Late in 2015, one of the pioneering stem cell and regenerative medicine biotechs, Ocata Therapeutics (fka as ACT or Advanced Cell Technology) was acquired by Astellas Pharma. At the time of purchase, Ocata had a number of areas of focus, but was most closely followed for its development of human embryonic stem cell-based retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPEs) for treatment of multiple kinds of macular degeneration. These products were advancing in promising clinical trials and had demonstrated good safety profiles.
After the purchase of Ocata by Astellas, many in the field wondered what impact this development might have on these clinical trials. Could the additional resources within the Astellas environment give a big boost to the former Ocata work? Some on the other hand worried that within the giant Astellas, these stem cell pipelines might get a bit lost, especially if Ocata leader Dr. Robert Lanza ended up leaving Astellas.
So what’s the scoop on all of this now?
— Astellas Pharma US (@AstellasUS) December 8, 2016
The Ocata work is very much alive and well, and Bob Lanza is still at Astellas (see above tweet from December of last year). He is Head of Astellas Global Regenerative Medicine & Chief Scientific Officer, Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine. I reached out to him to ask for an update on how things are going with the regenerative medicine efforts at Astellas.
Dr. Lanza was able to share this comment, “ASP7317 for Dry AMD is currently in Phase 2 studies, while the Stargardt study is in Phase 1/2a. It would preliminary to comment on timing for study expansion and next steps.”
I know that’s not a ton of information, but it is a bit encouraging at least. Also from emailing with him, I’m hoping in coming months to have an interview with Dr. Lanza with more detail.