EBISC logo


Start Date
End Date
IMI1 - Call 8
Grant agreement number

Type of Action: 
RIA (Research and Innovation Action)

IMI Funding
21 840 380
EFPIA in kind
7 167 072
5 320 406
Total Cost
34 327 858


Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have the potential to significantly advance drug development and health research, yet collections of stem cells are scattered across the world, their quality cannot always be guaranteed, and accessing them is often difficult. The goal of EBiSC is to establish a European iPS cell bank that will be the ‘go-to’ resource for the characterisation, storage and distribution of high quality iPS cells. Ultimately, EBiSC will become an independent organisation, distributing high quality iPS cells on a not-for-profit basis to scientists worldwide.

Stem cells in the spotlight

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. In contrast, 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, researchers are now able to reprogramme 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.

For example, iPS cells can be used to study disease biology, identify markers of disease and potential drug targets, and test drug safety and efficacy. In addition, iPS cells help to reduce the use of animals in research.

This is a relatively new technology – the first iPS cells were only created in 2006 (a feat that won their inventor a Nobel prize). Since then, scientists worldwide have created hundreds of human iPS cell lines and some cell banks have been set up. However, the quality of these lines varies enormously (some may not even be pluripotent), and few lines are accompanied by sufficient clinical and other data to ensure that researchers are using the right cell for their needs. Finally, access to these cell lines is often tightly restricted. For this reason, demand for high quality, well characterised iPS cells vastly outstrips supply.

Europe’s go-to resource for iPS cells

EBiSC’s goal is to establish a centralised facility where academics, biotech companies, and big pharmaceutical companies can store and access high-quality, well-characterised iPS cells covering a range of disease areas as well as cells from healthy donors. For its part, the bank will provide standardised protocols for the storage, retrieval, culture, and differentiation into different cells types, plus a searchable catalogue where cells can be requested based on specific characteristics or disease areas. Samples of the cell lines in the catalogue will be shipped to scientists around the world.

The main processing and storage facility will be operated by Roslin Cells at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, UK, while the distribution of the cell lines will be coordinated by Public Health England’s European Cell Culture Collection (ECACC). The project partners themselves will generate and deposit the first lines to the bank, but the project will also recieve deposits from other projects and organisations, including IMI projects working in this area. The storage facility in Cambridge will accommodate many thousands of cell lines, and additional storage capacity is available at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Germany.

On the business side, once the initial collection of cell lines is in place, the project will quickly start distributing cells to the scientific community. The project will then scale up its activities to become fully operational by 2016, having in excess of 1 000 lines in its catalogue.. The objective is for the initiative to be self-sustaining financially by 2019 and become an independent legal entity, distributing iPS cells worldwide on a not-for-profit basis.

A focus on excellence

In addition to its business objectives, EBiSC has the goal of becoming a centre of excellence for applied scientific excellence, by leading the way in the use and development of the most advanced methods for characterising, processing, storing and distributing iPS cells. In addition to experts in stem cell biology and banking, the project includes leaders in fields such as data management, law and social sciences. This will ensure that cells sent out by EBiSC are of a high quality from a scientific point of view and that their use is in line with relevant ethical requirements.

Benefits for all

By standardising procedures and ensuring the quality of the cell lines and associated data, EBiSC will help academic and clinical researchers shed new light on the biology of diverse diseases. For the pharmaceutical efficiency, the cell lines will represent an important tool for carrying out early stage drug testing. For patients, the project represents an important step in ensuring that iPS cells realise their potential as a tool to improve and speed up the development of better and safer treatments.

