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October 22, 2020updated 21 Oct 2020 4:54pm

Human cells to be mass produced under “moonshot” biomedical partnership

By Lucy Ingham

A UK biomedical startup, bit.bio, has announced that it is partnering with the London Institute for Mathematical Science to code human cells and so pave way for them to be mass produced.

The partnership, which bit.bio describes as a “moonshot”, is planning to reprogram all types of human cells in a manner similar to software, is set to create a new industry where software and synthetic biology converge.

The purpose of this is to make it possible to recreate and mass produce human cells, so that they can be used for biomedical testing, overcoming the need to test on animals prior to in-human trials, and therapies.

It is hoped that the initiative could ultimately transform drug development, and while ambitious, it builds on work by both organisations.

Bit.bio has already had some success in creating human cells, in the form of neurons, muscle cells and oligodendrocytes, which the startup has successfully produced in large-scale batches with high purity. It has also developed a patented technique to custom-build any human cell.

The London Institute for Mathematical Sciences, meanwhile, has already had considerable success in genetic modelling, and will lend its expertise to read out and reprogram human cells.

“Life is the final frontier of mathematics and the marriage of maths and biology will change the face of both disciplines,” said Dr Thomas Fink, founder and director of the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

“Decoding cellular identity will require entirely new kinds of mathematics, as well as a deeper understanding of machine learning. Living organisms exhibit extraordinary concision and elegance, the hallmarks off mathematical structure.

“The human genome amounts to just 3 gigabytes of data. But viruses, a mere 7 kilobytes, can redirect it by calling up just the right subroutines, in a similar way to how modular software works. Uncovering the operating system of life could enable us to engineer human cells as readily as we do software”

Mass produced human cells: A “paradigm shift in biology”

The initiative and ultimate goal of creating mass produced human cells is a potentially revolutionary development for the field.

“Our collaboration with the London Institute is incredibly exciting, as we work on a paradigm shift in biology, moving it from an observational to a predictive science,” said Dr Mark Kotter, founder and CEO of bit.bio.

“Over the past decade have learned that biology can be viewed as a software. Our collaboration with LIMS will help to decode the ‘operating system of life’.

“This will unlock opportunities, including a new generation of cell therapies for tackling diseases such as cancer and dementia, accelerating drug development and could even help us combat pandemics of the future.”


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