This Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project by Stem Cell Products Inc. (SCP) develops an automated cell culturing system for maintenance and scale-up production of human embryonic stem cells (hES). The worldwide market for stem cells, cytokines and growth factor therapies is expected to reach $20.7B in 2010. Increased availability and accessibility of hES cells is fundamental to basic stem cell research as they represent a key model system for human development and may provide a nearly unlimited resource of cells that are otherwise inaccessible in large numbers. Current cell culturing techniques are labor intensive, requiring highly-skilled personnel. Improved media and automated culturing conditions will enable routine handling of hES cells for research, ensuring reproducibility and enabling faster commercialization of improvements to assays, screening, and treatment. The technology for culturing and maintaining hES cells was discovered in 1998 by Dr. James Thomson, an SCP founder. Cell culture conditions have since been improved continuously with contributions by members of our team, most recently demonstrated in the publication of a defined media free of animal products. SCP's expertise in media optimization and automation will facilitate transfer of current culturing protocols into affordable, commonly used automation platforms. Further development of this platform will facilitate automation of differentiating hES cells towards the blood lineage (in support of SCP's mission to develop red blood cells and platelets from hES cells). It will also help to provide various other blood cell types in quantities required for drug development, high throughput screening, biochemical characterization and potential medical treatment.