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VASTox Begins Stem Cell Therapy Programme

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VASTox has announced that it will begin a proprietary drug discovery programme in the stem cell area.

The programme will be supported by grant funding from the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the Technology Programme, which is designed to stimulate innovation in the UK economy through higher levels of research and development and knowledge transfer.

The grant will fund an 18-month £910,000 collaborative research programme entitled Understanding the Molecular Activation of Stem Cells (‘UNMASC’).

The aim of the programme is to screen small molecules in zebrafish and fruitflies to identify compounds that affect stem cell fate (e.g. division, proliferation and behaviour).

These hits can then be developed for use in a wide range of regenerative therapies for diseases such as Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

The intellectual property relating to potential drugs will reside exclusively with VASTox.

VASTox will undertake the research in collaboration with leading academics at the University of Oxford, supported by the UK Medical Research Council: Professors Roger Patient and Tariq Enver at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and with Dr Marcel van den Heuvel at the MRC Functional Genetics Institute. All three academics are scientific advisors to VASTox.

Under the terms of the £910,000 programme, the DTI will provide a grant of over £370,000 to VASTox, which the company will match. The remainder of the funding will support the programme’s academic collaborators.

Welcoming the new partnership, Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury said, "This initiative provides a real opportunity to harness the world-class expertise that we possess in the UK and direct it towards the task of wealth creation."

"Biotechnology is of crucial importance in our society. By providing a focus for collaboration and delivery, this partnership should establish British industry as the world leader in this area and an attractive proposition for investors."

Steven Lee, PhD, CEO of VASTox said, "This award enables VASTox to initiate a highly innovative project in stem cell biology that combines our expertise in chemical genomics in zebrafish and fruitflies with expertise in stem cell biology."

"This exciting programme has the potential to produce a very broad range of applications in drug discovery for the benefit of both industry and academia."

"For VASTox, technology developed from the project could have multiple routes for commercialisation via internal drug discovery programmes and further collaborations."