Primorigen Biosciences, Madison, has received a $1.2 million Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The funds will speed the company’s work on a new, cost-effective system for producing stem cells and transforming them into specific cell lines, such as blood, liver and neural cells, said chief executive Chuck Oehler. Primorigen will collaborate on the project with EMD Millipore Corp., a division of Merck.

The latest grant comes on the heels of two smaller, Phase 1 SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling nearly $673,000, received over the past several months. One involves improving the ability of adult stem cells to convert to neural cells, in a project partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin. The other involves a new type of cell culturing technology designed to improve the function of stem cell-derived liver cells.

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