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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Select 2015 Stem Cell Company Catalysts: Sagient Research's Edward Stopke

Under agreement with StreetWise Reports, I'm pleased to share their recent coverage of the regenerative medicine sector.

Original Source: Source: Peter Byrne of The Life Sciences Report (1/22/15)
"Convert Catalysts into Profits: Sagient Research's Edward Stopke"

The biotech sector is teeming with companies racing to bring the hot new drug or therapy to the marketplace. But realistically assessing the therapeutic potential of pipeline products is the healthy approach for selecting a winner. In this interview with The Life Sciences Report, Edward Stopke of Sagient Research unveils his list of companies with catalytic moments in the making.

The Life Sciences Report: What types of catalysts affect biotech stocks?

Edward Stopke: The primary catalyst affecting a biotech stock is trial data, especially large Phase 3 trials that test the compound against a comparator. The other main catalysts emerge from regulatory interactions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency. Product safety rulings can drastically affect the trajectory of a biotech stock, of course. But investors need to watch a company's interactions in meetings with the advisory committees serving the governmental agencies. These interactions can presage whether or not the agency will eventually approve the drug.

TLSR: Are there economic catalysts that affect the life sciences sector as a whole?

ES: Pending changes in pricing policies for therapies can catalyze shareholder actions. Historically, many companies have been able to price high without too much backlash from payers. Companies have typically charged less for treatments with large patient populations, and the more expensive treatments target smaller numbers of patients. But during the last year, some high pricing became less sustainable. I am thinking of Gilead Sciences Inc.'s (GILD:NASDAQ) pricing for Sovaldi, its treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV), which caused quite a stir with insurers and governments alike. Companies generally argue that high prices are in line with previous treatments and that the products offer superior efficacy. But the sheer number of eligible patients for a high-priced drug can strain entire healthcare systems. I predict that during 2015 payers will force prices downward, not just for highly prevalent diseases such as HCV, but in all therapeutic markets, stem cells included.

TLSR: What catalysts are coming up for stem cell companies in 2015?

ES: Cytori Therapeutics Inc. (CYTX:NASDAQ) is developing a stem cell therapy from fat-derived stem and regenerative cells. It has Phase 1/2 data for heart disease slated for release in Q1/15. Vericel Corp. (VCEL:NASDAQ), which recently changed its name from Aastrom Biosciences Inc., has Phase 2 data expected in H1/15 on tissue repair cells for heart failure. Athersys Inc.
(ATHX:NASDAQ) is developing a stem cell product called MultiStem.

TLSR: What are the projected applications for MultiStem?

ES: Athersys is studying MultiStem in human trials for stroke, myocardial infarction (MI) and graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). It is in Phase 2 development for stroke and early Phase 1 for MI and GvHD. The firm completed enrollment in its Phase 2 stroke study before the new year, so the first 90-day results will emerge in Q1/15E. Athersys plans to progress its MI program into Phase 2 in Q1/15. The company is looking for a development partner to further its program. Announcing a partnership deal would signal investors that experts have faith in MultiStem, and Athersys' stock price would respond positively.

TLSR: Who else do you like in the stem cell space?

ES: bluebird bio Inc. (BLUE:NASDAQ) is developing its Lenti-D product, which is more of a gene therapy product, but does consist of the patient's own stem cells. These are modified by the lentiviral vector to deliver genetic material into the cells themselves. There is a lot of hype floating around this company. It is currently in Phase 2/3 studies for a rare genetic disease, adrenomyeloneuropathy, which is similar to multiple sclerosis. Hopefully, we will see data for that pipeline product next year.

TLSR: What other therapeutic spaces do you like for strong catalysts in early 2015?

ES: Neuralstem Inc. (CUR:NYSE.MKT) has a major depressive disorder product in clinical trials code named NSI-189. It is an oral compound designed to stimulate neurogenesis of the hippocampus, which could potentially reverse the atrophy seen in depression and schizophrenia. So far, we have only seen earlier preclinical and Phase 1 data, but those results have shown meaningful reductions in both cognitive and depressive symptoms in patients who are on active therapy. And the treatment has been well tolerated.

TLSR: How does Neuralstem's product differ from competitive products?

ES: There are many treatments on the market for treating depression, of course. Most of these products, however, are small molecules. They work by inhibiting the reuptake of a combination of norepinephrine, serotonin and/or dopamine. Neuralstem's treatment uses the patient's own neural stem cells to protect against damage to the nervous system itself, and to repair existing damage, too.
TLSR: What expertise do Neuralstem's managers bring to the marketplace?

ES: Neuralstem's chief scientific officer and senior vice president of research previously worked at the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where they researched the isolation of human neural stem cells.

TLSR: Do you see any other potential catalysts for Neuralstem?

ES: If all goes well, Neuralstem's NSI-189 product will move into Phase 2 development in Q2/15, so that is a good advancement opportunity. We should see topline results in the early part of this year for the firm's other stem cell products, including NSI-566. That treatment is currently being studied in a Phase 2 trial for Lou Gehrig's disease.

TLSR: Who is making waves in the cancer treatment space?

ES: There is a lot of excitement surrounding the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapies that engineer the patient's own immune cells to target tumor-specific molecules. Kite Pharma (KITE:NASDAQ) is developing its CAR T programs for hematologic cancers, and its KTE-C19 program has shown high response rates in earlier Phase 1/2 studies. Kite just bought a licensing deal with Amgen Inc. (AMGN:NASDAQ). The deal is related to the next generation of immunotherapies based on Kite's cell therapy platform. Celgene Corp. (CELG:NASDAQ), Novartis AG (NVS:NYSE) and Juno Therapeutics (JUNO:NASDAQ) are working on similar programs.
Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Inc. (RNN:NYSE.MKT) has a couple of clinical-stage oncology candidates. Its most advanced compound is known as Archexin. It targets the PI3K pathway and is being studied in a Phase 2 trial for renal cell cancer. While we have not yet seen data yet from this compound, last year the FDA approved Gilead's Zydelig for lymphoma, which has a similar mechanism of action. Other large pharma companies, such as Novartis and Merck and Co. Inc. (MRK:NYSE), are studying similar compounds in various oncology indications. The research synergy with these big firms could prove fruitful for Rexahn in terms of acquisition potential.

TLSR: I see that Rexahn recently appointed Richard Rodgers to its board. What does Rodgers bring to the company?

ES: He brings experience with in- and out-licensing, as well as mergers and acquisitions. He was previously with Abraxis BioScience Inc. until it was acquired by Celgene. He was also with MGI Pharma Inc., which was acquired by Eisai Inc. (ESALF:OTCPK).

TLSR: What types of specific catalysts are likely to affect Rexahn's stock price?

ES: If Rexahn can harness Rodgers' experience to secure a licensing deal for Archexin, its stock price would obviously respond positively. It has a few other early-stage compounds in various tumor types. If any of these products survive later-stage studies, the market will provide rewards. We could see some Phase 1 data from Rexahn's RX-5902 and RX-3117 compounds in the near future. These are being studied for very solid tumor indications.

