Maybe it's just because I'm Canadian that I love this so much but c'mon the beloved hockey stick has become almost more a marketing tool than the venerable piece of sports equipment every Canadian boy must own! Maybe we can adapt this new hockey stick model to give the over-used Gartner cycle a run for its money!
Down to business...
I was told last week that Senators have been inviting people to Capital Hill to speak to them about FDA regulation of adult stem cells perhaps at the instigation of Chris Centeno's lobbying through ASCTA (www.stemcelldocs.com) that the medical use of moderately expanded autologous adult stem cells should not be regulated by the FDA but rather self-regulated by physicians. This could, of course, have serious implications on business models for autologous cell therapy companies. I've heard nothing of the Senators asking for ISSCR or ISCT counsel to-date. It would, of course, likely be Centeno's position that anyone involved in those orgs are "pharma hacks" as he has accused me of being.
ASCTA which is comprised of physicians none of whom are acknowledged leaders in stem cell research recently proudly announced the release of their stem cell guidelines which they suggest should replace FDA regulation. In what appears to be simple ignorance of the years of work being done by AABB & FACT, ASCTA described their guidelines as "the world's first clinical guidelines to allow U.S. doctors to safely begin using the patient's own stem cells to treat disease." Their lab practice guidelines contain such gems as:
- Any facility used in the processing A-ASC’s must be of suitable size, construction, and location to prevent contamination.
- The facility should be in a good state of repair.
- Equipment used in the facility should be adequately maintained
- In humid areas, dehumidifiers should be used to control the spread of infectious agents in the lab.
- Any reagents used must be approved for human use (where practical).
In a startling new interview on stem cell research and adult stem cells in the near future, Dr. Christopher Centeno warns that Big Pharma and the FDA are teaming to control the use of a person’s own stem cells thus slowing innovation and the use of Adult Stem Cells to help patients now.FINANCIAL
ReNeuron Group plc (LSE: RENE.L) has raised the £3 million it announced it intended to raise. ReNeuron recently received regulatory approval to commence a Phase I clinical trial in the UK with its lead ReN001 stem cell therapy for disabled stroke patients. The Company is developing stem cell therapies for a number of other conditions, including peripheral arterial disease and diseases of the retina. ReNeuron has also developed a range of stem cell lines for non-therapeutic applications – its ReNcell® products for use in academic and commercial research. The Company’s ReNcell®CX and ReNcell®VM neural cell lines are marketed worldwide under license by USA-based Millipore Corporation.
Aastrom Biosciences, Inc. (Nasdaq:ASTM) temporarily suspended enrollment and patient treatment in its U.S. Phase II IMPACT-DCM clinical trial following a report that a patient died at home after being released from the hospital following treatment in the trial. IMPACT-DCM is a clinical trial to evaluate the surgical delivery of autologous cells directly into the human heart muscle for the treatment of congestive heart failure associated with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in both ischemic and non-ischemic patients. The patient's cause of death has not yet been determined and is the subject of a pending investigation at the clinical site. An independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) will also assess the circumstances of the event. The Company has voluntarily suspended patient enrollment and treatment in the trial and the FDA placed the trial on temporary clinical hold pending an investigation.
A major attribute of the Celution® output is that it is comprised of multiple cells types. This, the company believe, contributes to multiple mechanisms of action, and thus increases the potential to restore heart function. The Celution® System used in PRECISE was configured specifically for cardiovascular disease, including proprietary processes and enzymes needed to achieve a level of purity required for vascular delivery.
Cytori Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CYTX) and GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) announced an agreement by which GE Healthcare will commercialize Cytori's StemSource(R) technology in the North American stem cell banking and research markets. The StemSource technology includes automated equipment to process stem and regenerative cells found in adipose tissue, cryopreserve them or use them directly for research purposes. In January 2009, Cytori and GE Healthcare formed a separate agreement to commercialize Cytori's products in ten European countries. This includes selling the Celution(R) 800/CRS System in the European cosmetic and reconstructive surgery market as well as selling StemSource products in the European cell banking and research markets. The recent partnership is similar in nature to the European agreement, but is limited to the sale of StemSource banking and research products in the U.S., Canada and Mexico for 18 months starting in the second quarter of 2009. The agreement does not include U.S. commercialization of Cytori's Celution System, which is currently under review by the FDA.
Their clinical-grade Cell Sense reagent is a fluorocarbon tracer agent used to label cells in vitro then transplanted thus enabling investigators and clinicians to non-invasively track the administration and delivery of therapeutic and diagnostic cells in vivo using MRI. Applications include tracking therapeutic cells in regenerative medicine and immunotherapy applications, and observing localized immune system response by tracking populations of immune system cells. The research-grade V-Sense is an injectable fluorocarbon MRI tracer agent that labels leukocytes in situ, enabling the direct, non-invasive observation of immune system response and localized inflammation. Applications include observing change in immune system response to therapeutics and mapping localized disease such as certain cancers and infections.
