European Bank for induced pluripotent Stem Cells


Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are the cornerstone of many regenerative medicine projects, and offer researchers a powerful new approach to model and study a range of diseases. The European Bank for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (EBiSC) was established to provide researchers across academia and the pharmaceutical industry with disease-relevant, quality-controlled, research-grade iPSC lines, data and cell services, and to promote the wider use of iPSCs with the ultimate goal of improving health. EBiSC began setting up the banking infrastructure in 2014 and distributing cell lines from March 2016 onwards. Today, there are more than 800 iPSC lines in the EBiSC catalogue, covering neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, eye and heart diseases, muscular dystrophies, and lines from healthy control donors.

Most adult cells can only divide to produce other cells of the same type – for example, skin cells can only make other skin 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 reprogram adult cells such as blood or skin cells, to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Like embryonic stem cells, iPSCs are able to generate any kind of cell; as such, they offer researchers a good supply of different kinds of human cell types which can be used in research and drug development.

When EBiSC began, iPSCs were still a relatively new technology. Although many human iPSC lines had been created, their quality varied enormously and few were accompanied by sufficient background  data such as consent information and confirmation of cell line identity. Furthermore, access to many lines was tightly restricted, meaning demand for good quality iPSCs vastly outstripped supply.

EBiSC, a non-profit biobank, now provides the global science community with over 800 cell lines derived from patients diagnosed with neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and eye diseases, diabetes, and muscular dystrophies, as well as healthy donors. The cell lines were created and deposited in the EBiSC catalogue by iPSC centres across Europe including a number of other large iPSC research projects (such as the IMI project StemBANCC). Moreover, the project established standardised solutions for the expansion and differentiation of cells, whilst development of a robust quality control (QC) regime means that cell lines from EBiSC contribute to improving the reliability of research results. This is important when one considers that all too often, researchers are unable to replicate the results of each other’s experiments.

EBiSC has now distributed iPSC lines to users across the world, including USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea, in addition to users across Europe. Collection and distribution of iPSC lines on this scale would likely not have been possible without establishment of an Information Management System, supporting EBiSC with gathering cell line data, managing cell line documentation and controlling availability across hundreds of lines. In addition to supplying iPSC lines, EBiSC also developed a training framework to support dissemination of best practice for the culture and banking of iPSC lines, this publically available resource supports users after receiving their iPSC lines, recommendation on routine QC to be performed in users’ laboratories to maintain high standards is also available. Underpinning these activities, the project set up a harmonised ethics and legal governance framework for the deposit and distribution of iPSC lines, and established harmonised donor consent forms which have been used across Europe, including other IMI projects such as PHAGO and ADAPTED.

These project results were only possible because of the broad collaboration between academics, the pharmaceutical industry, and SMEs. The project provided a platform for extended networking and exchanging of stem cell-related expertise across the consortium, and this allowed individual research institutions to standardise experimental procedures in alignment with the state-of-the-art quality criteria that were defined by the whole consortium.

More broadly, EBiSC has demonstrated that large scale, automated expansion and differentiation of iPSCs is feasible, making high-quality stem cells and their derivatives available for future applications at industrial scale in a cost efficient manner. EBiSC2 will take this to the next step, performing iPSC banking and differentiation across multiple lineages and supplying differentiated products directly to users. In the long term, EBiSC will undoubtedly help to promote Europe as an attractive place for biopharmaceutical research and development and provide a new and major resource for future medicines development which will improve the health of European citizens. It will also contribute to reductions in the use of animals in research, as the use of iPSCs replace tools and studies that use animals.

For the benefit of industry, academia, SMEs

Throughout the project, scientists from multiple academic centres across Europe gained access to high-quality iPSC lines, thus reducing their reliance on poor quality cells. They also gained access to genomic data sets supporting research activities; awareness of best practice in banking, cryostorage and quality control; and access to virtual training ensuring the quality of their research. Additionally, the use of the ethical framework for the collection of biological samples suitable for iPSC generation and distribution, was translated across the academic community whilst a streamlined process for iPSC line deposition ensures that newly generated lines can be stored and distributed by a central non-profit bank.

