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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cell Therapy Industry HiLites 2009-05-26

This week I'm ROTFLMAO loving this cartoon so I thought I'd share the chuckles (thanks to I can't tell you how many times in the past years I've seen the inevitable 'hockey stick' market projections graph from companies, analysts, and investors when discussing the coming 5 years in the cell therapy sector. It's become a standing joke about how we just keep pushing the hockey stick out to the right but the curve is inevitably the same. This pokes a little fun at this much maligned tradition.

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 ( 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 an online posting entitled "The FDA is Killing Adult Stem Cell Therapy Thus Killing Patients", ASCTA supporter, Don Margolis, states:
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.

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.

Pfizer expects to pump $100 million into its international stem cell development program which aims to focus both on small molecules that work by modifying cells in the body and cell therapy where the cells are manipulated outside the body. The first major use of the Pfizer money is for a collaboration with University College London (UCL) for the treatment of certain forms of blindness through the London Project to Cure Blindness. The collaboration will attempt to develop stem cell-based therapies primarily for wet and dry macular degeneration (AMD), which Pfizer has the rights to progress through clinical trials and then commercialize. Pfizer’s work on this could potentially provide a boost for the cash-strapped and searching-for-a-buyer, Intercytex Group plc (AIM: ICX), whose involvement on the London Project could yield cash royalties. But that's not where the Pfizer-Intercytex connection may end, apparently. Reports indicate that Pfizer is in fact eyeing the troubled Intercytex as a potential acquisition or investment. The company is on the auction block and actively seeking suitors.
Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYTX) expected to close a private placement for $4.2 million by May 11. No word yet...
Cord Blood America, Inc. (OTCBB:CBAI) has received a commitment for up to $2.3 million of new funding to acquire or build its own state-of-the-art laboratory for the storage of multiple stem cell products including umbilical cord blood stem cells. Less than two years ago the company signed a deal with Progenitor Cell Therapy LLC to process and store their stem cell units on a contract basis. Now CBAI says having their own facility will over the long term reduce their costs for both the processing and storage and additionally allow CBAI the flexibility and capacity to pursue new sources of revenue such as the storage of adipose tissue and peripheral blood stem cells processing and storage much easier than under the current structure of outsourced relationships.
Core Dynamics announced it has recently closed on a new financing round of US$17.9 million institutional and private investors. The money will be used to further develop the company's process for freeze drying human stem cells to be stored at room temperature.
Bioheart, Inc. (OTCBB:BHRT) announced today that its common stock is now being quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) under the trading symbol "BHRT," the company's original ticker symbol.


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.
ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Ltd. (OTC: IMUC.OB ) (IMUC) announced that clinical data from the company's Phase 1 trial of its antigen-pulsed dendritic cell immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine ICT-107 for patients with brain stem glioma and glioblastoma will be presented at this year's ASCO. Having said that, they also said that while "encouraging data" was observed from the phase I trial of ICT-107, IMUC's primary focus going forward will be on its lead product candidate, ICT-121, which is an peptide-based "off-the-shelf" cancer vaccine that targets cancer stem cells and may have applicability to multiple types of cancer. IMUC anticipates filing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application in the third quarter of 2009 for a Phase I trial of ICT 121 in the treatment of glioblastoma (brain cancer).
Little-known, Memgen, LLC will be presenting results from a recently completed phase I clinical trial of its novel active immunotherapy product, ISF35, in patients with high-risk, progressive chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), at next week's ASCO meeting. According to the study's principle investigator, Dr. Castro, one injection with no chemotherapy resulted in durable reductions in lymph nodes and spleen size in most patients and three of fifteen patients with rapidly progressing disease did not require any further treatment for more than one year. Based on the results from this single injection study, a phase II trial evaluating multiple intranodal injections of ISF35 in CLL has begun funded by - of all things! - the Food and Drug Administration at UCSD. The company believes the product is also positioned for use in lymphomas and solid tumor cancers.
Aderans Research Institute Inc. (ARI) announced it has launched Phase 2 of its clinical study on cell-based hair regeneration for men and women. The company's research is focused on developing a state-of-the-art tissue engineering solution to the regeneration of hair, taking actual hair cells--fibroblasts and keratinocytes, the two primary cell types within hair follicles--and promoting their growth in controlled laboratory environments. The research teams then recombine them and these "combined hair cells" are then placed in the patient's skin, where they are expected to elicit hair growth.
Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:CYTX) completed enrollment in the first study to investigate adipose derived stem and regenerative cells in chronic heart disease. The trial, named the PRECISE study, was designed as a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled, dose escalation study specifically enrolling patients suffering from an advanced form of chronic heart disease, known as chronic myocardial ischemia, for which there is no generally accepted treatment. The trial enrolled 27 patients in a study involving the patients’ own cells extracted from adipose tissue and processed for delivery at the point of care using Cytori’s Celution® System. The cells were then injected back into the patients using the NOGA® XP System (Biologics Delivery Systems, Cordis Corp., a Johnson and Johnson company). Primary endpoints were safety and feasibility of Cytori’s Celution® System as part of a novel procedure for chronic heart disease.

