VistaGen Acquires 3 New Stem-cell Technologies from UHN of Canada

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company advancing treatments for depression, cancer, and diseases like Huntington’s that involve the central nervous system, announced that it has secured exclusive worldwide commercial rights to three patent-pending stem-cell technologies from the University Health Network (UHN) of Canada. The technologies were discovered and developed at UHN by Dr. Gordon Keller, the director of UHN’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

The McEwen Centre is one of the world’s leading centers for stem-cell and regenerative medicine research. The new patent-pending technologies use stem cells to produce heart, liver and cartilage cells for multiple applications, like drug rescue and regenerative therapies for heart disease, liver disease, and osteoarthritis.

VistaGen now owns five licenses to stem-cell technologies developed in partnership with Dr. Keller, the McEwen Centre and UHN. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to further expand our relationship with the world-renowned UHN and McEwen Centre. These latest licensing agreements will be instrumental to our core drug rescue programs and lay a solid foundation to explore collaborative opportunities to advance Dr. Keller’s ground-breaking discoveries beyond the lab and towards the clinic,” said Shawn Singh, VistaGen’s CEO.

The announcement covered the following agreements:

  • Methods and compositions for generating epicardium cells from pluripotent stem cells, an achievement that no other medical research lab has yet been able to accomplish. Epicardium cells are essential for proper development of the heart, and play an important role in cardiac recovery during disease;
  • Methods for generating hepatocytes (a major cell type in the liver) and cholangiocytes (cells which line the bile ducts) from pluripotent stem cells, which offer new and improved approaches for evaluating the liver safety of drug candidates, as well as cell therapy opportunities for liver failure and/or diseases involving the bile system of the liver, including cystic fibrosis liver disease;
  • Methods and compositions for generating chondrocyte lineage cells which produce either articular (cartilage) or growth plate (bone-forming) chondrocytes, important in development of future regenerative therapies to treat bone-related injuries and osteoarthritis.

VistaGen is now developing AV-101, a new generation, orally available NMDAR GlyB antagonist in Phase 2 clinical testing for the adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder in patients who are inadequately responsive to standard antidepressants. VistaGen’s AV-101 has also shown potential in preclinical studies as a treatment for CNS-related conditions, such as epilepsy and chronic neuropathic pain, and in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.