Productive Research Requires Careful Model Selection and Routine Authentication

This expert Q&A session from PharmaPlanter’s founder explores the importance of these efforts in producing reliable results.

Dr. Hongwei CHENG is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of PharmaPlanter Technologies.

Expert Bio:

Dr. Hongwei CHENG is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of PharmaPlanter Technologies. Dr. Cheng was trained as a medical practitioner in China and has over 10 years of clinical experience. He obtained his PhD in surgery and received his postdoctoral fellowship training in the USA. Before he set up PharmaPlanter, Dr Cheng worked as a researcher with a focus on construction of various solid tumor research models, individualization of tumor experimental medicine, studying tumor molecular metabolism and developing new anti-tumor drugs. He was one of the core members of the internationally renowned human-derived living tumor model laboratory at UBC and was in charge of developing some types of PDX models.

In PharmaPlanter, Dr Cheng turned his expertise in gene-editing and bio-modeling into an efficient and cost-effective technology platform to help researchers translate scientific work into therapeutic solutions, aiming to overcome critical health challenges.

Q: Dr. Cheng, can you tell us about your experience in modeling and translational research at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and how it shaped the foundation of PharmaPlanter?

A: My time at UBC was primarily spent at the BC Cancer Agency in the experimental and therapeutic department. We were developing patient-derived xenograft models for academic research and pharmaceutical companies. I was involved in the development of many types of PDX tumor models applicable to pharmaceutical R&D and translational research. This work experience taught me the importance of relevant models and their applicability in life science research. Utilizing the wrong model will inevitably generate misleading and completely false data at times, causing substantial financial waste and loss of valuable time. One of PharmaPlanter’s aims is to introduce the most relevant models to our customers to ensure the data derived is accurate and of high quality. 

Q: Your company has developed a number of cell-based and animal-based research models. How do you authenticate these models to ensure the models you’ve produced are genuine, and when?

A: PharmaPlanter has developed three types of bio-models. Transgenic mouse models, genetically modified cell models, and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models. We also work on developing customized models for our customers by performing gene editing on commercially available cell lines from ATCC or other cell line companies. For cell line authentication, we use a technology known as short tandem repeat (STR) analysis, which identifies the cell line by comparing a core set of STR loci that is detectable in any cell type. If the cell under evaluation corresponds to the defined STR pattern for the targeted cell line, it will confirm that no contamination or mislabeling has occurred. Ideally, authentication should be performed every few months for extensively used cell lines. This practice will help prevent incorrect or misleading results from using a cross-contaminated or misidentified cell line. 

Q: What are some of the challenges associated with these cellular models? How do you avoid or minimize these challenges in your day-to-day workflow? 

A: The biggest challenge for a research lab that works with cell models is the quality control of their work. Ensuring that cell models and culture media are not contaminated and that lab workers follow standard lab SOPs are fundamental factors of a functional lab. At PharmaPlanter, we train our employees regularly, especially new employees, with aseptic procedures. We perform regular lab cleaning on biosafety cabinets and water baths and administer proper equipment maintenance to keep the lab environment as clean and functional as possible. With the cell models we work with, we do frequent authentication tests to ensure they are of the highest quality and free of pathogen contamination.

Q: If a lab is considering outsourcing their cell line authentication, what should they look for in a service partner?

A: I think the most important thing to look for is to ensure that the lab is hiring a responsible company for this task. The authentication service partner can contribute greatly to the laboratory’s research success. Collaboration is such an important thing in this industry, and one of our primary goals at PharmaPlanter is to help other researchers make good use of our expertise, our platforms, and even our facility to contribute to their research. By helping our customers find, generate, and authenticate highly relevant models for their research ambitions, we believe we can make a contribution to the worldwide biotech industry.

Q: Based on your experiences, what would be your advice for a new lab looking to generate, validate, and authenticate new cell lines or cell-based models? 

A: My suggestion for a new startup lab or company is to always use appropriate and authenticated models for your research. Any mismatch occurring here will inevitably cause a series of downstream problems. First of all, you need to determine the most relevant cell or animal models to your research. If you purchase them commercially, you have to authenticate them. If they are not currently available on the market, then contact PharmaPlanter. We will use our highly efficient gene editing expertise and platform to generate the best model for your research. Our team of scientists will be happy to set up a free consultant meeting to help you find out or generate the most suitable models for your research.

To learn more about PharmaPlanter and how you can receive their testing services visit their website or call their phone number at +1 (236)-766-2007.