Better Cells for Better Health

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Since its inception 35 years ago, the biennial meeting of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT) has built on a tradition of combining basic science and applications into industrial biotechnology to become the international reference event in its subject matter. Every other year, this gathering of academics and industry professionals features a famously exciting social program and an extensive vendor/supplier exhibition specific to animal cell technology. ESACT meetings are much-anticipated international venues for information exchange, inspiration, networking, and partnership.

In 2013, the 23rd meeting in the series will take place at the Congress Centre of Lille (Lille Grand Palais) in France. In the 19th century, that city was an industrial power thriving in metalwork, chemistry, and textile manufacturing. Today it represents the fourth-largest French metropolitan area, an artistic and historic city as well as an important center for business and higher education — and consequently, research and development (R&D).

This year’s ESACT meeting will focus on “better cells for better health,” highlighting the importance of basic and high-performing bioprocesses as well as recent advances in stem cells, recombinant proteins and viral vectors, biomaterials for regenerative medicine, and nanoparticles. In anticipation of this event, we’re looking at some of those topics— and the scheduled presentations in particular — to consider the latest developments and trends that participants will surely be talking about. The program is divided into six sessions over three days: cell therapies and vaccines, advanced cellular modeling, epigenetics and synthetic biology, genetic and process engineering, next-generation molecules, and cellular interaction.

For more information on attending ESACT this year, check it out online at

Session 1: Cell Therapies and Vaccines

Cell therapies have been at the forefront of biotechnology research during the past decade. With some products already achieving regulatory approval, cell therapies and regenerative medicines are poised to become the next major class of biotherapeutics. During that time, researchers have also achieved great advances in vaccine development by continuing movement toward cell-derived products, robust vectors for delivery, and novel methods for quantification. On Sunday, 23 June, the ESACT conference beings with a session on cell therapies and vaccines.

Cell Therapies: Current research in adult human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) focuses on understanding the development, maturation, and aging of cartilage, bone, skin, and other mesenchymal tissues. The objective is to use MSCs as therapies for repairing tissue damage. Those cells possess a medicinal signaling capability because they are derived from perivascular cells that normally function to moderate local immune activity and facilitate tissue regeneration. Arnold Caplan (Case Western University) has pioneered research in this area. He will review experiments in musculoskeletal and skin development by describing the use of MSCs in animal models and in human disease states.

Human pluripotent stem cells are also useful tools in cell therapy development, regenerative medicine, and basic research. Under controlled conditions they can differentiate into any other cell in a human body. However, some researchers believe that their most significant application will be in pharmacological research. Marc Peschanski (Inserm) will review how pluripotent stem cells possess the main attributes that make them “theoretically fully equipped for the development of cell-based assays in the fields of drug discovery and predictive toxicology.”

The success of a cell therapy product depends highly on the robustness of its manufacturing process. Margarida Serra (Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica, IBET) will discuss the need for robust cell production platforms. She will also present a novel proteomic approach to streamlining the design of cell-based therapies for myocardial infarction.

Vaccines: Vectored vaccines are based on hyperattenuated viruses, and they have been proven useful in new treatments against infectious diseases and some cancers. However, providing sufficient amounts of such treatments in acceptable purity can be a challenge. The modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) virus is an attenuated strain developed for the delivery of recombinant proteins and antigens. Ingo Jordan (ProBiogen) will describe a new genotype of MVA that efficiently replicates in single cell suspensions. In earlier studies (1), Jordan’s team developed avian suspension cell lines and robust, chemically defined, culturing process for producing this class of vectors “to facilitate vaccine programs using host-restricted poxviruses.” Their work has led to a new MVA strain “that appears to replicate to greater yields of infectious units, especially in the cell-free supernatant of cultures in chemically defined media.”

Worldwide production and supply demands for influenza vaccines continue to drive research into their development. Several quantification methods for the release of those products (including high performance liquid chromatography techniques) are currently used. To conclude Sunday’s session, Amine Kamen (CNRC-NRC) will review the need for rapid and universal quantification methods for influenza vaccine release.

Session 2: Advanced Cellular Models

Cellular modeling has progressed from “simple” simulations to more sophisticated technologies that incorporate advancements in bioengineering, bioinformatics, and computational biology. Current trends in modeling research include novel organ cell-line models, three-dimensional cell-culture models, “organs on chips,” and silencing RNA and microRNA (miRNA) approaches.