TLSR: What other biotechs with emerging catalysts do you follow?

ES: I like quite a few smaller companies, like Raptor Pharmaceutical Corp. (RPTP:NASDAQ), Celator Pharmaceuticals (CPXX:NASDAQ), Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. (SRPT:NASDAQ), Celldex Therapeutics Inc. (CLDX:NASDAQ), PTC Therapeutics Inc. (PTCT:NASDAQ) and Rockwell Medical Inc. (RMTI:NASDAQ). Each of these has a unique pipeline.

TLSR: Can you synopsize where each of these companies is at in the pipeline?

ES: Raptor Pharmaceutical's main compound is Procysbi. It is already on the market. It was approved in 2013 to treat cystinosis, and it is one of only three such treatments approved in the U.S. Raptor is also studying Huntington's disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the latter being of notable interest due to its large market size and connection to obesity. Raptor is expecting results from its larger Phase 2b study in H1/15.

Celator Pharmaceuticals is developing CPX-351 for leukemia. It began Phase 3 development in late 2012 with about 300 patients. The first results from this study are expected sometime in Q2/15.
Sarepta Therapeutics has a number of compounds. The most advanced is eteplirsen, developed for a type of muscular dystrophy. We have seen clinical data on it, and it is fairly good, although taken from a small subset. There is a lot of speculation about whether the FDA will accept Sarepta's new drug application (NDA) and what kind of data the agency will require for approval. Sarepta expects to file around the middle of this year. A successful filing and acceptance could move the stock price nicely.

PTC Therapeutics is developing its ataluren compound for muscular dystrophy. The company submitted a rolling NDA to the agency in late December. It is not yet a complete application, but it does allow completed portions of the application to be submitted and reviewed on an ongoing basis. PTC hopes to complete the application in late 2015. We should see the first results from its larger Phase 3 study toward year-end 2015.

Celldex Therapeutics' most advanced candidate is rindopepimut, which is being developed for glioblastoma, brain cancer. Topline results for a large Phase 3 are expected in the middle of this year. If the results prove positive, Celdex shareholders will benefit, as rindopepimut is the firm's main compound in a large treatment space.

Rockwell Medical has a single compound called Triferic. It is being reviewed by the FDA as a treatment for iron deficiency in chronic kidney disease patients. The agency is expected to give a decision on provability by the end of this month.

TLSR: Aside from handicapping the pipeline products, what qualities do you look for in a firm?
ES: It is vitally important to understand the capital structure of a company. As far as a company's potential staying power, I look at the general platform. Is it a stem cell platform? Is it a genetic therapy type of platform? Is it a completely new mechanism of action? Is it something that could be used in various types of diseases?

TLSR: Sounds good, Edward. Thank you for speaking with us.

ES: Thank you, Peter.

Edward Stopke is a financial analyst with BioMedTracker and has been with Sagient Research for three years. He is responsible for day-to-day analysis with the BioMedTracker analyst team, and works with the scientific analysts to determine the financial and market impact of early-stage drugs. In his time with Sagient, Stopke has gained an understanding of the pharmaceutical and biotech development process to better develop revenue models for various indications. Stopke received a bachelor's degree in economics from San Diego State University.

Want to read more Life Sciences Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Interviews page.

DISCLOSURE:
1) Peter Byrne conducted this interview for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. He or his family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of Streetwise Reports: Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Inc., Neuralstem Inc., Athersys Inc. The companies mentioned in this interview were not involved in any aspect of the interview preparation or post-interview editing so the expert could speak independently about the sector. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services.
3) Edward Stopke: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: Gilead Sciences Inc., Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
4) Interviews are edited for clarity. Streetwise Reports does not make editorial comments or change experts' statements without their consent.
5) The interview does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility. By opening this page, each reader accepts and agrees to Streetwise Reports' terms of use and full legal disclaimer.
6) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise during the up-to-four-week interval from the time of the interview until after it publishes.


Streetwise – The Life Sciences Report is Copyright © 2014 by Streetwise Reports LLC. All rights are reserved. Streetwise Reports LLC hereby grants an unrestricted license to use or disseminate this copyrighted material (i) only in whole (and always including this disclaimer), but (ii) never in part.

Streetwise Reports LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported.
Streetwise Reports LLC receives a fee from companies that are listed on the home page in the In This Issue section. Their sponsor pages may be considered advertising for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 1734.
Participating companies provide the logos used in The Life Sciences Report. These logos are trademarks and are the property of the individual companies.

101 Second St., Suite 110
Petaluma, CA 94952

Tel.: (707) 981-8204(707) 981-8204
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Email: jluther@streetwisereports.com

Friday, January 9, 2015

Where Do Cures Reside? ARM Executives Think the Answer Is in Regenerative Medicine

Under agreement with StreetWise Reports, I'm pleased to share their recent coverage of the regenerative medicine sector.

Original Source: George S. Mack of The Life Sciences Report (01/18/2015)
http://www.thelifesciencesreport.com/pub/na/where-do-cures-reside-morrie-ruffin-and-michael-werner-of-the-alliance-for-regenerative-medicine-think-the-answer-is-in-regenerative-medicine

Where Do Cures Reside? Morrie Ruffin and Michael Werner of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine Think the Answer Is in Regenerative Medicine

The practice of medicine is being transformed. The journey has been arduous, but revolutionary stem cell, gene and immunocellular therapies are rapidly moving toward pivotal milestones—and investors in the space should strap in for a rewarding joy ride. In this interview with The Life Sciences Report, Alliance for Regenerative Medicine cofounders Morrie Ruffin and Michael Werner consider how new federal guidance might enable new standards of care in cardiovascular, neurologic and oncologic medicine, and offer a preview of next week's Biotech Showcase in San Francisco.

The Life Sciences Report: On Dec. 22, the stem cell and regenerative medicine space saw a very significant development. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a new draft guidance paper on what constitutes minimal manipulation of human tissues and cells. Although this document is not binding, it does tell us what the agency is thinking. In effect, tissues and cells that have been processed in some way will be treated as drugs, and will come under the regulatory umbrella of the FDA. What does this mean for the industry?

Michael Werner: As sometimes happens with government agencies, major regulatory documents are released right before the holidays. As far as the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) is concerned, our member companies are currently looking at the paper and trying to digest it. This draft guidance is open for comment for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. We will go through it with a fine-tooth comb, and we will prepare formal comments, which we will submit to the FDA early this year.

Generally speaking, I think the most significant aspect of the guidance is that it provides greater clarity on the FDA's definition of minimal manipulation and, therefore, which products can qualify as minimally manipulated, and which will be regulated as biologics or drugs.

What ARM has said, from its inception many years ago, is that this industry needs a clear and predictable regulatory pathway. The regulations for minimal manipulation have been around for a while, but as this field has expanded, and as the technology has changed, questions have arisen about how the FDA is applying its regulations, and what “minimally manipulated” means in the context of new, tissue-engineered products.

At the very least, it's important that the FDA has, through this document, been transparent about its views.

