Stem cell good news: Spinal Cord Injury Trial, CIRM, Grants, & More

Jan Nolta, stem cell good news 2
Image of Jan Nolta from SacBee

Stem cell good news time and more will be coming later this week.

The stem cell and regenerative medicine world sometimes feels chaotic. Why? Because so much is going on both on the positive and negative sides of things. There is a whirlwind of activity and developments, and a tendency sometimes within our arena to just avoid bad or complicated news. One mission of this blog is to try to cover the full spectrum of developments including difficult situations, but I also want to focus in on a regular basis on what I see as good news. Below are some recent upbeat developments.

Stem cell good news

Asterias. The company announced encouraging one-year data from a small cohort of spinal cord injury patients in their clinical trial that definitely constitutes stem cell good news. Not only is their AST-OPC1 product showing a strong safety profile, but also there are continuing signs of potential indicators of efficacy including functional recovery beyond expectations of what would be seen by spontaneous recovery alone in 4 out of 6 patients. It’s still early days and this is an open label, uncontrolled study, but at this point this is very good news so far. See my interview with Asterias leadership from 10 months ago. Note that the clinical work of the company is supported in part by CIRM.

CIRM leadership. Our California stem cell agency has a new President and CEO in Maria Millan, who has been a leader at CIRM for quite some time. This is a positive step for CIRM in charting its future course. Millan replaces previous CEO Randy Mills and has been interim CEO since Mills left. Here’s more on this development from CIRM.

stem cells dev cover

CIRM Grants including to UC Davis. CIRM recently has given out some important new funding including a large award to UC Davis to our Stem Cell Program to develop an Alpha Clinic here under the leadership of Jan Nolta. More from the SacBee (with picture from them of Jan above) on this. Way to go, Jan and the team!

Retina in a Dish Award. The NEI awarded a Retina Organoid challenge grant to Erin Lavik of the University of Maryland. As to the project, NEI said, “Lavik’s team proposed building a retina by screen printing adult neural progenitor-derived retinal neurons in layers that mimic the structure of the human retina. The system is designed to be scalable, efficient, and reproducible, enabling high-throughput screening for drug testing.”

ViaCyte. This San Diego-area stem cell biotech also received a CIRM grant to support its work on stem cell-based therapies for diabetes, in this case specifically for high-risk Type I diabetes. I believe this privately owned company is one of the more promising regenerative medicine biotechs out there. See my past posts on ViaCyte here.

On a more individual level, my colleague Veronica Martinez-Cerdeno and I were excited that we got the cover image (above) for the latest edition of Stem Cells & Development with our recent xenotransplant hIPSC and hESC paper (more on the paper here).

What’s your stem cell good news, whether it is your own and something upbeat elsewhere in the stem cell field?