Therapeutics, Inc. a biotechnology company applying stem cell technology for drug rescue and cell therapy, and the University Health Network (UHN), one of Canada's largest research hospitals, have expanded their existing collaborative pluripotent stem cell research and development program, and extended it through September 2017.
In 2007, VistaGen and Dr. Gordon Keller, head of UHN's McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto, agreed to combine Dr. Keller's human pluripotent stem cell biology expertise with VistaGen's proprietary Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ stem cell technology platform. The platform delivers clinically relevant indications of how humans will respond to new drug candidates early in the drug development process. Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, VistaGen's President and Chief Scientific Officer, and Dr. Keller, who is chairman of VistaGen's Scientific Advisory Board, co-founded VistaGen in 1998, with the goal of using stem cell technologies to transform the way new drugs are discovered and developed.
"Our unique relationship with UHN and Dr. Keller is dynamic, innovative and directly supports the drug rescue capabilities of our Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ platform," said Shawn Singh, VistaGen's Chief Executive Officer. "This research partnership gives us direct access to cutting-edge stem cell research conducted by one of the world's leading stem cell researchers at one of the world's top stem cell research institutions."
Dr. Christopher Paige, UHN's Vice President, Research, said, "We are very pleased with the progress Dr. Keller's lab and VistaGen are making in our cooperative research effort. VistaGen's support of Dr. Keller and his team, and its commitment to commercializing these technologies, give us confidence that we will soon see the remarkable promise of our collaborative stem cell research translated into therapeutic realities that will improve patients' lives."
The amended UHN agreement includes five key programs that will further support VistaGen's core drug rescue initiatives and potential cell therapy applications.
Research conducted at UHN and VistaGen labs will include the development of stem cell-based drug discovery and drug rescue technologies, using mature cardiac, liver and pancreatic beta-islet, blood and cartilage cells. The program will also focus on large-scale production of these cell types, each derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPS cells), which are potentially suitable for in vivo transplantation studies and cell therapy applications.
Additionally, VistaGen and UHN scientists plan to further enhance current methods used to produce cell types derived from both human embryonic stem cells (hES cells) and hiPS cells. The research alliance also aims to establish preclinical proof-of-concept for the use of iPS cell-derived articular chondrocytes for cell therapy repair and regeneration of autologous cartilage, as well as the use of iPS cell-derived precursor cells to produce lymphocytes, granulocytic cells, red cells and blood platelets.