Achievements & News

EBiSC stem cell biobank keeps growing and could lead to new cures
September 2017

In recent decades, shape-shifting stem cells have captured the imagination because of their potential to repair all kinds of damaged tissue. Today’s emerging research is exploring how to develop pluripotent cells – the immature form of stem cells – and direct them to grow and differentiate into healthy tissue for just about any organ or body part. IMI’s EBiSC project was set up to meet increasing demand for high-quality, research-grade ‘human-induced pluripotent stem cell’ (hiPSC) lines for targeted diseases – but also healthy ‘disease-free’ lines – as well as the data and services associated with delivering them. ### The project has been boosted by a so-called ‘hot start’ by securing and validating established cell lines from leading biotech and academic partners. This approach almost instantly yielded 36 hiPSC lines along with the necessary operational, administrative and executive tools and guarantees to reliably use them in the process of developing new therapies. The project has since boosted that number to more than 370 gender-balanced cell lines for some 20 diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well as metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, all available via its online catalogue. But EBiSC is aiming much higher than that. It eventually aims to process over 1 000 lines once reaching full-scale operations at the end of 2017. The project plans to continue as a sustainable not-for-profit bio-banking operation from 2021 onwards. In future, the international network aims to offer joined-up services such as standardised bio-sample procurement, cell-line creation and in-depth quality control. These may significantly boost the chances of new drug discovery and development, and improve the health and lives of people worldwide.
Full story

EBiSC to hold workshop on iPSC technologies in drug discovery & therapy
June 2017

IMI’s stem cell project EBiSC will hold a workshop on ‘Scalability of the iPSC [induced pluripotent stem cell] technology for future drug discovery & therapy’ in Berlin, Germany on 2-3 November 2017. The workshop aims to share learnings from the EBiSC project and address perspectives on stem cell applications over the next five years.### According to the project, the event will be relevant for a wide range of groups, including industry representatives considering stem cell investment, stem cell researchers from academia and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), as well as representatives of government policy groups, charities and trade organisations supporting stem cell research.

The full agenda and details of how to register can be found in the event flyer.

StemBANCC and EBiSC contribute to the understanding of a rare pain disease
February 2017

One of the biggest challenges in drug development is finding ways to translate results from early laboratory tests to human patients. Pluripotent stem cells derived from human patients might hold the key to this translational puzzle, and a new IMI study confirms this potential.### In a unique collaboration, both IMI’s EBiSC and StemBANCC project teams contributed to a study led by one of their industrial project partners, Pfizer. The study set out to improve the understanding of a rare pain disease called inherited erythromelalgia (IEM). IEM is a chronic condition with no adequate medical treatment, in which patients suffer from extreme pain that is made worse by heat. The disease is caused by a mutation in a gene leading to overactivity of a sodium channel in patients’ sensory neurons. Pfizer scientists examined if a new experimental drug could block this sodium channel and reduce the pain experienced by IEM patients. When tested on five patients, results indicated that the drug reduced pain upon exposure to heat in most sufferers. However, the experiment didn’t end there. The same patients allowed scientists to take their blood cells and transform them into pluripotent stem cells, which were deposited in the EBiSC project stem cell bank. Next, the StemBANCC scientists turned some of those stem cells into sensory neurons and studied their characteristics in a lab. Prior to treatment, the neurons showed hyper-excitability and an unusual response to heat: the more severe the disease was in a patient, the more the neurons became hyper-excited. When the same neurons were treated with the experimental drug, the hyper-excitability diminished, mimicking the drug effect that occurred in patients. 'This is an exciting study,' said Andrea Weston, Pfizer’s scientific lead for StemBANCC and EBiSC projects. 'Rarely is it possible for drug developers to be able to study the drug responses of the actual, relevant cells from individual patients who are involved in clinical trials of the same experimental drug. These results illustrate that stem cell technology has the potential to transform the way in which drugs are made, enabling scientists to make them much more precise and tailored to individual patients. This is also a good example of how technology can bridge the translational gap between preclinical models and clinical evaluation. The study was facilitated by the collaborative nature of IMI’s projects, and wouldn’t have been possible without the open exchange of knowledge and ideas between different project partners.’