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.
Celsense, Inc. has announced the formal opening of its new and expanded R&D facility said to be a key component to Celsense’s commercialization strategy for its pre-clinical and clinical-grade molecular imaging agents used to non-invasively visualize and measure cellular activity and biodistribution. The company is now actively bringing both their lead research and clinical-grade cellular and molecular imaging agents to market over the coming months and is said to be collaboration with several academic and industry parties currently evaluating our products for potential use in their discovery research or clinical protocols.

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.
After securing a $12M equity financing facility and closing a $1.5M private placement, formerly on-the-rocks Melbourne-based Prima BioMed (ASX: PRR), which had less than $500,000 in the bank at the end of December, is now preparing IND filing in the US for a phase IIb / III pivotal trial of CVac for ovarian cancer. As previously reported here, the company has also commenced CVac™ ovarian cancer treatments on selected patients in Australia made possible through the Australian Government’s Australian Regulatory Control Mechanism’s Special Access Scheme under the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Meanwhile the company is looking at taking the product to other countries as a means of generating cash flows in the short-term through the sale of CVac™ treatments. Now the company's executive director, Mr Martin Rogers, is touring North America in discussions with a number of hedge funds and other biotech focused investment funds about new investment and partnering opportunities for the commercialization of CVac.
Progenitor Cell Therapy, LLC has done a deal with NeoStem, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NBS) as their exclusive provider of commercial adult stem cells processing and storage. Progenitor founder, Andrew L. Pecora, has also joined NeoStem's Advisory Board.
NeoStem, meanwhile, - the new favorite company of alternative "medical" products promoter, Suzanne Sommers - has been busy the last few weeks creating a curious empire of sundry types of bedfellows. Recently the company announced it had signed an agreement to license the exclusive worldwide rights to a technology, with pending patent applications, developed by Vincent Falanga, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Dermatology and Skin Surgery at Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, R.I. Dr. Falanga's stem cell product under development, Primcel, is a mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) product. Early clinical studies are said to indicate that Primcel can be used to accelerate or jump start healing of chronic wounds. Dr. Falanga's work seeks to develop a prepackaged product created from a patient's own cells, ready for physician use in a clinical setting, consisting of three applications over a 12-week period.

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."
Novocell, Inc. announced that it has received U.S. Patent # 7,534,608 with with wide-ranging method claims covering the Company’s innovative stem cell therapy for the production of functional pancreatic, insulin-producing cells from human embryonic stem cells (hES). Novocell’s therapy is being developed as a method for the use of hES cells to replace insulin-producing pancreatic cells that are destroyed in people with diabetes.
Neuralstem, Inc. (NYSEAmex:CUR) recently published a reaction to a press release by StemCells, Inc. (STEM) refuting many of their statements in what has become a very public dispute. Included in the reaction is the claim that "the PTO upheld the patentability of Neuralstem’s core technology in May, 2006, in response to a challenge from STEM" and that the Neuralstem "patents are not being challenged in the PTO or in any of the suits with STEM".
This is not a cell therapy story but it could be. Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (TSE: 4502) and IDM Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: IDMI) today announced that Takeda America Holdings, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Takeda (Takeda America), and IDM Pharma have entered into an agreement for Takeda America to acquire IDM Pharma. Takeda America has established Jade Subsidiary Corporation as a wholly-owned subsidiary to effect that transaction. Under the agreement, Takeda America will purchase all of IDM Pharma's outstanding shares for US$2.64 per share in an all cash tender offer followed by a merger.

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.
Veterinary stem cell company, Vet-Stem, Inc, has now expanded from its US base into Canada, providing commercially available autologous, adipose-derived stem cell tranplants for horses and dogs.
According to the Seattle Times which played a critical role in exposing what is now alleged to be potential fraud, CellCyte Genetics, "left a cashless zombie after the stock-touting campaign that lifted its value to $400 million faded away, says it has reached a tentative settlement in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) inquiry into its activities" but it still faces a criminal probe and the "number of lawyers embroiled in the company's legal troubles have now outnumbered the company's peak work force".


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 for public viewing.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is working its way through Congress seeking $500 million in federal funds it hopes to apply toward guaranteeing the long-planned small-business loan program.

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.

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