Cell Culture: Hepatocyte cell cultures are used for in vitro toxicology testing and as infection models for hepatotropic viruses. Current research involves hepatocyte cell cultures in regenerative treatments. Studies in this field have been limited, however, because hepatocytes lose their unique characteristics within few days after in vitro cultivation, thereby hindering in vitro expansion (2). Beginning Monday morning’s session on advanced cellular models, Christoph Lipps (Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, HZI) will present on novel hepatocyte cell lines with preserved primary-like phenotype.

Three-dimensional (3D) cell-culture models promote higher level of cell differentiation and tissue organization than two-dimensional models. However, even very good 3D culture models are limited in their ability to mimic some cellular properties of organs. One approach to address this problem is the application of microfluidics to produce “organs on chips,” which are 3D multichannel, miniature cell culture transport and distribution systems that mimic the biological activities, dynamic mechanical properties, and biochemical functionalities of whole living organs. Research facilities in this area include Wyass Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, which received a $37-million DARPRA grant for its work in 2012 (3), and the Technical University of Berlin (TU), which has been working on multiorgan chips in a collaborative BMBF GoBio project ( According to TU, the project is “targeting for a systemic solution for long term substance testing ultimately predictive to human substance exposure.” Reyk Horland (TU) will discuss the aspects of vascularization in multiorgan chips.

Neural Models: Current studies on pyramidal neurons have focused on topics ranging from neuroplasticity to cognition. Earlier modeli
ng studies have included the use of “cable models” (4) and two-dimensional neural networks (5). Ira Espuny-Camacho (University of Bruselles) will discuss pyramidal neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells that integrate efficiently into mouse brain circuits in vivo. “The study of human cortical development has major implications for brain evolution and diseases but has remained elusive due to paucity of experimental models,” says Espuny-Camacho (6). “We found that human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) — cultured without added morphogens — recapitulate corticogenesis, leading to the sequential generation of functional pyramidal neurons of all six layer identities.” The study also showed that “human cortical neurons generated in vitro from ESC/iPSC can develop complex hodological properties characteristic of the cerebral cortex in vivo, thereby offering unprecedented opportunities for the modeling of human cortex diseases and brain repair.”

The session continues with Catarina Brito’s (Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica, IBET) discussion of human neural in vitro models for preclinical research. Her team studied the differentiation and genetic modification of stem cells using 3D culture systems for treatments of solid cancer tumors and the central nervous system. “Hampering translation of gene-based therapeutic treatments of neurodegenerative diseases from experimental to clinical gene therapy is the lack of valid and reliable preclinical models that can contribute to evaluate feasibility and safety.” Her team developed “a robust and reproducible methodology for the generation of 3D in vitro models of the human CNS following a systematic technological approach based on stirred culture systems” (7).

RNA: In vitro immunization techniques have facilitated production of human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against some antigens. During the 2011 ESACT meeting, Shuichi Hashizume (IDEA, Japan) presented on the use of in vitro immunization for induction of human IgE antibodies (8). The method involved a medium containing enriched RDF supplemented with human plasma, fetal calf serum, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, and muramyl dipeptide. This year, he will discuss improvements in this technique.

Targeted gene silencing RNA interference (RNAi) can potentially “knock down” disease-causing genes, according to Judy Lieberman (Harvard Medical School, Immune Disease Institute). She was the first to show that RNA interference could be harnessed to treat disease in an animal and is actively developing RNAi-based therapeutics for viral infection and cancer. According to Lieberman, “early phase clinical trials that use antisense oligonucleotides to antagonize miRNAs or small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to knock down one gene at a time have recently shown promising gene knockdown and clinical benefit” to treat diseases caused by aberrant hepatocyte gene expression. The major problem in harnessing RNAi for this purpose is the difficulty in delivering RNAs into other tissues and cell types. Lieberman will describe methods to direct small RNAs into specific cell types by targeting their receptors and will review two methods that can be applied to inhibit breast cancer and prevent HIV transmission in animal models.