Almost in the same breath, the company filed a patent application claiming the proprietary stem cell technology of Vincent C. Giampapa, M.D., F.A.C.S. relating to cosmetic facial rejuvenation, which NeoStem first licensed in February 2009. Dr. Giampapa is director of the Giampapa Institute for Anti-Aging Medical Therapy, a board-certified plastic reconstructive surgeon and Assistant Clinical Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. His cosmetic stem cell face lift technology is said to comprise a "non-surgical procedure for complete facial rejuvenation that involves injecting pluripotent cells, including stem cells, into the skin of individuals whose skin has lost its firmness and texture due to age".
Days later NeoStem announced it had signed an exclusive royalty-bearing license agreement for the Asia territory for a procedure developed by Regenerative Sciences, LLC and marketed for the treatment of chronic orthopedic conditions, under the name, Regenexx. Additionally, Regenerative Sciences, through its founder and CEO, Christopher Centeno, M.D., will serve as a consultant to NeoStem, Inc. in the area of stem cell therapy in orthopedics.
Undoubtedly Centeno will also embroil and leverage NeoStem in his fight with the FDA about the marketing of Regenexx in direct flagrance of FDA regulation. In any event this is clearly a solid "plan B" for Centeno should the FDA ever get around to shutting him down in the U.S. In the interim, Centeno continues to strengthen his network of supporters and is reportedly actively working Capital Hill for support for his fight.
To mix it up a little, NeoStem then announced they had signed a deal to promote and glean royalties from the sale of a liquid, nutritional supplement - AIO Premium Cellular Health. Not kidding. They have signed an agreement for Ceres Living, Inc., a developer and direct marketer of health and wellness products. AIO Premium Cellular Health was apparently developed in conjunction with NeoStem's scientists and Advisory Board members, based on certain nutraceuticals that have been shown to "optimize stem cell functions". The promotion of AIO is said to be "part of NeoStem's corporate commitment to advancing anti-aging and regenerative medicine therapies and technologies."
You may recall that on April 1 last year (omen perhaps?), Cell Genesys, Inc. (“Cell Genesys”, Nasdaq: CEGE) and Takeda announced that the companies had formed a global alliance for the development and commercialization of GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer, Cell Genesys' lead product candidate then in Phase 3 clinical development. Under the agreement, in exchange for exclusive worldwide commercial rights to GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer, Takeda was to pay Cell Genesys an upfront payment of $50 million and additional milestone payments totaling up to $270 million relating to regulatory approval and commercialization of GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer in the United States, European Union and Japan.
This deal quickly unraveled when they decided to mothball both phase 3 studies of GVAX on statistical likelihood of failure. This was Takeda's big venture into cell therapy and it is an ugly, recent memory. Now they have bought IDM Pharma. They 've bought it for the company's primary asset, MEPACT, (mifamurtide), a macrophage activator drug therapy indicated for the treatment of non-metastatic osteosarcoma (malignant bone cancer) following surgical removal of the tumor (resection) in children, adolescents and young adults.
Here's the cell therapy part: IDM Pharma has 3 autologous cell therapy products currently on developmental hold as a means of perserving resources to get them to the home run on MEPACT. BEXIDEM is activated macrophages (Monocyte-derived Activated Killer cells or MAK® cells) for bladder cancer. UVIDEM, for melanoma, and COLLIDEM, for colorectal cancer, are both therapies using dendritophages (specialized immune cells derived from the patient's own white blood cells). It will be very interesting to see what Takeda does with these products, if anything.
International Stem Cell Corporation (OTCBB:ISCO), the company behind human stem cells from unfertilized eggs (called “parthenogenetic stem cells”), submitted comments to NIH on their draft stem cell research guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on April 17, 2009. ISCO then published its comments in a press release and then their CEO published a blog to address questions regarding their comments.
Genetics Policy Institute also submitted a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) commenting on the Draft Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research. The complete letter is available at www.genpol.org for public viewing.
Forbes published what is actually quite an informative article on cell therapy medical tourism for a change.
If you've read this far you're obviously interested in the cell therapy industry. If you're on LinkedIn make sure you have joined the LinkedIn Cell Therapy Industry Group.
Thank you all for all your good wishes about the new addition to my family - my own little sample of regenerative medicine! Now I gotta go and spend some time with her before I'm enrolling her in college...
Remember. Cell Therapy Means Business.