StemCells, Inc. Enters Research Collaboration with Casey Eye Institute
Published studies have shown that in a well established animal model of retinal degeneration, known as the Royal College of Surgeons Rat Model, human neural stem cells protect retinal function and thereby preserve vision. Under the collaboration, the parties will evaluate engraftment and function of StemCells, Inc's HuCNS-SC cells in the same rat model preparatory to planned clinical trials. The research, which is expected to be concluded by year end, will be conducted at OHSU by Professors Raymond Lund, Ph.D., and Peter Francis, M.D., of the Casey Eye Institute, both of whom are leaders in cell-based research for retinal disorders.
"We are very excited to be working with these two prominent investigators in this developing field. The Casey Eye Institute has an excellent international reputation as well as a strong commitment to both basic research and clinical investigations," said Stephen Huhn, M.D., F.A.C.S, F.A.A.P., Vice President and Head of the CNS Program of StemCells, Inc. "The Company is actively exploring the utility of its neural stem cells for a wide range of human central nervous system disorders. Our HuCNS-SC cells are already in clinical testing for the brain, and we have announced plans to initiate a clinical trial for spinal cord injury later this year. This collaboration advances our mission to develop novel treatments for diseases of all three elements of the central nervous system - the brain, the spinal cord and the eye."
The retina is a thin layer of neural cells that lines the back of the eye and is responsible for converting external light into neural signals. Thus, the loss of function in retinal cells leads to an impairment or loss of vision. The most common forms of retinal degeneration are age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. In the United States, age-related macular degeneration affects over 1.5 million people in the over-65 population and is the leading cause of blindness in that group. The macula, one of the most critical parts of the retina, is responsible for processing detailed vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is a class of hereditary diseases that also leads to progressive degeneration of retinal cells. In the United States, the most common types of retinitis pigmentosa affect approximately 65,000 people. For both age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, preventative measures are generally not available and current treatments have only limited effects.
About StemCells, Inc.
StemCells, Inc. is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of cell-based therapeutics to treat diseases of the nervous system and the liver. The Company's programs seek to repair or repopulate neural, liver or other tissue that has been damaged or lost as a result of disease or injury. StemCells has pioneered the discovery and development of its proprietary HuCNS-SC product candidate (purified human neural stem cells), and has also identified human liver engrafting cells (hLEC) as a cellular therapy candidate. StemCells, Inc. has recently completed enrollment in a Phase I trial to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of its HuCNS-SC product candidate as a treatment for infantile and late infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), a fatal neurodegenerative disease often referred to as Batten Disease. This trial is being conducted at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital. StemCells owns or has exclusive rights to more than 53 issued or allowed U.S. patents and more than 150 granted or allowed non-U.S. patents. Further information about the Company is available on its web site at: www.stemcellsinc.com.
About OHSU and Casey Eye Institute
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with more than 12,000 employees. OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves 189,000 patients annually, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.
The Casey Eye Institute, named after the founders of United Parcel Service, opened on the OHSU Marquam Hill Campus in 1991. The Casey Eye Institute (CEI) is an academic regional eye center dedicated to preventing blindness through research, and to bringing advanced technology to the Pacific Northwest through continuing education of physicians. Casey is the seventh and final regional eye research center in the nation sponsored by Research to Prevent Blindness, the world's leading voluntary organization in support of eye research.
Apart from statements of historical facts, the text of this press release constitutes forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this news release. StemCells does not undertake to update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that occur after the date hereof. Such statements reflect management's current views and are based on certain assumptions that may or may not ultimately prove valid. The Company's actual results may vary materially from those contemplated in the forward-looking statements due to risks and uncertainties to which the Company is subject, including uncertainty as to whether HuCNS-SC cells will prove safe in ongoing or future clinical trials; uncertainty as to whether the FDA or other applicable regulators or review boards will permit the Company to continue clinical testing of HuCNS-SC despite the novel and unproven nature of the Company's technology; uncertainty whether results obtained in the animal models and in vitro studies of infantile NCL, retinal disorders or other diseases and conditions will be able to be successfully translated into treatment for humans; uncertainties regarding the Company's ability to obtain the increased capital resources needed to continue its clinical trial and its other current research and development operations and to conduct the further research, preclinical development and clinical trials necessary for regulatory approvals; and other factors that are described under the heading "Risk Factors" in Item 1A of the Company's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q.
Rodney Young, 650-475-3100 ext. 105
Chief Financial Officer
Posted: January 2008