Topical Workshops

Several industry workshops will be held from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Sunday, 23 June 2013, before the official opening of ESACT 2013. Companies sponsoring workshops include ATMI, BD Biosciences, Boehringer Ingelheim BioXcellence, GE Healthcare, Irvine Scientific, Kerry (formerly Sheffield Bio-Science), SAFC, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Academic workshops will follow that afternoon from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM.

Industrial Workshops: ATMI’s workshop topic will cover single-use technologies with a case study on the manufacturing of a new rabies vaccine. The BD Biosciences workshop will focus on cell culture media and process optimization. Boehringer Ingelheim’s workshop titled “Producing Value from Discovery to Supply for the Next Generation of Biologics” will include presentations from Morphosys AG and Symphogen A/S as well as BI itself. GE Healthcare’s workshop will present an integrated, systematic approach to implementing novel upstream technologies. Irvine Scientific’s workshop will focus on scale-up with a chemically defined medium in disposable bioreactor systems. The Kerry workshop will cover key considerations for media supplementation. SAFC will present risk mitigation strategies and practical advice for safety testing. With presenters from Novasep, DSM, and Lonza, Sartorius Stedim’s workshop will illustrate advances in single-use bioreactor technology. And Thermo Fisher Scientific will cover three topics: media development and selection for optimal productivity (with case studies detailing basal media and feed optimization and application of single-use technologies), development of a novel single-use technology for microcarrier cell culture harvests, and validation support.

Academic Workshops: Tarit Mukhopadhyay and Barry Buckland from University College London will chair a workshop on therapeutic vaccines. Nicole Borth (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna), Kelvin H. Lee (University of Delaware), and Michael Betenbaugh (Johns Hopkins University) will chair a workshop on the CHO genome community’s current standards and future goals. Yvonne Genzel and Udo Reichl of the Max-Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems will chair a workshop on metabolism as a key for improving cell culture processes (with status and advances in analytics and data analysis). And consultant Steven Chamow will chair a workshop on biosimilars.

MicroRNAs play important roles in many cellular processes. They can interact with and influence the expression of hundreds of target genes, thereby providing a means of quickly influencing entire cellular pathways or processes. According to Matthias Hackl (BOKU University, Austria) (9), few studies have focused on miRNAs in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Hackl will discuss miRNA biogenesis in CHO cells and how they can influence dicer-mediated miRNA processing on CHO cell phenotype.

Michaela Strotbek (University of Stuttgart) will then discuss stable miRNA expression. Her talk will explain how it can improve antibody productivity in CHO producer cells. She is part of a research team that uses two- and three-dimensional cell culture models to focus on the ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases and the DLC family of tumor suppressor proteins and their roles in cell migration and invasion.

Concluding this session, Hisahiro Tabuch (Chugai Pharmaceutical) will describe a novel strategy for a high-yielding MAb-producing CHO strain. The approach involves overexpression of noncoding RNA-enhanced proliferation and improved MAb yield. According to chief researcher Hiro Tabuchi, the overexpression “might not be due to enhancement of the NFKB-dependent promoter activity of the MAb expression plasmid . . . . Since overexpression of the partial sequence still functions as an antibody production enhancing sequence in MAb-producing cell lines, many unexpected functions from ncRNAcontaining miRNA might exist” (10).

Session 3: Epigenetics and Synthetic Biology

Epigenetics refers to the study of heritable changes in gene expression that are not caused by changes in DNA sequence (11). During the past decade, researchers have turned to this relatively new science to help explain causative genetic effects in some diseases and to better understand why some differtiated cells “deprogram” into pluripotent/totipotent states. Current research in the field has linked epigenetic
s to DNA methylation, histone modification, nucleosome location, and noncoding RNA.

To advance epigenetic studies, researchers are looking closer at micoRNA and genomic data. For example, many cell lines have been derived from the CHO K1 cell line, which has been sequenced. Some researchers expect that additional relevant genomes will soon be completed and reported. Kevin Lee (Delaware Biotechnology Institute) will discuss aspects of the international community’s efforts at developing an infrastructure to support, host, and disseminate genome-scale data related to CHO cell lines.

Anna Wippermann (Bielefield University) will discuss the first CpG island microarray for genome-wide analyses of DNA methylation in CHO cells. She will provide insights into the epigenetic answer to butyrate treatment, which for cells has been linked with inhibiting proliferation, inducing differentiation, and inducing or repressing gene expression.