TLSR: Michael, will you explain further why this transparency is important?

MW: Companies need to know what the FDA is thinking. We've had conversations with individual companies that think the FDA will regulate them as a 361 HCT/P, but are not totally sure, which makes it hard to plan clinical programs. The fact that the FDA has come forward with a document like this is great. As always, the devil is in the details, and we will certainly be going over the document carefully. But published guidelines are a good thing.

TLSR: Could this guidance, in effect, run retail or storefront stem cell therapeutic clinics out of business?

MW: Time will tell. In terms of its impact on what you describe as storefront, I think it really comes down to this: If you are running one of those kinds of operations, or if you perform so-called stem cell tourism, you are now on notice about what kinds of technologies, processes and products are subject to FDA regulation. If you're a storefront clinic, you now know that the FDA not only believes it has jurisdiction to regulate, but how it's going to regulate in the days ahead. It lays the foundation for FDA's enforcement actions going forward.

I think we can expect the agency to use its enforcement discretion in a more consistent way. How aggressive it will be in terms of going after storefront clinics remains to be seen.

TLSR: Do you feel that this, in the long run, is going to be positive for the regenerative medicine and stem cell industry?

MW: I think it will. If you're a product developer, what you want is clarity. You want to know where the goalposts are, and you don't want the goalposts to keep moving. If the FDA is transparent, then that's 80% of the ballgame for the product developer.

Now, in terms of specific policies, the specific ways FDA is going to apply the regulations—that remains to be seen. Companies can—and will—go back to the FDA and say "Here are our thoughts about some of the specifics." Of course, each individual company must go through an iterative process with the agency regardless.

TLSR: It feels like the track to progress, and to the market, for the regenerative medicine industry has been even more difficult than it was for monoclonal antibodies, for lack of a better comparator. What do you think has held the industry back?

MW: One thing has been the clarity of the regulatory pathway. You describe the industry as being held back, but I'd like to say, more positively, that more clarity and predictability in the pathway would enable more products to move forward.

Another key issue involves standards, which has been acknowledged by the FDA and industry as important in terms of enabling more products to come to market. We also need changes to the reimbursement and payment systems, both public and private, to reward innovation. These are different products and models, differentiated by how they treat diseases at the underlying molecular and cellular level, and they could lead not only to treatments, but also to cures.

We need support from the U.S. government in terms of policies, in the same way that governments in Japan, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world have been enacting policies specifically designed to support the sector. The U.S. government needs to do the same.

The field is now poised to make a significant impact on healthcare. It's hard to say what's held the field back, but reimbursement is certainly a challenge that we need to get our hands around, to make sure the sector reaches its potential.

TLSR: Morrie, did you want to comment? The cell therapy/regenerative medicine sector has been in development now for about two decades-plus, yet I see only a couple of stem cell companies with a market cap above $1 billion ($1B), and all the rest are in the penny-stock to $500 million category. Why have cell technology companies lagged biotech?

Morrie Ruffin: We actually don't see it that way. That's one of the things we will show in the data that will be coming out in our Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Therapies State of the Industry Briefing on Jan. 12 at the Biotech Showcase in San Francisco.

Clearly, as in any sector, there are going to be successes and failures, but we do see a very significant and recognizable upward trend in the amount of money being raised in the sector. The cancer immunotherapy space is drawing a lot of interest right now.

But if you look across the board at cell therapy, gene therapy and immunocellular therapy companies, we count nine to 10 public companies with $1B-plus market caps in the sector right now. And there are obviously a number of private companies raising significant amounts from private investors as well.

TLSR: Morrie, are we on the verge of seeing pivotal data come out of companies in the sector?

MR: We are about to see a number of very significant events in the sector. Clearly, both those working in the industry and investors are looking for positive clinical events—milestones—that signal we are making progress in the clinic, and that we understand how we might commercialize these therapies. Over the next year or two, you will see a number of very significant data events around cell therapy. We are already seeing this in the oncology space, which is why there is so much interest in what's happening with cell-based or immunotherapies. This has led to a significant interest in cellular therapies across the board. Investors are going to hear a lot in the near future, as people begin to understand the clinical milestones that are going to drive this sector over the next 12–18 months.

TLSR: What do you think is the greatest obstacle to this industry moving forward? Is that issue being addressed currently?

MR: One of the challenges in this space—and I think this is to be expected in any evolving sector—is the issue of commercialization, which concerns manufacturing, scale-up and all the things required to make these new products available and successful. I believe that we have made tremendous progress just in the last few years in understanding what this will take, whether it's an allogeneic therapy or an autologous therapy. I think this is one of the reasons we see manufacturing and tool companies making significant investments in the sector. Companies like GE Healthcare (a unit of General Electric Co. [GE:NYSE]), Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (TMO:NYSE), the Lonza Group AG (LONN:SIX; LO3:FSE; LZAGF:OTCPK) and others are heavily engaged in this space. They see the huge opportunity here.

The cell therapy companies also understand that infrastructure is going to be an important part of how these therapies are brought to the market, and to the patient. One of the things we have been anticipating is having the processes of manufacturing, handling, and scale-up catch up with the lab bench science, and then duplicating that science on a large, profitable scale. I think we are on the cusp of that.

TLSR: Michael, you raised a point about government being involved in regenerative medicine, and you mentioned Japan, which has a new regulatory pathway in place whereby companies, in effect, have to show safety and the equivalent of Phase 2 proof of concept to get conditional approval for a cell therapy. Do you see the U.S. doing anything like that?

MW: I'll put it this way: I think it's possible the U.S. will take steps analogous to what other countries are doing to support the field. Is the FDA going to give conditional approval if a company shows certain kinds of safety data? I'm not sure about that, but I do think it is possible to take steps to smooth the pathway forward. For instance, we've talked with the FDA about standards in product development and manufacture. This is an idea that the FDA itself has said is critical to its product review process. Other ideas could include expedited approval programs. Such a program was recently created in the U.S. to support development of antibiotics.

The question is whether the kinds of programs that already exist can be applied or adapted to regenerative medicine, cell therapy and gene therapy products. I think you're more likely to see changes in existing U.S. policy, rather than copying Japan's policy or copying what other countries are doing.

TLSR: What do you think will be the motivating factor for policymakers to accelerate cell therapy development?

MW: There is more recognition that this sector could, potentially, cure diseases that have gone untreated or have been deemed incurable. In diseases like stroke or heart disease, we are basically treating symptoms. We are certainly helping people, but we are not actually curing disease. We're not getting people all the way back to health.

I think there's a greater recognition on the part of policymakers, as well as others, that regenerative medicine—and we use that term very broadly—is where cures and treatments are going to reside. Therefore, you're starting to see more acknowledgment of that. The U.S. government needs to make sure there are policies in place that will allow this industry to thrive.

TLSR: Morrie, you and Michael are going to be at the Biotech Showcase in San Francisco. What will you and ARM members be doing for attendees?

