Japanese electronics company Ricoh is furthering its stake in the biomedical and bioprinting sectors with a new partnership with Elixirgen Scientific, Inc., a Baltimore-based biotech company that specializes in stem cell technology.
Together, Ricoh and Elixirgen Scientific will leverage their respective knowledge in bioprinting and stem cell technology to develop new biomedical products and services for drug discovery applications which will be based on cell differentiation. The ambitious partnership seeks to grow the biomedical business into a 20-billion-yen ($1.96 billion) business by 2025.
Though it is not primarily known as a bioprinting company, Ricoh has developed a novel bioprinting platform that leverages its 40-year-running inkjet head technology. The bioprinting process is capable of precisely printing cells (and specifically induced pluripotent stem cells) into a 3D structure for tissue regeneration, drug discovery and other medical research applications.
Elixirgen Scientific, for its part, owns Quick-Tissue technology that can transform induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) and embryonic stem cells into different types of cells directly, achieving homogeneous stem cell differentiation in as little as 10 days.
In drug testing and discovery, iPS cells are presenting a unique opportunity for patient-specific treatment solutions. That is, iPS cells can be derived directly from a patient with a disease and can be adapted into a bespoke disease model for drug screening. The disease models can help medical professionals to determine if a particular treatment will be effective or not. Through their partnership, Ricoh and Elixirgen Scientific aim to manufacture and deliver differentiated cells created from iPS cells to support drug discovery.
“We are thrilled to partner with Elixirgen Scientific on this new biomedical development initiative,” commented Nobuhiro Gemma, Fellow, General Manager of HealthCare Business Group at Ricoh. “By combining the technologies from our two companies, it will be possible to produce disease-specific cell chips derived from multiple iPS cell lines, for example.
“These cell chips can evaluate the diversity of human responses of chemicals at one time in terms of efficacy and toxicity before moving to the clinical trial stage. In the process of drug discovery, this method using the cell chips will greatly improve the entire drug development process because human diversity is considered in the earliest stage.”
The bioprinting agreement will also see Ricoh acquire a 34.5% stake in Elixirgen Scientific and launch a biomedical business in North America later this year.
Gemma added: “Ricoh has an established healthcare business with solutions such as its RICOH Regional Health Net; and in the medical imaging area, with its magnetoencephalography solution. We have also been developing technologies such as 3D Bioprinter and reference DNA plates, and with today’s announcement, this agreement establishes Ricoh firmly as a player in the biomedical field.”