Dirk Schübeler (Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research) will focus on epigenomics and genome editing for gene regulation in chromatin. “Chromatin and DNA modifications have emerged as a critical component for gene regulation in higher eukaryotes,” he says. This team performed “global analysis of the epigenome during differentiation of stem cells to identify genomic sites that change their epigenetic status cell-state specific.” Based on their results, the team generated models of how those epigenetic variables are targeted. They tested those variables by “genetic perturbation of involved modifiers and by inserting epigenetic reporter constructs into defined genomic sites. . . . Results suggest that the actual DNA sequence of regulatory regions is a key determinant of their DNA methylation and chromatin state.”

Some research of inflammatory diseases has targeted the role of miRNA. MicroRNAs are important regulators of gene expression, and their activity is affected by the presence of miRNA sponge transcripts — the so-called competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA). Jorgen Kjems (Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center iNANO) will provide examples that suggest that achievement of miRNA sponge effects by circular RNA formation is a general phenomenon.

Synthetic Biology: Advanced bioengineering methods have driven the emerging field of synthetic biology and the creation of mechanisms for DNA sequencing, gene synthesis, and synthetic gene modeling. Researchers in this area produce biological-based parts, devices, and systems that perform a particular function. Two such devices are synthetic circuits — which have been shown to integrate closely with endogenous cellular processes (12) — and cassettes of genome segments. Haifeng Ye (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETH) will review the biomedical applications of synthetic circuits, Shawal Spencer (HZI) will discuss synthetic cassettes in defined chromosomal sites, and Simon Ausländer (ETH) will present on programmable designer circuits that perform biocomputing operations in mammalian cells.

Konrad Müller (University of Freiburg) will conclude the discussion on synthetic biology by discussing development of a red/far-red light-responsive bistable toggle switch to control gene expression in mammalian cells. In a recent article on this subject, he reports

We show that the system can reversibly be toggled between stable on- and off-states using short light pulses at 660 or 740 nm. Red light-induced gene expression was shown to correlate with the applied photon number and was compatible with different mammalian cell lines, including human primary cells. The light-induced expression kinetics were quantitatively analyzed by a mathematical model. We apply the system for the spatially controlled engineering of angiogenesis in chicken embryos. The system’s performance combined with cell- and tissue-compatible regulating red light will enable unprecedented spatiotemporally controlled molecular interventions in mammalian cells, tissues and organisms. (13)

Session 4: Genetic and Process Engineering

Throughout the morning and early afternoon of Tuesday, 25 June 2013, Ashraf Amanullah (senior director of Gilead Sciences) and Stephanos Grammatikos (senior director of bioprocess development at UCB Pharma SA in Belgium) will chair a session on genetic and process engineering. Quality by design (QbD) initiatives and increasing cost concerns are placing greater emphasis on engineering approaches to biopharmaceutical manufacturing than ever before. As BPI reported in a May 2006 supplement, powerful promoters and expression cassette engineering methods have transformed the field of cell-line development, which allowed companies to seek and achieve exponentially higher expression titers in the first decade of the 2000s alone. And judging by the work presented here, that’s only the beginning.

Genetic Engineering: The morning begins with Toni Cathomen of the University Medical Center in Freiburg Germany, who will focus on “designer nucleases” — such as zinc-finger (ZF) and transcription activator-like effector (TALE) nucleases — used to promote editing at desired genomic loci. Cathomen will explain the basics of nuclease-mediated genome engineering and discuss some successful examples using both human cells and mouse models of human disease.

Lin Zhang of Pfizer will weigh in on recombination-mediated cassette exchange for MAb expression in a CHO-K1–derived host cell line. Zhang chaired a session on cell-line development at another biennial conference last year, “Cell Culture Engineering XIII,” by Engineering Conferences International in Scottsdale, AZ.

Kyoungho Lee of Osaka University in Japan will describe rapid construction of transgene-amplified CHO cell lines through cell-cycle checkpoint engineering, using which he has also reported accelerated gene amplification. At last year’s “Cell Line Engineering XIII” Lee reported on establishment of a novel gene amplification platform by ATR down-regulation in CHO cell lines.

Ana Filipa Rodrigues (a PhD candidate at Portugal’s Institute of Experimental Biotechnology) will discuss multiple-gene engineering of mammalian cell metabolism and how it can be used to encourage hyperproductivity. Her laboratory is researching systems biotechnology and “cell factories” for improving production, especially of viral products and biopharmaceuticals.