MR: One of the things we're doing, at the kick-off for the showcase at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 12, is presenting our Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Therapies State of the Industry Briefing. This will be our fifth briefing at the Showcase. In the two-hour briefing, we will provide information on the performance of the sector. We will look back at 2014 and 2013, highlighting the progress made in the sector. Then we will look forward to what we anticipate to be major milestones and major events over the coming two years.

TLSR: Will there be an emphasis on any particular topic, or will it be a very broad briefing?

MR: We will be talking about several different things, but we plan to spend a lot of time talking about the progress being made in the gene therapy sector and genetically modified cell therapies.
When we talk about advanced therapies in regenerative medicine, we are being inclusive of all the companies working in the in vivo and ex vivo gene therapy areas, whether that's cancer immunotherapy, or CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell receptors, or other strategies being employed to harness the immune system to attack cancer. This will be a big part of the briefing. We will also look forward to a number of the major data events that we anticipate in 2015, in a number of indications, including stroke, cardiovascular disease and a number of neurodegenerative disorders.

TLSR: Thank you both for your insights.

Morrie Ruffin has more than 20 years of experience in the biotech and healthcare industries. He is a founder and managing director of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, the global organization representing the interests of the regenerative medicine community. Ruffin is also the managing partner of Adjuvant Partners, a boutique regenerative medicine and advanced therapies business consulting firm. Prior to joining Adjuvant Partners, he was the chief executive officer of LifeTech Innovations LLC (LTI), a business development consulting firm. Prior to his position at LTI, he was executive vice president of capital formation and business development at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the largest trade organization representing the biotech and drug development industries. Prior to joining BIO, Ruffin worked for U.S. Senator Arlen Specter for five years as his senior legislative assistant. He received his master's degree in international studies and economics from the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.

Michael Werner is a partner in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C. office. He has almost three decades of healthcare law, lobbying, regulatory, reimbursement and policy development experience in Washington. He is also is the cofounder and executive director of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based organization whose mission is to advocate for federal funding, regulatory and reimbursement policies that will advance regenerative medicine research and product development. Before joining Holland & Knight, Werner was president of The Werner Group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that provided lobbying, regulatory, and bioethics consulting services for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, physicians, health plans, investors, and patient advocacy groups. Prior to founding The Werner Group, he was chief of policy for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), representing over 1,000 biotechnology companies in the U.S. and other countries. Werner is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. He was senior healthcare advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a congressional investigator for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, and senior advisor to Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer. Werner is a frequent media commentator and has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Science, Scientific American, the Washington Post, BIOWorld, Congressional Quarterly and the Baltimore Sun, as well as on many TV and radio news programs. In 2013, he was named one of the Top 50 Global Stem Cell Influencers by Total BioPharma.

Want to read more Life Sciences Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Streetwise Interviews page.

DISCLOSURE:
1) George S. Mack conducted this interview for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and he provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. He owns, or his family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of Streetwise Reports: None. The companies mentioned in this interview were not involved in any aspect of the interview preparation or post-interview editing so the expert could speak independently about the sector. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services.
3) Morrie Ruffin: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
4) Michael Werner: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
5) Interviews are edited for clarity. Streetwise Reports does not make editorial comments or change experts' statements without their consent.
6) The interview does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility. By opening this page, each reader accepts and agrees to Streetwise Reports' terms of use and full legal disclaimer.
7) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise during the up-to-four-week interval from the time of the interview until after it publishes.


Streetwise – The Life Sciences Report is Copyright © 2014 by Streetwise Reports LLC. All rights are reserved. Streetwise Reports LLC hereby grants an unrestricted license to use or disseminate this copyrighted material (i) only in whole (and always including this disclaimer), but (ii) never in part..
Streetwise Reports LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported.
Streetwise Reports LLC receives a fee from companies that are listed on the home page in the In This Issue section. Their sponsor pages may be considered advertising for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 1734.
Participating companies provide the logos used in The Life Sciences Report. These logos are trademarks and are the property of the individual companies.
101 Second St., Suite 110
Petaluma, CA 94952

Tel.: (707) 981-8204
Fax: (707) 981-8998
Email: jluther@streetwisereports.com


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cell Therapy 2015: With Maturity Comes Promise

Under agreement with StreetWise Reports, I'm pleased to share their recent coverage of several companies in the cell therapy sector.

Original Source: Tracy Salcedo-Chourré of The Life Sciences Report (12/23/2014)
http://www.thelifesciencesreport.com/pub/na/cell-therapy-2015-with-maturity-comes-promise

A number of new and innovative medical paradigms are being explored by companies in the life sciences sector, with one of the front-runners being cell therapy—a disruptive technology that has, in the past few years, progressed out of preclinical studies and into clinical development. To learn more about the transformative promise of regenerative medicine, and what investors might expect from companies working in the sector in 2015, The Life Sciences Report asked analysts Jason Kolbert of Maxim Group and Dr. Christopher James of Brinson Patrick to discuss the advances that could generate robust returns on investment in coming years. 


Cell Therapy in a Nutshell
Cell therapies have been gaining momentum in the life sciences for more than half a century. The first cell therapies, bone marrow transplants, were performed in the 1960s, and since then the idea of using healthy cells to replace or regenerate diseased cells has expanded into a number of indications, from cancer to cardiac disease to cosmetic therapy. Today, a number of companies are engaged in both clinical and preclinical trials, and there is some consensus that cell therapies will be "mainstream" in the near future.

The new year could prove a bellwether for regenerative medicine. The sheer volume of companies, universities and financial institutions conducting or backing research and development in the field attests to its potential: The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine(ARM), an advocacy group working with legislators, the investment community and regulatory agencies to promote development of cell therapy technologies, has more than 170 members working in the field.

On the horizon: Australian cell-therapy company Mesoblast Ltd. (MSB:ASE; MBLTY:OTCPK) is positioning itself for expedited approval of several of its allogeneic (derived from the same species) cell therapy products in Japan in 2015, following passage of legislation in that country that expedites approval. And though it hit a significant speed bump last month, Dendreon Corp.'s (DNDN:NASDAQ) Provenge (sipuleucel-T), an autologous (derived from and returned to the same patient) cell therapy for metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer, was the first FDA-approved cell therapy, and has helped pave a path forward for additional approvals in the U.S.

To get a handle on what investors can expect, and an idea of which companies to keep an eye on, The Life Sciences Report turned to Dr. Christopher James, managing director and senior equity research analyst with Brinson Patrick Securities Corp. and Jason Kolbert, managing director, senior biotechnology analyst and head of healthcare research with Maxim Group. Here's what they had to say about what 2015 might bring in both the sector and for certain companies working in the space.

Great Expectations
Asked which specific indications could be most responsive to cell therapies, and about companies working in those therapy areas, Kolbert provided several names.

The next "major event" in the sector will be results in a Phase 2 trial in ischemic stroke being conducted by Athersys Inc. (ATHX:NASDAQ), with results expected in Q1/2015, the analyst said. A number of other trials are also slated to start in 2015, including NeoStem Inc.'s (NBS:NASDAQ) Phase 3 trial in acute myocardial infarction and Cesca Therapeutics Inc.'s (KOOL:NASDAQ) pivotal trial in critical limb ischemia.

