Coming Soon-Dr. Steve Hall

Dr. Steve Hall

Dr. Steve Hall

Dr Steve Hall has been a friend, collaborator and mentor since I purchased Neuromics. This includes being a Neuromics’ Premier supplier of Stem Cells and Related Markers, Media and Methods. Steve is currently President at AlphaGenix, Inc.

His expertise includes developing novel products and technologies for basic and clinical research with a particular emphasis on stem cell markers, biomaterials and regenerative medicine. The biomaterials product focus involves the design and application of 3-dimensional biomaterials comprised of extracellular matrix components and peptide nanofibers that have cell culture and tissue engineering applications. In addition, the company conducts regenerative medicine research that involves basic science and translational preclinical research using stem cell regulatory network discoveries and novel preclinical studies utilizing animal models with a focus on neurological disease.

He is a contributor to: Stem Cell Therapy for Neurological Diseases Stem cell therapy for the treatment of acute and chronic neurological diseases

Harting, Matthew T., Cox, Charles S. and Hall, Stephen G.  Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Neurological Disease: Preclinical evidence for cellular therapy as a treatment for neurological disease. In Vemore and Vinoglo (eds): Regulatory Networks in Stem Cells. Humana Press, pp 561-573, (2009). More information.

Stay tuned for Steve’s backstory in June!

STEMEZ hN2 Human Neurons Data

I have been working with Dr. Steve Stice and Aruna Biomedical to deliver human stem and neural cells to identified niche research areas related to drug discovery.  Neuromics rolled out STEMEZTM hN2 Human Neurons Discovery Kits several months ago. Applications for these include: cellular model studies, high content screening, developmental studies, RNAi studies and genetic manipulation.

Drilling down further, I am pleased to present Electro-physiology and related data generated by Aruna and collaborators: hN2 Cells-Electro Phys Data Supplement


hN2-Whole Cell Voltage Clamp

hN2-Whole Cell Voltage Clamp

Figure. hN2 cells can produce inward currents that generate action potentials. (A) Isolated hN2 with significant neurite growth 1 week  after plating . This cell was subjected to whole cell voltage clamp utilizing a potassium gluconate based intracellular solution. (B) Voltage gated inward and outward currents were elicited from this cell with depolarizing voltage steps. (C) Inward currents from another cell (potassium gluconate intracellular) were abolished by local application of 1 µM tetrodotoxin (red trace) while outward currents remained. Inward current recovered as TTX washed out of the region (green trace). (D) A different cell which exhibited voltage activated inward currents that inactivated in response to a 50 ms prepulse at different membrane potentials. The experiment was done 27 days after the removal of bFGF. A cesium gluconate based intracellular solution was used for this experiment to block outward potassium currents. The membrane potential for half maximal inactivation by standard Boltzman fitting (red line) was -40.1 mV with a slope of 4.7. (E) Recovery from fast inactivation utilizing a paired pulse protocol in the same cell as C. The single exponential time constant for recovery of inactivation was 1.7 ms (red line). (F) A different cell which elicited an overshooting action potential upon current injection under whole cell current clamp utilizing a potassium gluconate based intracellular solution. Inset: Response of the same cell under voltage clamp to a change in membrane potential from -80 mV to -10 mV elicited a peak current of 457 pA. Scale bars for inset: 5 ms, 0.2 nA.

Gary Johnson-Apoptosis Ace

 Gary Johnson

1994-present-President, ICT

1993-1996-Conjugation Chemist, R&D Systems

19989-1993-Supervisor Protein Conjugation & ELISA Development Group, Solvay Animal Health

1986-1989-Immunologists, Biosciences Lab, 3M

1976-1986-Various Lab, U of MN

Gary’s Conatct Info:

Inventing Better Ways to Measure Apoptosis 

This profile features another Scientist Entrepreneur. Dr Gary Johnson is the Founder and President of Immunochemistry Technologies LLC (ICT). His company manufactures kits that have the capabilities to quantitatively measure apoptosis effects. This is important to Neuromics, because these are core to many diseases of research interest to our customers. These range from Cancer where apoptosis detection can be used to to visualize the efficacy of tumor killing therapies to Neuroscience where apoptosis could be a root cause of many cognitive and neuro-muscular diseases.

I am excited about featuring Gary. I have been working with him and his team over the past 5 years. They have actively supported my company in providing Apoptosis Research Kits. The strength in our relationship is built on his company supplying best of breed reagents. The feedback I receive from users is overwhelmingly positive. In addition to these kits, ICT is also recoginized for their rock solid ELISA Buffers and Diluents.

