Pan-European stem cell project
In mid-February, scientists and entrepreneurs from nine EU countries met at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona to launch the 4DCellFate project. Positioned within the FP7 Programme, the consortium will receive €12m from the European Commission over the next five years. The key question the project will be trying to solve is how stem-cell reprogramming and differentiation is regulated at the epigenetic level. In the spotlight are the polycomb repressive complex (PRC) and the nucleosome remodelling and histone deacetylase (NuRD) complexes, including the question of how they govern embryonic stem-cell differentiation in states of health and disease. The research is aimed at finding better ways of generating ethically unproblematic iPS cells, as well as opening up new pathways for directing the fate of stem cells into different specific tissue types. Headed by the CRG, the joint venture includes academic institutions from Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Also on board are GlaxoSmithKline plc (UK) and three small biotechnology companies: Horizon Discovery Ltd. (UK), Cellartis AB (Sweden) and CLC bio (Denmark). Using its proprietary virally-mediated geneengineering technology, Horizon is in charge of generating cell lines with labelled versions of epigenetic target proteins. Cellartis will provide human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), and is also involved in large-scale proteomic analyses. CLC bio will build the bioinformatics framework, while pharma giant GSK will assess the potential of translating fundamental scientific findings into new drugs.