Kolbert is also looking forward to two trials involving Mesoblast's own stem cell product, as well as results from Prochymal (remestemcel-L, human mesenchymal stem cells for intravenous infusion, acquired from Osiris Therapeutics Inc. [OSIR:NASDAQ]). The Mesoblast product is expected to enter a pivotal trial in back pain, and the company is currently enrolling a global trial in congestive heart failure with partner Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA:NASDAQ). The Osiris product is expected to be redeveloped in the U.S. for graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). Prochymal has been conditionally approved in Canada and New Zealand for GvHD in children. In addition, Mesoblast is expected to release data in a Phase 3 Prochymal trial in Crohn's disease.

James believes the area where cell therapy—cell regeneration—could have the biggest impact is also one of the riskiest—in the central nervous system (CNS), treating disorders or injury of the brain or spinal cord. James sees applications in multiple sclerosis (MS) and spinal cord injury, to regenerate neuronal function, and in Parkinson's disease, to address the death of dopaminergic cells. He also likes ocular applications, for treatment of such conditions as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

James has two cell therapy companies under coverage. Opexa Therapeutics Inc. (OPXA:NASDAQ), with its Tcelna platform technology, is developing therapies in both CNS and the eye. A Phase 2 trial in secondary progressive MS is expected to read out in mid-2016. The company is also developing OPX-212, an autologous T-cell immunotherapy, to treat neuromyelitis optica, an autoimmune condition that leads to blindness.

The second company, StemCells Inc. (STEM:NASDAQ), is in a Phase 2 trial in the treatment of cervical spinal cord injury. On Dec. 18, the company announced that it had transplanted its HuCNS-SC (purified human neural stem cells) into its first patient; James expects final data from that trial in late 2015. Results from the company's Phase 1/2 trial in dry AMD, are expected in Q1/2015—perhaps as early as January.
StemCells' Phase 2 trial in cervical spinal cord injury points out what James sees as one of the regulatory hurdles cell therapies will have to overcome as they progress through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) approval process. The trial is a randomized, controlled, single-blind study, as opposed to the FDA standard of double-blind pivotal studies.

To treat central nervous system disease or injury, companies must inject cells into a patient, a "surgical" intervention, James explained. But clinicians "can't do a sham surgery on the brain or on the spine. . .that's not ethical." So companies like StemCells must work with the FDA to develop pivotal trial designs that are "less stringent" than the double-blind model.

The Bigger Picture
Kolbert is enthusiastic about the prospects for cell therapies in 2015, and doesn't see much in the way of headwinds. "Cell therapy ultimately lowers the cost of treating disease, and at a time when there is an outcry over high-priced therapies, cell therapy offers promise to lower the cost of treating disease. In terms of politics, the cell therapies we are focusing on are typically not controversial (using adult stem cells, not cells from embryos). As such, we don’t see any controversy. The big change in the landscape now is the acceptance that cell therapy is 'safe.'"

On the plus side of the spectrum is oncology. Using cell therapy in cancer immunotherapy "holds great promise," Kolbert continued. "The ability to rev up the immune system with checkpoint inhibitors, and couple that with therapeutics, like the therapies being developed by ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd. (IMUC:OTCBB) and Agenus Inc. (AGEN:NASDAQ) targeting glioblastoma, and the work that OncoSec Medical Inc. (ONCS:OTCBB), Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (INO:NYSE.MKT) and NeoStem are doing in melanoma, is exciting."

James and Kolbert agree that recent elections, in which Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress, shouldn't affect ongoing work in the cell therapy field. "They have bigger issues to deal with," James commented.

However, James believes cell therapy companies may suffer from an "overhang" following the recent bankruptcy of Dendreon Corp. And Kolbert cautions investors that second- and third-generation technologies always follow. Such is the case with Bavarian Nordic's (BAVA:OMX) Prostvac. Prostvac has the potential to be equivalent to, or even superior to, Provenge, but at a fraction of the cost. The Phase 3 Prostvac trial reports data next year.

Another concern for investors, according to James, is the question of whether cell therapy companies can manufacture their products on a commercial scale. But the analyst believes that concern can be addressed, and cites the StemCells model, in which, according to the company, "[c]ryopreserved lines of donor-derived cells can be reproduced at commercial scale as 'stem cells in a bottle,' then distributed for patient doses as needed, much like an off-the-shelf pharmaceutical product."

Christopher James, M.D., is a managing director and senior equity research analyst focusing on life sciences companies with strong growth potential and developing novel agents for serious diseases including cancer and infectious, neurological, inflammatory, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. He was previously a senior equity research analyst at Rodman & Renshaw and MLV & Co. Prior to joining Brinson Patrick, Dr. James was chief medical officer and senior vice president of medical affairs at Retrophin, a biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutics for rare and devastating diseases. While at Retrophin, he played a pivotal role in the study design and subsequent acceptance of an investigational new drug application with the cardiorenal division of the FDA to initiate a Phase 2 clinical study in a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Dr. James has prior buyside experience working at Trivium Capital Management and MSMB Capital Management. Dr. James trained in neurological surgery at Cornell-New York Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He obtained a medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine and a bachelor of science in biology from Cornell University.

Jason Kolbert has worked extensively in the healthcare sector as product manager for a leading pharmaceutical company, as a fund manager and as an equity analyst. Prior to joining Maxim Group, where he is head of healthcare research, senior managing director and biotechnology analyst, Kolbert spent seven years at Susquehanna International Group, where he managed a healthcare fund and founded SIG's biotechnology team. Previously, Kolbert served as the healthcare strategist for Salomon Smith Barney. He is often quoted in the media and is a sought-out expert in the biotechnology field. Prior to beginning his Wall Street career, Kolbert served as a product manager for Schering-Plough in Osaka, Japan. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from State University of New York, New Paltz, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of New Haven.

Want to read more Life Sciences Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Streetwise Interviews page.

DISCLOSURE:
1) Tracy Salcedo-Chourre compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an employee. She owns, or her family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of Streetwise Reports: NeoStem Inc., Athersys Inc., StemCells Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. Mesoblast Ltd. is not affiliated with Streetwise Reports. The companies mentioned in this interview were not involved in any aspect of the interview preparation or post-interview editing so the expert could speak independently about the sector. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services.
3) Christopher James: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: Opexa Therapeutics. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
4) Jason Kolbert: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
4) Interviews are edited for clarity. Streetwise Reports does not make editorial comments or change experts' statements without their consent.
5) The interview does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility. By opening this page, each reader accepts and agrees to Streetwise Reports' terms of use and full legal disclaimer.
6) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise during the up-to-four-week interval from the time of the interview until after it publishes.


