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Thread: Small biotech company develops new stem cell lines

  1. #1

    Small biotech company develops new stem cell lines

    Small biotech company develops new stem cell lines

    By Toni Clarke


    NEW YORK (Reuters) - BresaGen Ltd. , a small Australia-based biotechnology company, said Monday it has developed four human embryonic stem cell lines, joining a handful of companies worldwide to have cloned human cells for medical research.

    The company, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and plans to list in the U.S. shortly, said the breakthrough is a critical step in its research for treatments of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury.

    The company said the breakthrough occurred at its facility in Athens, Georgia. The company established a laboratory in the U.S. early this year.

    The development comes as regulators in Australia and the U.S. debate whether to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Stem cells are parent cells whose progeny can turn into any of the 220 cell types in the body. They can reproduce themselves ad infinitum, providing material that researchers believe could help fight disease.

    "Our particular interest is in learning how to make cells that are useful in treating spinal cord injuries and diseases such as Parkinson's," said John Smeaton, the company's chief executive, who splits his time between Georgia and Adelaide. "If we can turn our cells into pure populations of other types of cells, then that population could be useful for therapeutic purposes."

    The creation of pure, stable cell lines is not easy. Nature magazine estimates there are around 20 human cell lines world wide. Each line originates from a cell taken from the inside of a one- to five-day embryo. Smeaton said BresaGen's supply of embryos come from an in-vitro fertilization clinic. He said the company only uses embryos that would have been discarded by the clinic.

    BresaGen is a tiny company, with just $1 million in revenue in 2000. Yet it has already made news as the company to clone Australia's first pig. It also boasts Steven Stice, a professor at University of Georgia and the first person in the world to clone cattle, as a key consultant.

    BresaGen said it plans to license access to its cell lines to researchers or to trade access in return for certain rights to any products developed from them.

    The company is working to prove it can cure humans from Parkinson's disease in the same way it has cured mice.

    "There has been some research in this area and the results have been mixed," said Smeaton. "We're trying to build on that research."

    The company's next step is to target the exact place in the brain to insert the new cells. It is working with five universities to develop a technology. It is also working on a technology that would grow cell lines using no material from animals.

    To date, all human cell lines have been developed using a so-called feeder-layer of nutrients that come from mice. By the time BresaGen goes into human trials -- which Smeaton estimates could be in two to three years time -- it wants to have replaced mouse-based feeder-layer with a human feeder-layer. That's because regulators are concerned that using mice or other animals could result in viruses jumping into the human population.

    "If we developed a product using the method we use now it would be treated much more strictly by regulators than if we used cells which had had no contact with animal matter," Smeaton said.

    Developing a human-based feeder-layer, however, is not just a matter of transferring the technique used to produce mouse nutrients. That's because the feeder-layers come from mice that are at a late stage of embryonic development. They are about to be born.

    "Obviously you can't do that with human embryos," Smeaton said. However, he said BresaGen is a matter of months away from completing an acceptable alternative method of producing human nutrients.

    "We're well down the track to doing that," Smeaton said. "We're talking months rather than years."

  2. #2

    BresaGen Derives Four Human Stem Cell Lines-more info.

    BresaGen Derives Four Human Stem Cell Lines


    THEBARTON, Australia, July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- BresaGen Limited (Nasdaq: BSGNY; ASX: BGN), the Australian biotechnology company, today announced that the Company has successfully derived four human embryonic stem cell lines, a critical step in the Company's research into treatments for neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury.

    This latest milestone was accomplished by the Company's US operation in Georgia, headed by Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Allan Robins, who recently relocated from the Adelaide head office.

    Embryonic stem cells are the most promising platform from which to develop cellular therapies because they can form all of the 220 cell types in the body. They can proliferate indefinitely, providing an unlimited amount of starting material for the production of specific cell-based products.

    BresaGen President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Smeaton said, "This development is very exciting for BresaGen because the proprietary cell differentiation technology developed in mice in Adelaide can now be transferred to the human embryonic stem cells lines. We will now focus on isolating and characterizing the human equivalent of the EPL (Embryonic Primitive-ectoderm Like) stem cell, which was discovered by Professor Peter Rathjen at Adelaide University.

    "We believe the EPL cell to be a superior embryonic stem cell in that its differentiation can be controlled to yield relatively pure populations of therapeutic cell types in large quantities. If the human version of this cell type can be isolated we will have made a significant breakthrough in the field, bringing us closer to developing commercially viable treatments with this technology," Dr. Smeaton concluded.

    About BresaGen Limited

    BresaGen is a biotechnology company committed to the discovery and commercial development of innovative bio-therapies. Drawing on two decades of experience, the company has earned a reputation for excellence in the fields of reproductive and developmental biology and in the manufacture of recombinant protein pharmaceuticals. The Company has offices and laboratories in Adelaide, Australia and Athens, Georgia USA and is represented by three divisions, Protein Pharmaceuticals, Cell Therapy and Reproductive Biotechnology.

    The Cell Therapy division represents a research and development program that takes the company's proprietary position in embryonic stem cell differentiation and applies it to the treatment of neurodegenerative disease and gene based disorders. The division also has an extensive program developing catheter and imaging technology for neurosurgical cell delivery.

    The Protein Pharmaceuticals division operates a GMP facility with experience in the manufacture of recombinant proteins. The division has a pipeline of human therapeutic candidates in development that includes potential treatments for myeloid leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and growth hormone deficiency.

    The Reproductive Biotechnology division represents a research program developing improved cloning technologies in the pig for accelerated genetic improvement and xenotransplant applications.

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