It takes a unique blend of business and scientific acumen to build a company like ICT. So let’s start with Gary’s background and experience and then on to the specifics on his company and products and what sets ICT apart from competitors.

Gary’s Background

Gary’s began his career at the University of Minnesota in 1978 where he worked in a variety of labs. There he gained a wealth of experience and expertise in research techniqes. These included chromatography, immunoelectrophoresis, radiolabeling, mass spectrometry,  proton NMR spectroscopy and western blotting.

He leveraged his abilities and became more deeply involved in immunobiology. He  joined Dr. Harry Orr’s lab in 1981. There he used recombinant DNA techniques to study the class I genes of the major histocompatibility complex and he also supervised the tissue culture work. This provided the stepping stone to Dr. David Klein’s lab in 1984. There he studied the difference between diabetic and non-diabetic glomerular basement membrane proteoglycans in kidney disease. In order to do this research Gary developed in vivo or in vivo labeling techniques.

Gary then moved from University to commercial labs. We will see how his growing expertise morphed into the founding of ICT and why his broad knowledge and experise enabled a successful launch of the company.

From 1986 until founding ICT Gary worked at 3M, Solvay Animal Health and R&D Systems. Over his tenure, he worked as an Immunologist, Supervised an ELISA and Protein Purification and was a Conjugation Chemist. Having mastered a unique range of basic and commercial bio-research techniques, the evolution to Scientist-Entreprenuer was a natural next step.

In 1994, Dr. Brian Lee and Gary launched ICT. The company’s early success was in contract assay development. The revenue generated from these programs, has enabled ICT to manufacture and release a growing catalog of Apoptosis Detection Kits.

ICT’s Products and Capabilties

ICT’s provides proprietary probes for measuring apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. These probes are used by researchers  to detect caspases, cathepsins, serine proteases, cholinesterase enzymes, and assess mitochondrial health.Applications include: assessing the efficacy of chemotherapy, to quantifying  neurodegeneration, and early detectionof eye disease, to name a few.

Specific Products Include:


Images: Normal (left) and keratoconus (right) corneal fibroblasts were labeled with Caspase 3 & 7 Assay Kit, green.

Pacing the Field

ICT is setting the pace in Apoptosis Detection by  recognizing and resolving issues inherent in competitive offerings. These include:

  1. Difficulty permeating cells.
  2. High background problems.
  3. Does not bind to early stage apoptotic cells.
  4. Not as sensitive as a cell permeant inhibitor probe.
  5. Does not bind to all apoptotic tumor cells (Dicker, Cancer Biol. Ther., 2005. 9:1014-1017).
  6. Binds positively to normal and healthy bone marrow derived cells (Dillon, J. of Immunol., 2001. 166:58-71).
  7. Many in vitro protocols involve lysing the red blood cells before running flow cytometry, this method results in the binding of Annexin V to all of the cells in the sample (Tait, Blood, Cells, Molecules, and Diseases., 1999. 25:271-278).  The inversion of PS and cells containing large amounts of PS may not be related to apoptosis and this adds to the background issues.
  8. Does not measure a process of apoptosis, but rather an effect of apoptosis.

Capabilities that will enable them strengthen their leadership position include:

  1.  Uses a cell permeant probe that can easily penetrate tissues and cells.
  2. Very sensitive.
  3. Specific, no reported false positives.
  4. It is a direct measurement of an intracellular process of apoptosis, detects only active caspases and caspase active cells are always apoptotic.
  5. Passage through the blood-brain barrier has been demonstrated.
  6. Passage through the blood-retinal barrier has been demonstrated.
  7. No background problems when injected intravenously.
  8. Detects very early through late stage apoptosis.

ICT is continuing to invest heavily in developing new capabilties. Gary highlighlighted some of the breakthroughs that are on the horizon. I plan on announcing these as they become public.Stay tuned.

Consistent Human Neurons

We have featured Dr. Steve Stice here. He and his team at UGA and Aruna Biomedical are developing products that are highly desired by Neuroscience Researchers.

We are in the process of finalizing details for distributing their human neuron cultures. Here is the related press release:

ArunA Biomedical, Inc. announces alliance with Neuromics for distribution of normal human neural cells.