Streetwise – The Life Sciences Report is Copyright © 2014 by Streetwise Reports LLC. All rights are reserved. Streetwise Reports LLC hereby grants an unrestricted license to use or disseminate this copyrighted material (i) only in whole (and always including this disclaimer), but (ii) never in part..
Streetwise Reports LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported.
Streetwise Reports LLC receives a fee from companies that are listed on the home page in the In This Issue section. Their sponsor pages may be considered advertising for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 1734.
Participating companies provide the logos used in The Life Sciences Report. These logos are trademarks and are the property of the individual companies.
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Friday, November 7, 2014

Reprint from LSR: How RepliCel Is Harnessing the Awesome Power of Cell Therapy

I've interviewed a number of executives from several cell therapy companies recently and intend to post my interview of them in the coming weeks but in the interim, StreetWise Reports published this interview of me which I'm pleased to share.

Original Source: George S. Mack of The Life Sciences Report (11/07/2014) 


Regenerative medicine and cell therapies hold possibilities for achieving near miracles in a multitude of indications, from life-saving treatments to aesthetic applications. RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. (RP:TSX.V; REPCF:OTCQB) is tackling a mix of medical and cosmetic issues that include hair regeneration, repair of painful and debilitating tendon injuries and rejuvenation of damaged skin. In this interview with The Life Sciences Report, R. Lee Buckler, the company's new vice president of business and corporate development, discusses his firm's innovative technology platform and the upcoming milestones that could affect its shares.

The Life Sciences Report: Lee, you've made a recent career change and are now an executive at RepliCel. Tell us about that.

R. Lee Buckler: As of Oct. 1, I have been appointed vice president of business and corporate development for RepliCel Life Sciences Inc., which is engaged in development of cell-based regenerative medicine therapeutics in Canada, Europe and Japan through our licensing partner, Shiseido Company Ltd. (4911:TSE). I found RepliCel to be a very interesting company poised to go on an exciting run, and that enticed me to join the team.

TLSR: Prior to your work with RepliCel, what experience had you had in the cell therapy industry?

RLB: In 2000, I left the practice of law to join Allen Eaves in the Stem Cell Technologies group of companies, where I ran a company called Malachite Management Inc. In 2006, I was recruited by Progenitor Cell Therapy to run its business development, marketing, communication and sales before the NeoStem acquisition.

In 2008, I founded my own consulting firm, called the Cell Therapy Group (CTG), which focused exclusively on the cell therapy industry. In the early days, we did some communications work for clients, but for the bulk of my tenure with CTG, we were involved in a wide range of planning and business development work. Some of it was transactional, but other aspects included market and competitive intelligence, building strategies, identifying partners, targeting partners, engaging in partnership discussions on behalf of clients and the like. I also worked with fund managers and investors through education, namely technology and platform explanations.

Over the past year, I worked as a consultant and on the board of directors positioning TheraVitae Inc. (private) for a merger with a company listed on the Toronto Venture Exchange. The merger is expected to complete in early November, and the company will be renamed Hemostemix Inc. I helped TheraVitae raise several million dollars as part of that process. Being on the road giving presentations to prospective investors is a new skill set for me, but I've found I really enjoy this side of the business.

TLSR: You are an attorney by training, but I see from your curriculum vitae that you did a couple of stints as a medical laboratory technician while you were still in law school. Is that what led you to the life sciences field?

RLB: Yes. I always joke with people that I didn't get to the cell therapy/regenerative medicine industry through education—I got here more by osmosis. I was not a silver spoon kid; I had to work my way through school. So while I was studying to be an attorney, I ended up working in the lab of a leading cardiovascular investigator, who was involved in some clinical trials at the time. I was mainly doing grunt work, but it exposed me to an environment where people were extremely dedicated to their sciences and to doing something novel. I was exposed to the excitement that builds when people truly believe what they're doing could revolutionize the way people are treated.

I've always felt a little bit like an outsider in an industry of people who belong here. While that may feel uncomfortable from time to time, it also affords me a unique perspective that others don't have. While others in the industry tend to focus on vertical specialties, I've come to specialize in a macro view of this industry. My focus has been very horizontal, which gives me a perspective of the industry that not many people are able to see.

TLSR: What kind of work has RepliCel been doing in the cell therapy field?

RLB: When CEO and President David Hall took over the company in 2011, it was built around hair regeneration. That is still an important part of our portfolio; however, he had a vision for broadening the technology and building a platform, which the company has now executed.

We are preparing to launch a very significant Phase 2 trial using our RCH-01 (dermal sheath cup [DSC] cells) for hair regeneration. This is a cellular injection—a cell transplant rather than a hair transplant—and is an important evolution because hair transplant is limited by three very significant factors. First, when transplanting hair follicles from one location on your scalp to another, there are only so many follicles available to harvest. With a cell transplant, there is no limit to the number of cells we can grow to use in regenerating poorly functioning hair follicles. Second, hair transplantation only achieves a satisfactory result when performed by a gifted surgeon, of which there are few. A simple cell injection takes the art out of the procedure—particularly when combined with our proprietary injection device designed to optimally deliver the cells into the scalp. Finally, hair transplantation is not an option women find attractive for a number of reasons, and a significant population of women suffer from hair loss.

TLSR: How is RepliCel working to ensure this therapy will be effective in both the short and long term? What prevents the dermal sheath cells from ceasing to grow hair once they are in the locale where the original follicles quit producing hair?

RLB: The cells we are using to address pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) are taken from a cell population found at the base of the hair follicle. These DSC cells are used to produce our RCH-01 product. Research has demonstrated that these cells are responsible for the reorganization of the hair follicle, which is a mini-organ that organizes upon an unknown signal. Our research leads us to believe this cell population is responsible for hair regeneration.

We source our particular cells from hair follicles isolated from the back of the scalp, between the ears, because most balding people retain this area of hair. This hair is insensitive to the androgen hormone (DHT), which causes hair loss, making these hair follicles prime candidates for our hair regeneration product.

As to the question of whether this will be a durable response—how long the hair will last—this is one of several questions both we and Shiseido are targeting in our respective upcoming pattern baldness trials. We're designing this next phase to look at dosing. We're also looking at frequency of treatment: One cohort of the study gets a single treatment, another gets a second treatment at day 91.

But we'll also be following these patients for a considerable length of time, to see whether the intended effects are maintained or whether they diminish over time. Even though there are only a proposed 160 participants, utilizing different dosing and different injection points throughout the scalp, there will be 396 treatment sites, or data points, that we will be able to gather from those 160 patients, in addition to the data to be gleaned and shared from the trial Shiseido is funding in Japan. These questions are great—effectiveness and duration of effect—and we have an obligation to answer them, which is why the trials are designed the way they are.

TLSR: What else is RepliCel working on at the moment?

RLB: We have another population of cells derived from the hair follicle (the non-bulbar dermal sheath cells [NBDS cells]) that we believe is a platform capable of generating multiple products for various indications. These cells can be readily expanded, and it turns out they are highly expressive of type 1 collagen. Our first trial with these cells will be using our RCT-01 product for the treatment of chronic Achilles tendinosis.

