New York Stem Cell Foundation Invents Robotic Platform for Making Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are made from mature adult cells through a combination of genetic engineering and cell culture techniques. Because they are made from cells isolated from specific patients, they are patient-specific cells that can be used for drug testing, model experimental systems, and potentially cells for regenerative therapies.


Unfortunately, iPSCs are made in different laboratories that use different reagents and different protocols and with workers with different skill levels. Consequently, laboratory-made iPSC lines show a very wide range of variation that are not due to genetic differences in the cells from which they were made. Additionally, the production of iPSCs is labor intensive and expensive and there is a deep need to standardize the whole process. What are stem-cell scientists to do?

New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) has announced the development of a robot-driven apparatus that automates and completely standardizes the production of iPSCs. This modular, robotic platform for iPSC reprogramming enables automated, high-throughput conversion of cells isolated from skin biopsies into iPSCs and differentiated cells derived from them with minimal manual intervention. In a paper in the journal Nature Methods, NYSCF scientists in collaboration with bioengineers demonstrates that automated reprogramming of mature cells with this robotic platform (that uses pooled selection of pluripotent cells) results in high-quality, stable iPSC lines. These lines show less line-to-line variation than either manually produced iPSC lines or iPSC lines produced through automation followed by single-colony subcloning.

“The capacity to test drugs on thousands of patients in a dish will change how we cure disease. We
will be more informed about how drug candidates will behave in patients before the clinical trial phase accelerating the discovery process. This technology will enable us to bring precision medicine
treatments and personalized pharmaceuticals to more patients,”noted Dr. Thomas Singer, Senior
Vice President, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Pharmaceuticals Division.
“This technology may help us predict how drug candidates behave in patients before the most complex and expensive phase of drug development: clinical trials. This insight could speed up new biomedical R&D and open the door to a larger number of high impact precision therapies,”said Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President, Pfizer Inc.
“Our goal is to understand and treat diseases. This is not an artisanal pursuit. Researchers need to
look at genetically diverse populations at scale, which means creating large numbers of standardized, human pluripotent stem cells. The NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array’s massive parallel processing
capabilities make this research possible,” said NYSCF Research Institute CEO and Founder Susan
L. Solomon, an author of the paper.

This robotic platform can potentially enable the application of iPSCs to population-scale biomedical problems including the study of complex genetic diseases and the development of personalized clinical treatments.