Athens, Georgia – - March 23, 2009 – - ArunA Biomedical, Inc., announced today an agreement with Neuromics, Inc. of Edina, MN, giving Neuromics the right to non-exclusively market and sell the ArunA hN2™ Human Neural Cells and Neural Culture Medium to support applications in neurological research.ArunA has an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialize neural cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC), and hN2 is a second generation product from this technology. These cells offer a consistent population of normal human neural cells that the neural research and pharmaceutical market highly desires.

 “ArunA has further developed its adherent monolayer technology by creating hN2™, a normal human neural cell ideal for drug screening, toxicology studies and basic neural research, and we are pleased to have Neuromics as a distribution partner,” said David Ray, Chief Executive Officer  of ArunA Biomedical

“Neuromics growth is catalyzed by offering the unique products and expertise our customers require for research success through strategic alliances with companies like ArunA Biomedical. This relationship represents a growth opportunity for us. Their hN2™ cells fill a stated research need of the Neuroscience Community and we look forward to our customers having these cells and the related new discoveries they will help generate,” said Pete Shuster, CEO and Owner of Neuromics.

Founded in 2003, ArunA Biomedical, Inc. is a privately held biotechnology corporation dedicated to the discovery, manufacturing and commercialization of emerging new technologies in human embryonic stem cell research for use in drug discovery and neuroscience research.

Founded in 2003, Neuromics is a privately held Bio-regents Company focusing on providing research ready and proven products and methods expertise to Neuroscience, Diabetes/Obesity, Immunology and Researchers.
This press release contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s potential impact on scientific research and collaborations with third parties.  Certain conditions could alter the outcome or progress of these statements including but not limited to unexpected manufacturing issues, product performance and quality control/assurance issues.  Forward- looking statements are based on the opinions, beliefs and expectations of the company or individuals quoted in the press release and the company does not assume any obligation to update these forward-looking statements if circumstances change. 

Isolating and Maintaining Embryonic Stem Cells

I have featured Steve Stice and his team at ArunA Biomedical and UGA. They are pioneers in developing Embryonic Stem Cell Based Cultures and Assays for Drug Discovery and Basic Research. Given the importance of their work, I am commited to keeping my finger on the pulse of their advances and discoveries.

Here they isolate, and maintain in culture, neural progenitors demonstrating properties of these neural epithelial cells from WA09 human embryonic stem cells (hESCs):


Dicerna Makes Progress

Just wanted to update you on my friends at Dicerna…from in vivo blog…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dicerna Crashes RNAi Party

Life often imitates art, as the saying goes.

In “This Is Spinal Tap,” the classic rock and roll mockumentary chronicling the eponymous band, guitarist Nigel Tufnel famously brags that his amplifiers, unlike conventional ones that max out at a volume of ten, were specially designed to go “one louder.”

“These go to eleven,” he deadpans.

IN VIVO Blog has learned that in the world of RNA interference (RNAi), a new company aims to make some noise of its own not by going louder, but longer, while at the same time circumventing the IP barriers to entry in the exciting field.

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. is based on technology called Dicer substrate small interfering RNAs developed by co-founders John Rossi, PhD, from the City of Hope National Medical Center’s Beckman Research

Dr. Mark Behlke

Dr. Mark Behlke

Institute and Mark Behlke, MD, PhD, from Integrated DNA Technologies Inc. (IDT). Dicer substrate siRNAs differ from traditional siRNA employed by companies like Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Merck & Co.’s Sirna Therapeutics in that they are slightly longer oligonucleotides—between 26 and 30 base pairs (bp) versus 21bp for standard siRNA—which then get trimmed down to size once inside the cell. 

Dicerna is expected to announce its $13 million Series A, which will be led by Oxford Bioscience Partners, at some point in November.

Dicerna hopes that its longer molecules not only confer an IP workaround strategy in the hot area of RNA interference therapeutics, but also a pipeline of highly potent drug candidates that will pique the interest of quite a few Big Pharma that have been so far left out of the increasingly expensive but important RNAi arms race.

I will continue to publish updates on this “arms race”.

Steve Stice-The Professor Entrepreneur

Dr Steve Stice and Human Stem Cells

I am pleased and honored for the privilege of profiling Dr. Steve Stice.  He has a history of working in areas that are Biotechnology Headliners…from cloning to stem cells. Here I will be focusing on his current work with Human Stem Cells and Neural Progenitors  at ArunA Biomedical and The University of Georgia. As with all the News Behind the Neuroscience News, I will highlight how it could impact Neuroscience Research and Drug Discovery.

