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Stem Cell Company in the Limelight
Sep. 16, 2014
Stem Cell Company in the Limelight (SPONSER Magazine 16.9.14).
The past month provided biomed investors some rather disappointing news from various directions. However, alongside the negative surprises, many under-the-radar biomed companies are delivering positive news, both clinically and business wise. Kadimastem joined the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in June 2013, and was one of the few successful IPOs that year.
The company, operating in the human stem cell field, was founded in 2009 by Prof. Michel Revel and Yossi Ben-Yossef. Prof. Revel, serving as the company's Chief Scientist and director, developed the blockbuster drug Rebif® for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis ($2.5 billion in sales in 2013).
Kadimastem's technology is designed for producing drugs from pluripotent human stem cells, and is based on a stepwise differentiation of stem cells into a range of functional cells. The company focuses on two primary diseases: ALS and diabetes.
ALS has recently made headlines with the viral launch of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign was intended to promote awareness of the severe and incurable disease. ALS is the most serious in a group of degenerative diseases that damage the motor neurons, which control the muscles in the body. The destruction of these neurons causes complete paralysis of the muscles they control, resulting in paralysis and death.
Around 150,000 men and women in the developed world suffer from ALS, with 50,000 newly diagnosed patients each year. The costs of ALS treatment in the United States alone, are estimated at 6 billion dollars a year.
In recent years, there has been growing scientific evidence that in ALS patients, the ability of the central nervous system’s support cells (astrocytes) to maintain a growth environment that supports the motor neurons is impaired. Kadimastem's technology enables the production of large quantities of brain support cells under controlled conditions. These cells will be used as an off-the-shelf product for the treatment of large numbers of patients.
The company has recently succeeded in producing healthy brain supporting cells (astrocytes, the cells malfunctioning in ALS patients) and successfully injecting them into the central nervous system of ALS model mice (mice carrying the human disease gene). The results of the trial showed improved muscle control and longer life expectancy in the mice treated, compared to the untreated mice.
Additionally, the company has a solution intended for diabetes treatment. Kadimastem produces islets of Langerhans-like cells, which produce insulin and regulate its secretion according to the glucose levels outside the cell. The company intends to transplant these cells in diabetes patients, in order to restore their ability to produce and regulate their insulin (and glucagon, which is released to prevent extremely low glucose levels), thereby making the monitoring of glucose blood levels and insulin injections several times a day unnecessary. The solution is likely to lead to reduced life-threatening conditions resulting from diabetes (and from extremely low glucose levels deriving from excess insulin injection) and a significant improvement in the patients' life expectancy and quality.
The company has an additional activity, in drug screening and discovery, based on the technology it developed. Kadimastem has agreements with leading international pharmaceutical companies, including pharmaceutical giant Merck Serono.