Athersys stem cell therapy wins scientists' plaudits

May 24, 2010 by MedCity News

Athersys Inc. wins plaudits from scientists for the potential of its its stem cell-based therapies for heart attack, stroke and spinal cord injury at its investors day in New York.

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By Mary Vanac

Doctors and researchers at the Athersys Inc. (NSDQ:ATHX) investor meeting in New York City expressed hope that the company's stem cell therapy — MultiStem — could raise the ceiling on care for heart attack, stroke and some cancer patients, among others.

Biopharmaceutical company Athersys invited nearly a dozen stem cell experts — including Ruth McKernan, head of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, with which Athersys is working on a therapy for inflammatory bowel disease — to its annual investor day May 15.

Of course, the experts had good things to say about MultiStem, the off-the-shelf stem cell product on which Athersys is doing clinical trials as a treatment for heart attack, stroke and bone marrow transplant patients.

"We and a growing number of others believe that MultiStem represents a significant advance in the field of regenerative medicine," chairman and CEO Gil Van Bokkelen said. That's because "it's a drug-like stem cell therapy that can be manufactured on an industrial scale, it can be administered like Type O blood, it exhibits a consistent safety profile and it can provide multiple therapeutic benefits," Van Bokkelen said.

One of the differences between MultiStem and competing therapies is the Athersys cells are scalable.

"Unlike traditional bone marrow or hematopoietic stem cell transplants that require a single donor for each patient, we have the ability to produce up to millions of doses of material from a single donor," Van Bokkelen said. "This enables us to manufacture a clinical-grade product in a reproducible and consistent manner."

In the body, MultiStem can promote multiple factors that protect tissue, promote tissue healing and repair and reduce inflammation in several ways. Athersys, which is conducting a Phase I trial of MultiStem to treat heart attack patients, is finding evidence that its stem cells also could treat peripheral vascular disease.