Begun in late 2015, DiscoveryBioMed, Inc. and the Monell Chemical Senses Center (www.monell.org) are collaborating on transforming a Monell invention of isolating primary cultures of human taste bud cells into applied science platforms with which to interrogate human taste sensory pathways and with which to utilize in taste modulator discovery campaigns.
Some highlights of this synergistic commercial-academic collaboration are listed below:
- DBM optimized the culture, cryopreservation and immortalization of human taste bud epithelial cells (hTBECs) for greater utility in taste modulator discovery programs.
- DBM established a method to isolate and establish hTBEC cultures from the taste bud tissue of individual donors – this method allows the hTBEC cell behavior to be directly linked to the donor’s taste behavior and to the donor’s taste genetics.
- Using magnetic immunocapture methods and traditional cloning, DBM and Monell established sweet-responsive hTBEC cell lines and cultures for future use.
- With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Monell and DBM performed bitter taste assays on bitter-tasting medicines given to pediatric populations in the developing world for malaria, parasitism, HIV/AIDS and other ailments and performed a proof-of-concept medium-throughput screen mainly with purified phytochemicals and phytochemical derivatives. From only 2,580 compounds screened, 25 compounds were validated overall by DBM. Of those, 4 of these compounds were identified that at least in part blocked bitter taste of these medicines within the human mouth in human sensory taste behavior testing. Two of these compounds were especially effective and blocked completely the bitter taste in specific subjects.
- In parallel with the above project, DBM and Monell secured Phase 1 STTR funding to deepen our armament of bitter-responsive hTBEC platforms for bitter blocker discovery and to optimize our dual hTBEC bioassays involving real-time cell calcium imaging and real-time ATP transmitter secretion.
The above efforts, additional parallel efforts, and potential future projects with industry and academia have driven this Monell and DBM collaboration toward the formation of a new specialty unit within DBM that will be focused on taste.
We will have more to say about these efforts in the coming months.