Monday, November 07, 2016

Millions More on the Way: California Stem Cell Agency Beefing Up Fight to Reverse Arthritis

California's $3 billion stem cell agency appears ready to back with millions of dollars a proposed therapy intended to reverse arthritis -- an affliction that affects 40 million Americans --  and push the treatment into clinical trials.

It would be the first ever disease-modifying therapeutic for osteoarthritis if it clears clinical trials, which could take years.

Peter Schultz, chief executive officer of the Scripps Research Institute, last month indicated that the therapy was all but assured of funding by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the stem cell agency is formally known.

Shultz' disclosure came at the end of an Oct. 20 article by Bradley Fikes in the San Diego Union Tribune. Schultz said,
"We’re just finishing (toxicology studies) with a regenerative medicine for osteoarthritis that [the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine] wants to fund. That’ll be dosed in patients probably in the first quarter of next year."
Schultz did not respond to a request for additional comment from the California Stem Cell Report. The stem cell agency itself does not identify applicants, with a few notable exceptions, for funding unless they actually receive awards.

Schultz, however, has already received about $10 million for a therapy (see here and here) aimed at tweaking cells to reverse the course of arthritis, which would be the basis for a clinical trial.

In an undated progress report filed with CIRM, Schultz said,
 "A unique and unexplored therapeutic opportunity exists to induce somatic stem cells to regenerate the damaged tissue and reverse the chronic destructive process. Because limited joints are affected in most (osteoarthritis) patients, intra-articular (IA) drug injection is an attractive treatment approach that allows high local drug concentration with limited systemic exposure. Targeting resident stem cells pharmacologically also avoids the risks and costs associated with cell-based approaches."
Schultz also said in the CIRM document,
"The primary objective of this project is to develop a non-invasive, therapeutic for the regeneration of cartilage in OA. This new therapy will target the resident MSCs in the joint, stimulate production of new cartilage matrix, promote repair and thus limit additional joint damage and improve joint pain and function."
The CIRM document included an accounting of achievements in the research involving animals. The document said,
"We have demonstrated efficacy in preclinical in vivo models of a potential drug candidate for the treatment of osteoarthritis. The small molecule functions by selectively differentiating meschenchymal stem cells to chondrocytes to repair damaged cartilage."
In another CIRM document, Schultz reported that "a scale-up manufacturing process has been developed and confirmed feasible" and would be used in the initial clinical trials.

An award could be made publicly to Schultz before the end of the year at meetings of the full board of the stem cell agency in 10 days or in December. Sphere: Related Content

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