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Stem cells for biological assays of novel drugs and predictive toxicology


The aim of the STEMBANCC project is to generate and characterise 1 500 high quality human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines that can be used by researchers to study a range of diseases, including diabetes and dementia, and test for drug efficacy and safety. The cell lines will help to improve and speed up the drug development process, and ensure that patients benefit from more effective and safer drugs.


Currently, many drugs fail rather late in the drug development process because the tests used in the earlier stages of drug development simply do not reflect what happens in real life when the drug is administered in patients. 

This is partly because these early tests rely heavily on animal cells, and when human cells are used, they have often been extensively modified to survive in culture and so no longer behave naturally. 

Those working in drug research and development therefore urgently need a good supply of cells that more accurately mimic what happens in the human body.

The power of pluripotency

Most adult cells can only divide to produce other cells of the same type – for example, skin cells can only make other skin cells, and blood cells can only make other blood cells. Only embryonic stem cells are ‘pluripotent’, i.e. able to give rise to all the different kinds of cell that make up the human body. However, in recent years researchers have developed a way of reprogramming ordinary adult cells to create so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are able to generate any kind of cell; as such, they offer researchers a good supply of different kinds of human cell that can be used in research and drug development. 

The research resulting in the creation of the first iPS cells was a major scientific breakthrough that won scientists John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

A unique resource

STEMBANCC’s goal is to generate 1 500 iPS cell lines from 500 people, characterise them in terms of their genetic, protein, and metabolic profiles, and make them available to researchers. All cell lines will also undergo a rigorous quality check. 

The raw materials for the project will be largely skin and blood samples taken from patients with certain diseases, people who display adverse reactions to drugs, and healthy individuals. The collection of these samples will be carried out with the individuals’ informed consent and in line with strict ethical standards. 

There will be a strong focus on peripheral nervous system disorders (especially pain); central nervous system disorders (e.g. dementias); neurodysfunctional diseases (e.g. migraine, autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder); and diabetes. The project will also investigate the use of human iPS cells for toxicology testing; here the team will use the iPS cells to generate liver, heart, nerve and kidney cells. 

Ultimately STEMBANCC will be a source of well-characterised, patient-derived iPS cells that will help researchers study diseases, develop new treatments, and test the efficacy and safety of new drugs.


Achievements & News

STEMBANCC recruitment on track
IMI’s stem cell project StemBANCC is advancing well with the recruitment of patients and control individuals (subjects). So far, around 50 subjects have been recruited to disease cohorts such as Alzheimer’s disease, neuropathy, ###diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, migraine and bipolar disorder by several project participants. The sites recruiting for the autism and schizophrenia cohorts expect to have their first patients in soon.
StemBANCC aims to generate and characterise 1 500 high quality human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines from 500 people that can be used by researchers to study a range of diseases and test for drug efficacy and safety. The raw materials for the project are largely skin samples taken from patients with certain diseases, people who display adverse reactions to drugs, and healthy individuals. The collection of these samples is carried out with the individuals’ informed consent and in line with strict ethical standards.
The recruitment of subjects began following the full ethics approval by the UK’s main research ethics committee in 2013. The University of Oxford, which is also the managing entity of the StemBANCC project, is responsible for recruiting more than half of the required target of 500 patient and healthy volunteers.
   -   Learn more about the StemBANCC project
(February 2014)



  • F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Basel, Switzerland
  • Abbott GmbH & Co KG, Wiesbaden-Delkenheim, Germany
  • Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH, Ingelheim, Germany
  • Eli Lilly, Hampshire, United Kingdom
  • Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Beerse, Belgium
  • Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Novo Nordisk A/S, Bagsværd, Denmark
  • Orion Corporation, Espoo, Finland
  • Pfizer Limited, Sandwich, UK
  • Sanofi-Aventis Research and Development, Chilly-Mazarin, France

Universities, research organisations, public bodies, non-profit groups

  • University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH). Neuherberg, Germany
  • Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Paris, France
  • King’s College London, London, UK
  • Linkopings Universitet, Linköping, Sweden
  • Medical Research Council UK, Swindon, UK
  • Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  • Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • Naturwissenschaftliches und Medizinisches Institut an der Universität Tübingen, Reutlingen, Germany
  • Region Hovedstaden - Capital Region of Denmark, Hillerød, Denmark
  • Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck, Germany
  • Université de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Université de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Université de Technologie de Compiègne, Compiègne, France
  • University College London, London, UK
  • University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


  • Concentris Research Management GmbH, Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
  • Islensk Erfdagreining EHF, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Univercell-Biosolutions, Toulouse, France

Facts & Figures

Start Date 01/10/2012
End Date 30/09/2017
IMI funding 26 000 000
EFPIA in kind 21 458 212
Other   8 158 119
Total cost 55 616 331

Links and Documents

Project website: 

IMI funding per project participant 


Project Coordinator
Martin Graf
F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd
Tel: +41-616889246
E-mail: martin.graf[AT]

Managing Entity
Zameel Cader

University of Oxford
Tel: +44 1865 285875
E-mail: zameel.cader[AT]