Chapman Wright of Biogen will report on engineering a mammalian cell-line “toolbox” that exhibits multiple productivity and product quality profiles. And Karen Perelmuter of the Institut Pasteur de Montevideo in Uruguay will report on monitoring intracellular reduction–oxidation changes in mammalian cell lines using genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors.

Process Engineering: Upstream process development groups have incorporated engineering approaches to their own work as well. Using design-of-experiments and process modeling, they are finding the optimal culture media, supplements, and bioreactor conditions to get the best performance out of those exquisitely designed cells. Presenters here will demonstrate some aspects of cell culture that deserve attention and the kinds of results that can be achieved.

Henry Lin of Amgen will discuss the effect of tyrosine starvation on productivity and amino acid misincorporation in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells expressing a monoclonal antibody (MAb). Tyrosine starvation early in culture has been shown to increase the incidence of amino-acid sequence variants (14), with phenylalanine being most often misincorporated.

Anke Mayer-Bartschmid of Bayer in Germany will report on implementation of a predictive screening strategy for cell cloning by automation and parallelization. At Informa Life Sciences’ February 2013 “Cell Line Development and Engineering” meeting in Vi
enna, she presented a high-throughput transient transfection method using an automated transient workstation that yielded >0.5 mg of high-quality purified IgG for in vitro testing in cell-based assays.

Martin Jordan of Merck Serono in Switzerland will provide a comprehensive view of the lactate metabolite. He and his colleagues have established a high-throughput platform for media optimization, transferring an entire fed-batch process from shaker tubes/flasks to 96–deep-well plates. And finally, Sojeong Lee of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology will present a comprehensive understanding of heparan sulfate proteoglycan biosynthesis in CHO and HEK293 cells.

Session 5: Next-Generation Molecule Formats

On Wednesday morning, 26 June 2013, Francesc Godia (chemical engineering professor and vice-rector of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain) and Hitto Kaufmann (vice president of process science for Boehringer Ingelheim in Germany) chair a session on next-generation molecule formats. Presenters here will primarily focus on gene therapies and next-generation antibody moieties.

Gene therapies have traveled a difficult road so far, with much promise and a few high-profile failures. But their story is far from over. The morning begins with Thierry Vanden Driessche (professor at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium) overviewing their progress and challenges. Increasing evidence suggests that gene therapy can provide long-term therapeutic effects, he says, for patients suffering from genetic and complex disorders. “Consequently, momentum in the field is building up, resulting in the first gene therapy product licensure in the European Union.” Despite this progress, however, some challenges still need to be overcome relating to insufficient/transient expression of therapeutic genes, immune consequences, and genotoxicity.

Next, Sally Ward of the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX, gets specific to report on targeting FcRn for therapy “from subcellular trafficking analyses to in vivo studies in mice.” Related to major histocompatibility complex class I receptors, FcRn plays a pivotal role in regulating transport and distribution of IgG. “FcRn–IgG interactions are characterized by marked pH dependence,” Ward explains, “with relatively tight binding at pH 6.0 that becomes progressively weaker as near neutral pH is approached.” That pH dependence allows IgG molecules to interact with FcRn in acidic early endosomes after cellular uptake, followed by recycling/transcytosis and exocytic release at the cell surface.

“Engineering of IgGs with higher affinity for FcRn is of considerable interest because it can be used to produce antibodies with longer in vivo half-lives,” Ward continues, “but only if the pH dependence of the interaction is retained. Conversely, engineered IgGs with increased affinity for FcRn at both acidic and near neutral pH can act as potent inhibitors of FcRn.” She refers to such engineered antibodies as “Abdegs,” for antibodies that enhance IgG degradation, and says that they can lower the levels of endogenous IgG. “Our recent studies have involved an investigation of the therapeutic effects of Abdegs in mouse models of autoimmunity.”

When targeting FcRn for therapy, it helps to define which cell types contribute to its functional activity. “Toward this goal,” Ward reports, “we have generated mice harboring a floxed FcRn allele to allow for site-specific deletion of FcRn.” When considering antibodies as therapeutics, she says, it is important to understand how FcRn performs its function as a salvage receptor at the subcellular level. “We are therefore using a combination of fluorescence-imaging approaches, including single molecule and multifocal plane microscopy, to analyze how FcRn and its IgG cargo traffic within live cells.”

