January 23, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

Shot to the heart: J&J punts on Capricor & its cardiac stem cell program

Capricor logo from website

How is the stem cell and regenerative medicine biotech sector doing these days and does recent news about specific biotechs such as Capricor suggest issues for the sector more broadly?

Capricor had bad news earlier this year related to its stem cells for heart disease program and things just took a turn for the worse this week as pharma giant J&J severed ties with the small California company (here and here).

Capricor, which has received more than $17 million in CIRM grant funding, could have potentially received hundreds of millions from J&J if the deal had remained intact and if it had met key future milestones.

CEO Linda Marbán, pictured at right, reportedly emphasized the theoretical upside to this development:

“Capricor’s CEO Linda Marbán, Ph.D. accentuated the positive of claiming full rights to CAP-1002, including not only the DMD data but also work with Janssen on developing a commercial-scale manufacturing process for the cell therapy, to which it now has a “fully paid-up nonexclusive license.”

She also said it settled “uncertainty concerning the scope of the license for CAP-1002″ and frees the company to seek partners elsewhere.”

linda marban Capricor
Linda Marban, CEO Capricor

However, this is frankly terrible news for the company. It’s not a plus for CIRM either, which declined to comment when I asked them about it. While the planned new Capricor trial for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is interesting, it’s a long haul ahead on that front for the company. I reported earlier this year on CIRM’s enthusiasm for Capricor’s DMD trial.

This all leaves me wondering whether in general the use of stem cells for some kind of heart disease will eventually be proven as a new form of cardiac medicine. I hope so. The two articles I cited above about this Capricor and J&J development go much further in their interpretation as they make the argument that the stem cell biotech sector overall is in bad shape and in addition assert that big pharma is losing interest. While that seems overly grim to me, at this moment in time things aren’t exactly very upbeat either in general with a few exceptions.

What stem cell biotech companies in the cardiac area seem most promising to you? What about stem cell biotechs more generally?

Disclosure: I have no financial interests in stem cell biotechs at present.

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