The Back Story

Where it Starts

Steve embodies a rare blend of entrepreneurship and scientific curiosity. He has been referred to in the press as “part professor; part entrepreneur”. This uniquely positions Steve to take his inventions from the lab directly to the marketplace by forming Biotechnology Companies. The DNA for ArunA comes from several of his earlier start-ups: Advanced Cell Technology and Cytogenesis (now part of BresaGen).

About Dr. Steve Stice

Dr. Steve Stice is CSO of Aruna Biomedical Inc and a Professor and Director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center and has a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar endowed chair.


Prior to joining the University of Georgia, Dr. Stice was a cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, a stem cell company.  Throughout his career he has published and lectured internationally on the topics of cloning and stem cells. 


In 2001, three of the human embryonic stem cell lines that Dr Stice’s lab derived were approved for federal funding by President Bush. In 2006, he was appointed by Gov. Perdue to the Post Natal Cord Blood Commission for the state of Georgia.


Dr. Stice founded Aruna Biomedical, Inc., and in cooperation with Millipore Inc. was first group to market a product derived from human embryonic stem cells (2007). The product is a neural stem cell used for research on neurological diseases and disorders, ranging from Parkinson’s disease to depression.


Contact Information:

As co-founder and CSO of Advanced Cell Technology, he has helped commercialize discovery platforms that could enable the application of stem cell technologies to the field of regenerative medicine to bring effective therapies to patients suffering from degenerative diseases like age-related macular degeneration. The company recently passed the milestone of  successfully. restoring visual function in rats through the implantation of RPE cells derived from human embryonic stem cells and in early 2008, completed pre-IND meetings with the FDA. Yes, Human Stem Cell based therapies have the potential to make the blind  see.

This bring us to ArunA. I am excited about their current and future products because their is a pent up need for them by the Neuroscience Research community which includes many of Neuromics’ Customers.

The ArunA Biomedical Story
Steve started ArunA in 2003. It actually sprung from a frustrating aspect of using Stem Cells for research. They are infinitely useful but hard to grow in cultures and differentiate into the research required cell types. Steve became acutely aware of this from his work starting in 2001 including a 5 day course he taught at NIH. Steve understood that most researchers do not want to spend the time and related frustrations associated with  this exercise. It is kind of like building a computer so you could enjoy the benefits of the web. In other words, Neuroscientists could care less about undifferentiated stem cells. At the very least, they want pure and healthy Neural Progenitors. These can then be expanded and differentiated into specific neurons. For example an ALS Researcher would be interested in making Motor Neurons; a Parkinson’s Researcher, Dopamanergic Neurons and a Pain Researcher, GABAmanergic. Nirvana for these researchers would be having pure cultures of these Neuron types at their fingertips.

Current Products

There is good news. Neuroscientists can now easily and inexpensively get human neural progenitor cells for Drug Discovery, Toxicity and Basic Research.

ENStem-A ™, Neural Progenitor Expansion Kit
hN2™, ArunA Human Neural Cell Kit 

So what was once difficult and frustrating, is now easy and convenient. Buy the kits and here’s an example of what you get.

What is Next

Knowing the needs and wants of the marketplace, ArunA’s products and capabilities excite me. Any tools that have they capabilities to bring researchers a steps closer to discovering cures for insidious Neuro-diseases need to be embraced. All of us have or will be touched by these diseases.

In my conversations with Steve, I am impressed with his clear understanding of how to evolve ArunA’s product to increase their value proposition. Available soon could be cultures developed to fit the niche needs of specific researrch areas like Parkinson’s, Pain’s and Alzheimer’s. I plan on communicating these evolutions here and at my company’s website @

More Good News for DisRNA Research

As a follow on to the potential of 27mer DsiRNAs as a key platform for drug discovery and development, we are happy to report:

15.07.2008 13:34

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, a Second Generation RNA Interference Company, Completes Second Closing of Series A Financing; Unveils Strategic Focus

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (, an RNA interference company developing novel therapeutics utilizing proprietary Dicer Substrate Technology™, today announced a second closing of its Series A financing, receiving a total of $8.4 million in additional venture capital from new investor Abingworth and existing investors Oxford Bioscience Partners and Skyline Ventures. With this additional capital, Dicerna has completed a $21.4 million Series A financing round. Pursuant to this second closing, Vincent J. Miles, Ph.D., venture partner at Abingworth has joined Dicerna’s board of directors. Prior to Abingworth, Dr. Miles was senior vice president of business development at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an Abingworth portfolio company. Read entire press release.

We will continue to keep you updated on the Dicerna Story.