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.”