August 10, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

New UK trial & Ocata: stem cell hope on vision impairment

Peter Coffey Lyndon Da Cruz, stem cells for vision loss
Image from Catapult, Peter Coffey and Lyndon Da Cruz; stem cells for vision loss study.

We’ve been hearing a lot this week about an important new clinical study for vision loss (macular degeneration) in the UK. This team is using retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPEs) made from embryonic stem cells (ESC). They are now testing safety.

The new work in the UK is Moorfields Eye Hospital is a great addition to the growing list of vision stem cell clinical studies and provides real hope for those dealing with macular degeneration.

In their PR on the study, part of the  London Project to Cure Blindness this is rightly described as a “major milestone” for the project. The co-leaders, Peter Coffey and surgeon Lyndon Da Cruz (pictured above), will guide this work.Pfizer is also part of the team for this study. I’m curious to see how it progresses and hopeful on the outcome. 

There’s real reason for excitement in this stem cell – vision area more broadly and that context is important to include, but many newspaper articles haven’t.

For instance, Ocata Therapeutics is doing very similar clinical work and is already years into its FDA-approved clinical trials for macular degeneration using RPEs made from ESC. So far that work has proceeded really well without safety concerns and with hints of efficacy. Also the clinical study in Japan for macular degeneration using IPS cells, while at present on hold, will likely start up again in a new iteration later this year or more likely in early 2016.

What do you think of the potential here? As of 2020, what do you see as the major new developments in this area? Whatever happened to Ocata’s program once acquired by Astellas?

Disclosure: I have a very small, long-term position in Ocata stock. (update: I sold that within a short period of time.)

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