complementary competences of the core institutes Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, the Fraunhofer Project Center for Stem Cell Process Engineering at the location in Würzburg forms a nationally and internationally visible competence center in the field of stem cell process engineering using innovative materials in the Free State of Bavaria.
The aim is to transfer stem cell processes to an industrial scale with automation solutions, and to improve them with the aid of innovative materials in the areas of cell expansion and differentiation as well as cryopreservation.
The discovery of “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS technology) by Shin' ya Yamanaka in 2006 introduced a paradigm change. With this technology it is now possible to gain artificial embryonal stem cells from somatic cells by “reprogramming”. iPS cells have the potential to differentiate themselves in almost every cell type of the human body, and are ethically unproblematic. In 2012 – only six years after this discovery – Yamanaka and John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for their work. This technology now allows the production of patient-specific or disease-specific cell models for the discovery and development of new and more efficient medicinal products.
A fundamental problem for the increased and routine application of iPS technology in future therapy approaches consists in the fact that the cells needed for the application cannot be produced in the required quantity and quality. There is a deficit in broadly functioning, upscaled and validated bioprocess technologies for the production and preparation of high-grade stem cells and the cells derived from these. One problem is the lack of specifically adapted materials capable of providing suitable bioactive surfaces or scaffold structures for 2D and 3D cultivation.
The Fraunhofer Project Center for Stem Cell Process Engineering in Würzburg combines the materials science competence of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC and the competence for the automation of biomedical workflows in the field of iPS cells of the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT at a single location. The project center thus offers an integrated portfolio for the development of application-specific, high-throughput production processes for stem cell applications. The project center constitutes a unique combination of research and development in the field of innovative materials for bioreactors, tissue engineering scaffolds and innovative, autonomous cell production.