Dr Macdonald provides a perspective on the Company in an interview by CommSec's Tom Piotrowski.
Cynata Therapeutics Limited (ASX:CYP) Managing Director and CEO Ross Macdonald details plans to commercialise its therapeutic technology.
IN a deal that plumbs the potential of one of medicine’s most hyped branches, the University of Western Australia has secured a supply of one of the human body’s most formative cells.
The Perth sandstone has partnered with one of Australia’s few commercial-scale stem cell manufacturers to find a cure for an incurable lung disease. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis has no known cause and limited treatment options, and a diagnosis usually means the sufferer will be dead within five years.
For the university, the alliance offers a consistent supply of identical stem cells for a trial study in animals. For the company, it offers “intellectual horsepower” to validate the products.
“There are some (deals) where the company just throws money at academics and hopes for the best,” Cynata Therapeutics chief executive Ross Macdonald said.
“In this case it’s a genuine two-way relationship. The more areas we expose our cells to, the better the commercial opportunity. If it was found that our stem cells were only useful for ingrowing toenails, they wouldn’t be much good commercially, but lung fibrosis – which is a particularly devastating condition – has an annual therapeutics market of a billion dollars.
“It’s the sort of thing which gets doctors and ultimately investors interested.”
The Centre for Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine, based at UWA, represents a collaboration of WA universities, hospitals and medical research institutes.
It’s looking to stem cells for solutions to scourges from heart and lung disease to Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer.
“(Stem cell therapy) has the capacity to transform the way we do medicine, but one of the big challenges is getting the right cells,” director Geoff Laurent said.
“Having a really tight procedure for preparing these cells, which means you get consistency from one batch to the next, is really important. You do your tests with a batch of cells, and you want to be using the same cells all the time.”
Cynata says it has found a way of mass-producing mesenchymal stem cells, which are the focus of about 300 studies into treatments for various diseases.
The approach avoids the ethical minefield of harvesting embryonic stem cells and the need for painful bone marrow extractions, with an unlimited supply of cells generated from a single blood donation.
Dr Macdonald said some Australian companies were able to produce “bespoke” stem cells, where cells from the patients themselves were reinjected.
“(That’s) fine for relatively rare diseases, but if you want to treat diseases of economic importance – like heart attack, stroke or lung fibrosis – (you need) an off-the-shelf product, where (someone’s) stem cells can be used in any patient,” he said.
Professor Laurent, who also directs the Lung Institute of WA, said the hope was that injected cells would “go straight to the tissues we want to treat (and) regenerate viable functional tissue”.
He said there had been significant breakthroughs in treating blood cancer and macular degeneration using stem cells.
While the field was still to live up to its more general promise, “at some stage people will be treated with stem cells off the shelf. I don’t know when it will be, but it will come, and I don’t want Australia to be behind the eight ball.
“We need to be leading in this area. It will be good for people’s health and good for Australia’s economy.”
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