Big Pharma Invests in Stem Cell Research - Bioscience Americas

Big Pharma Invests in Stem Cell Research

It’s good to see Big Pharma step to the plate and add to research funding.

Yahoo News recent reported that stem cell therapies are now getting significant attention from the pharmaceutical industry. This means that Big Pharma is now seeing the huge upside potential of stem cell therapies.

While certain things about the stem cell initiative remain controversial –- notably embryonic stem cells –- some interesting events have occurred recently. These events will, perhaps, encourage more companies to consider investing in stem cell research and treatment.

For example, a heart attack victim in London had an experimental surgery that involved the injection of stem cells from his hip into his heart to encourage his heart to repair itself.

The experiment has been successful so far with 37 percent of the victim’s heart muscle now functioning, up from 21 percent after the heart attack.

Researchers behind this new technique hope that it will increase survival rate from heart attacks by a quarter. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that about 600,000 people die of heart attack in the U.S. every year, this would mean that 150,000 more people could still be alive every year in the U.S.

In light of this development, here are three companies that are investing in stem cell research.

Novartis (NYSE: NVS)
This health care giant has been involved in helping stem cell therapies for about 30 years now, having developed ciclosporin 31 years ago.
Novartis recently broadened its position in the stem cell space by agreeing to take a 15-percent stake in Gamida Cell, an Israeli developer of stem cell therapies. The terms of the agreement has Novartis investing $35 million in Gamida immediately for the stake.

The agreement also gives Novartis the option -– which expires in the first half of 2016 –- to fully acquire the company, provided certain milestones are achieved regarding the development of NiCord. In this case, the acquisition could come up as early as 2015.

Norvatis recently announced that it partnered with Regenerex to gain access to Regenerex’s stem cell technology, which would help the company develop groundbreaking therapies for underserved diseases.

Johnson & Johnson Company (NYSE: JNJ)
Johnson & Johnson kicked off the year by betting $12.5 million on the Capricor Therapeutics (OTC: CAPR) cell therapy program for cardiovascular applications –- notably CAP-1002 –- through its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Through Janssen Pharmaceuticals, J&J invested in ViaCyte’s VC-01 combination product being developed for type 1 diabetes. This came after the ViaCyte obtained approval from the FDA to start a clinical trial of the candidate. J&J is to provide ViaCyte with $20 million.

Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ: CELG)
Celgene is perhaps the boldest big pharmaceutical company out there at the moment, in terms of commitment in stem cell research.

A previous article on Benzinga discussed how a robust drug portfolio qualifies the company to be on investors’ watch list. Its commitment in stem cell adds another reason to watch this company.

Late last year, Celgene entered into an agreement with OncoMed (NASDAQ: OMED) for the development of six anti-cancer stem cell antibodies and certain small molecule stem cell drugs based on OncoMed’s study. Celgene committed $155 million in upfront cash to the project.

Under certain conditions in the agreement, the deal could increase to $3.3 billion. The company also entered into an agreement with Human Longevity Inc. recently to license, develop and co-promote Celgene’s placental cell population, PSC-100. This collaboration also goes to show just how serious Celgene is in holding a significant position in the stem cell space.

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