SMEs also benefited from access to the iPSC lines. In addition, working with pharmaceutical companies gives SMEs valuable insights into the needs of the larger companies.  For their part, the pharmaceutical companies in the project are now using the EBiSC iPSCs in their active research to study diseases and develop new treatments, for example in the neurological disease field. They also benefited from access to the state-of-the-art technology in the research institutes and SMEs in the project

What’s next

A further IMI project, EBiSC2 is now building on the work begun under EBiSC and related initiatives. EBiSC2 will extend the existing cell line collection, knowledge and infrastructure established under EBiSC ensuring the sustainability of the resource long-term.

Achievements & News

A one-stop-shop for disease-specific human stem cells allows scientists to focus on research

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be generated from tissues of people diagnosed with certain diseases, as well as healthy people, and then used to generate specific cell-types, which can then be used by researchers to carry out experiments.

Making iPSC lines from scratch is laborious and complicated, and re-using existing cell lines is also fraught with challenges. To help fix these problems, in 2014 IMI set up EBiSC, the European Bank for induced pluripotent Stem Cells. A subsequent project, EBiSC2, builds on EBiSC’s work.###

EBiSC allows researchers to deposit their cell lines into a centralised repository, and enables distribution to the wider scientific community via a public catalogue, along with their relevant datasets. In addition, EBiSC can also help with reprogramming, gene-editing and characterising new iPSC lines and sharing knowledge and best practices. Depositors retain full ownership rights on their lines and can continue using and sharing them as they choose. Customers can quickly access iPSC lines from the desired donor background, selecting for age, sex, disease or phenotype, among other things.

As the lines are listed on a public catalogue, the impact of their research is highly visible and publications and datasets are clearly linked to the relevant cell lines. The project is currently aware of more than 100 publications using EBiSC iPSC lines, with likely many more available and in progress.

Find out more

Working on iPSCs? EBiSC2 wants your opinion

IMI’s EBiSC project has established a centralised, not-for-profit human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) bank providing researchers across academia and industry with access to scalable, cost-efficient and consistent, high quality iPSCs for use in research and medicines development.### Since its creation in 2014, the bank has grown considerably and now provides a large range of iPSC lines and services to academics, non-profit organisations and companies. Projects generating iPSCs can also make their cell lines sustainable by depositing them in the EBiSC catalogue, ensuring secure long-term storage and simplified access and distribution.

The new EBiSC2 project builds on the achievements of the original EBiSC project, including improving its services and providing new iPSC lines and differentiated cell products. To ensure the project continues to offer products and services that are relevant to the scientific community, EBiSC is running a survey. The survey is open until the end of October.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


  Show participants on map
EFPIA companies
  • Astrazeneca AB, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, Leverkusen, Germany
  • Eli Lilly And Company LTD, 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, 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 Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung Ev, 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 Akademie Van Wetenschappen - Knaw, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • The University Of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Universitatsklinikum 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
  • Edelweiss 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

NameIHI funding in €
Arttic709 034
Bioneer A/S895 623
Charite - Universitaetsmedizin Berlin1 247 667
DefiniGEN Ltd191 160
Department of Health1 762 577
Edelweiss Connect GMBH838 654
European Molecular Biology Laboratory555 477
European Screeningport GMBH (left the project)14 577
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung Ev3 469 996
Genome Research Limited433 618
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet Hannover182 115
Instituto De Salud Carlos Iii29 376
Klinikum Der Universitaet Zu Koeln421 337
Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen - Knaw84 993
Roslin Cell Sciences Ltd4 675 310
Roslin Cells Limited (left the project)4 149 944
The University Of Edinburgh398 864
Universitatsklinikum Bonn1 086 719
University College London281 438
University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne202 152
Third parties
NameFunding in €
Fundacio Privada Centre De Medicina Regenerativa De Barcelona74 862
Fundacion Instituto De Investigacion Biomedica Y Desarrollo Tecnologico Inbiomed (left the project)60 000
Fundacion Publica Andaluza Progreso Y Salud74 887
Total Cost21 840 380