NeoStem won a two-year, $595,252 research grant from the NIAID to fund evaluation and development of human autologous, pluripotent very small embryonic like (VSEL) stem cells as a potential countermeasure against radiation exposure resulting from nuclear accident or terrorism. The work will be headed by NeoStem and Mariusz Ratajczak, M.D., co-inventor of the VSEL technology, who heads the Stem Cell Biology Program at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
“Currently there is only one intervention that saves a fatally irradiated person—a rescue through stem cell transplantation,” states Denis O. Rodgerson, Ph.D., director of stem cell science at NeoStem. “VESLs might be an ideal cell therapy to regenerate the body’s immune system and repair other tissues damaged by radiation exposure. Most importantly, early studies show VSELs are resistant to lethal radiation, which destroys other immune system-restoring stem cells in the body, making autologous treatment post exposure possible.”
The VSEL program is based on the discovery of a heterogeneous population of VSEL stem cells in bone marrow that have properties similar to those of an embryonic stem cell, and that offer the potential for cell-based therapies. NeoStem has succeeded in isolating and culturing VSELs and is currently working on expanding them, as well as establishing their efficacy in preclinical work. The firm has already received nearly $2 million in grants from the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, and the NIH to fund evaluation and development of the technology in applications including osteoporosis therapy, traumatic wound healing, and bone defect repair. Sponsored research is in addition under way with academic partners in fields as diverse as macular degeneration and glaucoma, liver regeneration, and motor neuron regeneration.
Cell therapy specialist NeoStem’s wholly owned subsidiary Amorcyte is developing an autologous bone marrow derived CD34+ cell-enriched cell therapy AMR-001, for preventing major cardiac events following acute myocardial infarction. A 160-patient Phase II study, Preserve, was initiated in January.
NeoStem also has an 80% holding in Athelos, a firm developing T cell therapeutics for immune-mediated diseases including graft versus host disease, autoimmune disorders, and allergic diseases. Phase I trials are ongoing under a number of independent physician INDs. The remaining 20% of Athelos is held by Becton Dickinson. Athelos and Amorcyte were originally established by cell therapy contract manufacturer Protenitor Cell Therapy, which NeoStem bought out in 2011. PCT provides NeoStem with ongoing contract manufacturing revenues as well as manufacturing capacity for its own programs, and for Athelos and Amorcyte.