Up to 90% of healthy tendon is comprised of well-constructed type 1 collagen, and a number of indications manifest in patients due to the loss of type 1 collagen production in the endogenous cells, one of which is Achilles tendinosis. Tendons often are not well vascularized, and after a series of injuries and as a patient ages, the endogenous fibroblasts are exhausted of their ability to continue to produce the type 1 collagen necessary to support healthy tendons. RepliCel's predicate science is built around the injection of autologous (harvested and administered back to the same patient) fibroblasts capable of producing the kind of collagen needed to restore the patient to healthier function and better pain scores.

TLSR: Do you have evidence of actual tendon regeneration?

RLB: In three tendinosis-related clinical trials performed using a similar cell type, which has now been licensed into the company, MRI imaging shows that tendon treated with this cell type was much more akin to healthy, young, functioning tendon than what the patients had prior to injection of cells. This is an exciting platform, and the company is about to launch a Phase 1/2 trial in chronic Achilles tendinosis. We believe the cells could also have application in other indications, including jumper's knee, golfer's elbow, tennis elbow and torn rotator cuffs, as well as in a number of dermatological applications. Late this year, we will launch a Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers to look at the ability to regenerate the underlying tissue of skin in patients who have aging or sun-damaged skin.

TLSR: Achilles tendinosis and androgenic alopecia are very different indications. Androgenic 
alopecia is a hormone-dependent condition, while Achilles tendinosis is trauma-related.

RLB: That's a great point. Even though both of these studies—tendon repair and hair regeneration—use cells derived from the hair follicle, we're working with two very different cell populations. As a result, they have the ability to elicit very different, targeted responses.

TLSR: RepliCel's shares have suffered considerably over the past six months. What caused the dip and what is the company doing to fix the issue?

RLB: The fact of the matter is the company was delayed in progressing to its Phase 2 trial for RCH-01 in hair regeneration because of an issue with the supply of a critical growth media. The new media wasn't producing the same results, so we had to go back to the drawing board and discover what the problem was. The comparability data is now coming in to support our belief that we've solved that problem. We have four trials expected to launch in the next few months (three of ours and one of Shiseido's). Two of these are expected to give clinical readouts late next year. Until we are a company executing clinical trials, we are a company talking about executing clinical trials, and certain investors grow understandably impatient.

I'm very pleased that in October we submitted an application to Health Canada for the proposed Phase 1/2 clinical trial for chronic Achilles tendinosis. This triggers a 30-day window during which Health Canada can provide a No Objection Letter allowing us to proceed with the trial. This event is the initial trigger for a cascade of catalysts anticipated over the following months related to this trial, as well as our proposed Phase 1 clinical trial in Germany for aging and sun-damaged skin, our proposed Phase 2 trial for pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) in Germany, and Shiseido's upcoming trial for pattern baldness in Japan. We've been on the road for several weeks, crisscrossing the U.S., Canada and Japan, talking to investors, analysts and potential partners. We are pleased with the level of interest being generated, and believe that once we demonstrate we are executing on schedule, we will generate increased support.

TLSR: Is it possible that all these milestones will be met by the end of 2014?

RLB: We are working very hard to make that happen. I believe we're on target to have our three clinical trial application filings submitted by year-end. We expect Shiseido to file its clinical trial application early in Q1/15.

We are, of course, dependent on regulatory clearance to initiate any trial, but we have had very active dialogues with the regulators overseeing all our proposed trials, and are submitting precisely what has been discussed. As mentioned, we have now filed the first of our three applications. The second trial application proposes to use a product (RCS-01) developed from the same platform technology, so the clinical-regulatory team can leverage much of the work already done to get the second application filed.

One thing to note is that the dermatology and tendinosis trials are relatively quick studies to enroll. We've been in constant dialogue with the principal investigators of the RCT-01 trial in chronic Achilles tendinosis, and they assure us there's a pipeline of patients waiting to enroll in the study. The RCT-01 tendon trial is going to be a 28-participant study, and the RCS-01 in skin rejuvenation is a proposed 28-participant study design as well, but using healthy volunteers. The RCH-01 hair regeneration study is going to extend over a longer period of time, because it targets 160 participants. But the RCT-01 and RCS-01 studies will be relatively quick to enroll and to follow up on, and we expect data in 2015 for both of those.

Both of these studies are randomized, placebo-controlled and specifically designed to provide measurable and material biologic and mechanistic data that we will use to drive partner discussions. Remember that the company's business model is to codevelop assets with partners who understand the markets and have proven commercialization capabilities.

We are excited about being in the position we are now in, poised to imminently execute on three clinical trials, finalize the development and validation of our propriety injection device (which has licensable applications for acellular injectables), capitalize on our partnership with Shiseido and the innovative regulatory pathway for regenerative medicines in Japan, which provides a window to early-market access for our pattern baldness treatment, and to execute on one or more additional licenses with co-development partners in the near term.

TLSR: Thank you very much for your insight, Lee.

RLB: Thank you.

R. Lee Buckler is vice president of business and corporate development with RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. Prior to working with RepliCel, he was the managing director of Cell Therapy Group, a firm he formed in 2008, where he did business development consulting for companies and organizations in or interested in the cell therapy sector. Buckler served six years as executive director of the International Society for Cellular Therapy, and just over two years as director of business development for Progenitor Cell Therapy. He is on the editorial advisory boards of the journal Regenerative Medicine and the BioProcess International magazine, as well as the co-chair of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine's Communications and Education Committee. Buckler cofounded Cell Therapy News, founded Cell Therapy Blog, cofounded Regenerative Medicine Jobs, founded and continues to manage the LinkedIn Cell Therapy Industry Group, and is an active industry commentator in publications and in social media. He serves on numerous industry conference advisory boards, is an advisory board member for BioCision and RoosterBio, and is on the board of directors for Hemostemix. He has a bachelor's degree in education and a law degree.

For additional comments on RepliCel Life Sciences Inc., Shiseido Company Ltd. and Hemostemix Inc. from newsletter writers, money managers and analysts, click on their respective links or visit The Life Sciences Report.

Want to read more Life Sciences Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Streetwise Interviews page.


DISCLOSURE
1) George S. Mack conducted this interview for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. He owns, or his family owns, shares of the company mentioned in this interview: None. 
2) RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. paid Streetwise Reports to conduct, produce and distribute the interview
3) R. Lee Buckler had final approval of the content and is wholly responsible for the validity of the statements. Opinions expressed are the opinions of R. Lee Buckler and not of Streetwise Reports or its officers. 
4) The interview does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility. By opening this page, each reader accepts and agrees to Streetwise Reports' terms of use and full legal disclaimer.
5) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise during the up-to-four-week interval from the time of the interview until after it publishes.


Streetwise – The Life Sciences Report is Copyright © 2014 by Streetwise Reports LLC. All rights are reserved. Streetwise Reports LLC hereby grants an unrestricted license to use or disseminate this copyrighted material (i) only in whole (and always including this disclaimer), but (ii) never in part..
Streetwise Reports LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported.
Streetwise Reports LLC receives a fee from companies that are listed on the home page in the In This Issue section. Their sponsor pages may be considered advertising for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. 1734.
Participating companies provide the logos used in The Life Sciences Report. These logos are trademarks and are the property of the individual companies.