Antibodies still represent the largest class of protein therapeutics, but today’s product candidates don’t all conform to the classic monoclonal antibody “Y” configuration with which we’re all familiar. From bispecificity to antibody fragments, greater understanding and engineering approaches are helping to refine these products — potentially making a good thing even better.

Pierre Moretti of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ biologics research and development center in Switzerland will focus on a new platform for expressing bispecific IgGs. And Karin Taylor (a PhD candidate in the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at Australia’s University of Queensland) will continue the discussion by describing a next-generation molecule design and its influence on product yield and stability. She is collaborating with a commercial partner on bispecific antibody design, development, and characterization for therapeutic use in targeted drug delivery.

Claire Gaffney (a PhD candidate at the UK University of Manchester) will change the subject in reporting her investigation of what determines novel-format antibody expression in cells. And finally, Ioscani Jimenez Del Val (a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College in London) will describe a quantitative and mechanistic model for MAb glycosylation as a function of nutrient availability during cell culture. His goal is to use the model for designing, controlling, and optimizing manufacturing bioprocesses to generate cancer drugs with improved quality and enhanced therapeutic properties.

Session 6: Cell Interactions

Late Wednesday morning, 26 June 2013, Alan Dickson (of the UK’s University of Manchester) and Otto-Wilhelm Merten (of Genethon in France) chair a session on cellular interaction. Because this topic is a little outside the main field dealt with by ESACT meetings, two speakers have been invited to give specific overviews (Dennis Discher, Catherine Verfaillie), and one additional speaker (Sumihiro Koyama) was selected out of the submitted abstracts.

“Cellular interactions are of utmost importance for the correct funtion of multicellular organisms,” says Merten, “but are not to be neglected when moving to in vitro cultures — in particular of stem cells. For such cells it is known that interaction between them and their culture support (its type and characteristics) influences regulatory mechanisms.” Those, he explains, affect evolution of a culture: “for instance, on differentiation into a desired direction.” The issue of cell adherence and cell detachment is of equal importance for technological applications.

In that context, Dennis Discher of the University of Pennsylvania was invited to overview “from matrix mechanics to the nucleus.” He is an expert in the mechanobiology of stem cells as well as biochemical physics of membranes and proteins of self-assembling block copolymers in application to disease.

Sumihiro Koyama of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEK) gets more specific, describing a novel technology potentially useful for cell sorting. This new development is based on electronically modulated attachment and detachment of animal cells cultured on an indium tin oxide (ITO) optically transparent working electrode. The purpose of Koyama’s study was to develop modulation methods based on application of a weak electrical potential (15). The application of a high-frequency triangular wave potential for 30–60 minutes causes cell detachment. Electrical modulation of specifically positioned cell attachment and detachment techniques holds potential for novel optical microscopic cell sorting analysis in laboratory-on-a-chip devices.

After a lunch break, the final presentation comes from Catherine Verfaillie Catherine Verfaillie of Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where she coordinates the “HepStem” project. She will describe a method of engineering liver tissue from stem cells. Starting from hum
an embryonic (hESCs) and human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), heptocyte-directed differentiation is achieved through sequential use of growth factors known to play a role in liver embryonic development. This development could provide a means to generate hepatocytes and related cell populations at necessary quantities for generative medicine as well as for in vitro toxicity and toxicological studies.

Rendez-Vous à Lille!

At the end of the program on Wednesday afternoon, 20 poster finalists will give five-minute presentations of their work. Based on novelty, scientific quality, and presentation, the 100 poster presenters — falling into the same categories as the sessions described herein — will be competing in a poster-prize contest at ESACT 2013. Audience votes will determine three winners from the 20 finalists, which will be announced during a gala dinner that night.

Don’t forget to join platinum sponsors BD Biosciences, GE Healthcare, and Thermo Scientific in a cell-culture–focused exhibition with more than 60 other companies represented. We hope to see you there! For more information on attending ESACT this year, check it out online at

About the Author

Author Details
Maribel Rios ( is managing editor, and Cheryl Scott ( is senior technical editor of BioProcess International.


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