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Pharmacells aims to lead world in stem cell supply

SCOTS stem cell storage company Pharmacells is poised to acquire the assets of Edinburgh-based biotech firm Immunosolv, in a deal bosses believe will propel it to "world-leader" status in the supply of stem cells for research.

Pharmacells, which is based in Newhouse, North Lanarkshire, said it was close to completing a successful takeover of the assets of Immunosolv, which went into liquidation in mid-March.

The deal will give Pharmacells the rights to potentially lucrative intellectual property, including research and product patents, as well as gaining access to valuable hi-tech equipment – some of it designed and trademarked by Immunosolv.

It is understood that Pharmacells also plans to retain one Immunosolv employee, described as a "highly-qualified" specialist researcher.

The acquisition is being undertaken in partnership with Aberdeen-based Grampian Biopartners.

Among the prized assets in the takeover is access to "Dead-Cert", a method of cell extraction developed and patented by Immunosolv which will play a crucial role in improving Pharmacell's productivity. The Lanarkshire firm has already patented its own technique for isolating, harvesting and storing a newly discovered type of blood-derived adult stem cell, which can be used to generate lines of any other cell type in the body, from brain cells to liver cells.

The technology has already been used to create a private stem cell bank where members of the public can pay around £3000 to store their blood-borne stem cells for potential, personalised medical therapies in future, as well as providing an ethically sound supply of stem cells to researchers.

However, being able to use Immunosolv's Dead-Cert method, which weeds out dead and damaged cells, will mean Pharmacells can increase its average harvest of healthy cells from around 60% to at least 80%.

Atholl Haas, chief executive of Pharmacells, said he looked forward to being able to getting access to a raft of high-quality products, research and equipment and apply a stronger business model to their use.

He said: "Immunosolv has been around since the mid-1990s, and it had around £1 million of venture capital funding on its books at the time it went into liquidation, so we will get access to that as well. It had great products but a bad business sense. It was driven by academics and academic research grants, which is great for science but not so great for a viable biotech company.

"Immunosolv will mean we have the best basis for stem cell therapy on the planet: the most cells, the youngest – bar embryonic – and the highest purity. We can supply a better product to researchers to further their work, and be a world leader."

The acquisition comes as Pharmacells is expanding its global reach, with its blood stem cell banking service now available in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Spain, and Portugal, though all samples are flown back to their hub in Lanakshire.

The firm hopes to expand the service to 20 countries by the end of the year.

This article has been updated on the basis of new information.

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