Bipolar cell lines added to growing EBiSC catalogue
September 2016

Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world, yet the discovery of new treatments has been hampered by the inability to study what is happening to an affected person’s brain cells during their lifetime. Thanks to IMI’s EBiSC project, stem cells from patients with bipolar disorder are being made available to scientists around the world to boost research into the condition.### The University of Edinburgh will add 28 cell lines to the growing EBiSC catalogue of over 170 induced pluripotent stem cells. EBiSC was set up to build a robust, reliable supply chain for stem cell lines from a wide range of diseases and the new addition will enrich it further. ‘This is an excellent demonstration of how the EBiSC project collaborates with others, to make their cell lines available to the research community. The EBiSC Cell Line Catalogue already has a rich diversity of highly qualified cell lines from a multitude of diseases due to the diversity of partners providing their input. This reflects the multidisciplinary approach favoured by a public-private partnership of the IMI’, said the EBiSC project coordinator Timothy Allsopp. ‘The EFPIA partners are instrumental in assisting the consortium to select highly desirable cell lines and they work in close collaboration with the academic medical centre partners to nominate appropriate patient genotypes from diseases of interest. Finally, the SME partners have been pivotal in providing the expertise and necessary capacity to the new cell line creation and have constructed the workflow for making, banking and distributing cell lines internationally. Many more cell lines will be added this year as the collection grows.’

EBiSC launches European Stem Cell Bank
April 2016

IMI’s EBiSC project has launched its online catalogue of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which are available to academic and commercial scientists alike for use in research. IPSCs are created by taking ordinary adult cells (such as skin cells) and reprogramming them to make them ‘pluripotent’, i.e. able to give rise to all the different kinds of cell that make up the human body.### EBiSC was set up to build a robust, reliable supply chain for iPS cell lines, including the generation of disease specific cell lines through standardised, quality controlled processes for banking and worldwide distribution. The cell lines in the EBiSC catalogue were made and deposited by both EBiSC project partners and external organisations. They include cells taken from people with neurodegenerative, heart, and eye diseases as well as from health donors. Further lines, covering Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and diabetes for example, will be added in the near future. ‘The launch of the on-line catalogue  will allow EBiSC tosupport stem cell researchers in Europe and elsewhere,’ said Aidan Courtney, CEO of Roslin Cell Sciences. ‘The organisations making up the EBiSC Consortium are each leaders in their own area of expertise. We have been fortunate to have the support of IMI to combine these skills from across Europe to create this major research resource.’

Tell EBiSC which cell lines you would like to see in the stem cell catalogue
October 2015

Since 2014, EBiSC has been building the European Bank for induced Pluripotent Stem Cells to make quality-assured iPSC lines and data available to both researchers in both academia and companies.###

EBiSC would like to know what researchers and pharmaceutical companies wish to see included in the EBiSC iPSC catalogue to support their research now and in the future. The survey can be found here.

To learn more about the EBiSC project, to specify which cell lines should be in the catalogue or to be kept up-to-date with the cell lines from the catalogue and order them, contact ebisc@eurtd.com and visit their website.

Participants Show participants on map

EFPIA companies
  • Astrazeneca AB, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, Leverkusen, Germany
  • Eli Lilly and Company Limited, Basingstoke, United Kingdom
  • H. Lundbeck As, Valby, Denmark
  • Janssen Pharmaceutica Nv, Beerse, Belgium
  • Novo Nordisk A/S, Bagsvaerd, Denmark
  • Pfizer Limited, Sandwich, Kent , United Kingdom
  • UCB Biopharma SPRL, Brussels, Belgium
Universities, research organisations, public bodies, non-profit groups
  • Bioneer A/S, Horsholm, Denmark
  • Charite - Universitaetsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Department of Health, Leeds, United Kingdom
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
  • Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Zur Foerderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V., München, Germany
  • Genome Research Limited, London, United Kingdom
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  • Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
  • Klinikum Der Universitaet Zu Koeln, Cologne, Germany
  • Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • The University Of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Universitaetsklinikum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
  • University College London, London, United Kingdom
  • University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Arttic, Paris, France
  • DefiniGEN Ltd, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Douglas Connect GmbH, Zeiningen, Switzerland
  • Roslin Cell Sciences Ltd, Roslin, Midlothian, United Kingdom
Third parties
  • Fundacio Privada Centre De Medicina Regenerativa De Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • Fundacion Publica Andaluza Progreso Y Salud, Seville , Spain


Project coordinator
Andreas Ebneth
Janssen Pharmaceutica NV
+32 14 60 61 99
Managing entity
Aidan Courtney
+44 1314406542