101 Second St., Suite 110
Petaluma, CA 94952


Tel.: (707) 981-8204
Fax: (707) 981-8998 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Japan Gives a Hug to the Cell Therapy Industry

Original Source: George S. Mack of The Life Sciences Report (10/22/14)

Last year, Japan rolled out the red carpet for cell therapy developers with new legislation designed to expedite development of regenerative medicine solutions for all manner of disease. In this interview with The Life Sciences Report, former regenerative medicine consultant R. Lee Buckler, now a vice president with RepliCel Life Sciences Inc., puts his consultant's hat back on to talk about Japan's hospitable stance on proposed cell therapies. He provides an update on the meaning of the new law and discusses a small cohort of companies poised to reap the advantages.

The Life Sciences Report: (TLSR) Lee, you've been around the stem cell and regenerative medicine industry for quite a long time, and you have a special interest in the new legislation enacted by the Japanese Diet (parliament) back in November 2013. The intention of the law is to hasten clinical development of cell therapies and regenerative medicine therapies. A new cell therapy can get conditional approval in Japan for a limited time with clinical (Phase 2) data showing safety in humans. This new law goes into effect in November. Tell me your thoughts.

R. Lee Buckler: The entire industry is watching Japan and this new regulatory model with an incredible amount of interest. We're on the brink of seeing more detail around the regulations.

This initiative sets up a paradigm of conditional approval, where a company can bring an application to the Japanese regulators, and if it shows sufficient safety evidence and some evidence of efficacy, the company could get conditional approval to sell its product in the Japanese marketplace. This conditional approval would be for a seven-year window, during which the sponsor or sponsors would have an obligation to continue to file clinical data toward an eventual final market approval—a biologics license application (BLA) or the Japanese equivalent thereof. There is also some suggestion that during the seven-year window, some reimbursement will be attached to the product being sold on the market.

TLSR: In mid-September, Pluristem Therapeutics Inc. (PSTI:NASDAQ), an Israeli company, said it was going to pursue a development strategy in Japan. It hired consultants to help the company get into that market. The company's lead indications are peripheral artery disease, intermittent claudication, critical limb ischemia and muscle injury. But otherwise, I don't see a lot of other companies initiating programs in Japan. Do you see companies from the U.S., Canada or Europe getting into that regulatory environment?

RLB: I think most companies in the regenerative medicine industry have a tremendous desire to have a Japanese strategy right now. The problem is that a lot of companies in this sector don't have enough bandwidth, or capital, to execute on that.

However, a few are making Japan a high priority. Currently, less than a handful of companies have a clearly articulated Japanese strategy, and only that many again have begun executing on the opportunity.

Pluristem has made the announcement about pursuing opportunities in Japan, and Chairman and CEO Zami Aberman has done an admirable job of executing deals. The company has the partnership with United Therapeutics Corp. (UTHR:NASDAQ), which is conducting a Phase 1 study of the company's PLX-PAD (full-term placenta-derived adherent stromal cells) product in pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is a fatal disease and happens to be a very large market. Pluristem also has a nice deal in place in Korea with CHA Biotech Co. Ltd. (CHA:KOSDAQ).

Going it alone all the way to market is not a good option for most cell therapy companies, and with the change in the Japanese regulation there is an appetite for regenerative medicine products in Japan that foreign companies in the sector need to capitalize on.

TLSR: You said there were a few others. Give me an overview, please.

RLB: Athersys Inc. (ATHX:NASDAQ) has announced a desire to move into Japan, and I know it is putting boots on the ground in the country to develop a strategy there. Back in January, the company announced some new Japanese patents in graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases.

Cytori Therapeutics Inc. (CYTX:NASDAQ) has always had strong relationships in Japan, and has been there for a decade. It has a subsidiary in Tokyo called Cytori Therapeutics K.K.

Also, my own company, RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. (RP:TSX.V; REPCF:OTCQB), has an existing relationship with Shiseido Company Ltd. (4911:TSE), which will launch a clinical trial in Japan for pattern baldness in the next few months. This is one of the few cell therapy deals—perhaps the only one to date—that involves putting manufacturing capacity in Japan.

The company that is potentially in the pole position in Japan at the moment, however, may be Mesoblast Ltd. (MSB:ASE; MBLTY:OTCPK). The company inherited a relationship with Japan-based JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (4552:TKY) when, in 2013, it acquired the Prochymal (remestemcel-L or allogeneic, adult human mesenchymal stem cells) product portfolio from Osiris Therapeutics Inc. (OSIR:NASDAQ). The Osiris/JCR partnership, which was put into place a number of years ago, had been stagnant until the reemergence of the Japanese market as an important one for the regenerative medicine sector. Now Mesoblast has "regenerated" that relationship, and announced on Oct. 1 that JCR would be filing a market approval application for Prochymal in Japan for the treatment of pediatric GvHD, following similar approvals in Canada and New Zealand.

TLSR: Will a company be able to take Phase 2 data generated in the U.S. or Europe or Canada, including positive proof-of-concept and safety data, and submit that in Japan, potentially getting a seven-year conditional approval?

RLB: That's an important question. The best intelligence I have, based on interacting with people who have been working with the Japanese, including Professor Chris Mason from University College London, indicates the answer is "yes." The Japanese government is intentionally welcoming ex-Japan data for conditional market approval in Japan.

If a company gets conditional approval to market a product in Japan, it will also have to generate pivotal data outside of Japan, because no patients in Japan will want to risk being involved in a placebo trial when they have the option to buy the product in the marketplace. The end result of the paradigm is that there will continue to be data generated outside of Japan, which will be brought into Japan to support eventual final approval.

TLSR: Thank you for your time.

RLB: Many thanks to you.

[Editor's Note: Between the time this interview was scheduled and the time it was conducted, Buckler left his consultancy firm to become vice president of business and corporate development at Vancouver-based RepliCel Life Sciences Inc., a cell therapy company.]

R. Lee Buckler, vice president of business and corporate development at RepliCel Life Sciences Inc., has been an executive in the cell therapy sector since 2000, beginning with Malachite Management in the Stem Cell Technologies group of companies. Most recently he was the managing director of Cell Therapy Group, a firm he formed in 2008 to do business development consulting for companies and organizations working in or interested in the cell therapy sector. His work included deal-targeting, transactions, market intelligence, competitive analyses, strategic assessments and market profile planning for companies ranging from top-tier multinationals to start-ups. Buckler served six years as executive director of the International Society for Cellular Therapy and just over two years as director of business development for Progenitor Cell Therapy. Buckler has a bachelor's degree in education, and a law degree. He is on the editorial advisory boards of the journalRegenerative Medicine and the BioProcess International magazine. He is also co-chair of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine's Communications and Education Committee. He is an active industry commentator in publications and in social media and serves on numerous industry advisory boards.

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1) George S. Mack conducted this interview for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report, The Life Sciences Report and The Mining Report, and he provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. He owns, or his family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) R. Lee Buckler: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
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