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Chief Scientist Increases Budget to Advance Kadimastem's Cell Therapy for ALS
Jul. 20, 2014
Nes Ziona Science Park, 20 July 2014, Israeli biotechnology company Kadimastem (TASE: KDST) reports that it has received approval for an increased budget from the Office of the Chief Scientist that will include an addition of approximately NIS 1.4 million by the end of the year for the development of cell therapy for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The total budgets for 2014 will now stand at about NIS 10 million. The grant provided to Kadimastem is based on a participation rate of 50% of the research and development expenses.
ALS is the most serious of a group of neurodegenerative diseases that damage motor neurons, cells which control the activity of the body’s muscles. The destruction of these neurons leads to the complete paralysis of the muscles they control. Currently, there is no cure or significant drug treatment for the disease. In recent years there is growing scientific evidence that in patients with ALS the support cells of the central nervous system (astrocytes) have a diminished capacity to maintain the vitality of motor neurons. The injection of healthy, functioning astrocytes into the patients’ nervous system could provide systemic support to the patients’ motor neurons and thereby slow the progression of the disease, improve the patients’ quality of life, and extend their lives.
Kadimastem’s unique technology enables it to produce the support cells that will be used to treat patients as an off-the-shelf product for large patient populations. The company has a number of families of patents and patent applications which protect the technology for producing these cells from stem cells.
Recently, the company reported success in a first pre-clinical trial for treating a model of ALS. The trial examined the effectiveness of injecting the company’s unique support cells into the spinal fluid of mice developing ALS. This model has significant relevance in predicting the effectiveness of the treatment in human beings.
The results of the trial showed an increased life expectancy for the mice injected with the cells. In addition to prolonging the lives of the mice, there was a significant improvement in the motor (muscle) function of the treated mice compared to untreated. The effectiveness of the treatment is also reflected in other indices indicating a delay in the disease onset. The injections of support cells was done into the spinal fluid, a standard practice in treating human beings. The company found that such injections into the spinal fluid enable the cells to disperse throughout the central nervous system, and it thus established the method of cell administration in the future treatment of patients.
Yossi Ben Yossef, the company’s CEO, stated that “the current grant will be used by the company for the continued development of one of the company’s main programs – the development of a treatment for ALS. This is a serious and incurable disease, whose current treatments are limited and ineffective. In light of the serious nature of the disease, we believe that we may advance quickly with the FDA, and this grant will help the company progress towards clinical trials.”
Kadimastem (www.kadimastem.com) is a biotechnology company specializing in the development of human stem cell-based medical solutions, mainly for diabetes and degenerative diseases of the nervous system, such as ALS and Multiple Sclerosis. The company was founded in August 2009 by Prof. Michel Revel and Yossi Ben Yossef, and is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE: KDST). The company employs 28 employees, 9 of whom have PhDs. The company's offices and labs are located in the Nes Ziona Science Park in a 1,700 m2 facility.
Kadimastem was established based on patent protected technologies, which were developed by Prof. Michel Revel’s team at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Prof. Revel, the company’s Chief Scientist and a director, developed Rebif®, Merck KGaA's blockbuster drug for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis ($2.5B in sales in 2013).
Based on the unique technological platform it developed, Kadimastem is developing two types of medical applications: A. Regenerative medicine, whose purpose is to repair and replace tissues and organs, through the use of properly functioning cells, which were differentiated from stem cells. The company is focusing on transplantation of insulin-secreting pancreas cells for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes; and transplantation of healthy neural cells to support survival of nerve cells and treat ALS; B. A platform for drug screening, which uses functional human cells and tissues to discover new potential drugs. The company has two collaboration agreements with leading international pharmaceutical companies.
The company is managed by Yossi Ben Yossef, an entrepreneur with vast experience in companies in the life sciences field. The Chairman of the Board is Dr. Eli Opper, previously the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The investors include investment house Altshuler Shaham, foreign investors (Julien Ruggieri and Avi Meizler), and the company's founders. The company has a scientific advisory board comprised of leading scientists who are pioneers in their area: Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff and Prof. Joseph Itskovitz in the field of embryonic stem cells; Prof. Tamir Ben Hur in neurodegenerative diseases; and Prof. Eddy Karnieli in diabetes.