October 10, 2012
Athersys (ATHX) Unveils Progress in its Multiple Sclerosis Program
Athersys Inc. (NASDAQ: ATHX), a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on the development of its proprietary MultiStem® cell therapy product for the treatment of numerous diseases and conditions, similar to companies like Mesoblast (MSB: ASX) and ThermoGenesis Corp (NASDAQ: KOOL), recently unveiled progress in its multiple sclerosis program.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). While there is no cure for MS, there are some strategies to manage the symptoms and improve patient quality of life, but currently available treatments only focus on certain frorms of MS (such as the relapsing remitting form of the disease). Athersys hopes to leverage its adult stem cell platform to introduce an effective treatment option for MS patients. And recently, Maxim Research doubled its price target from $3.00 per share to $6.00 per share in a strong vote of confidence.
Athersys, Inc. (ATHX) recently announced the presentation of new research results at the Second Midwest Conference on Stem Cell Biology & Therapy at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, that highlight the potential for MultiStem®, its proprietary adult stem cell therapy, to treat multiple sclerosis (MS).
The work conducted by Athersys scientists, in collaboration with Robert Miller, Ph.D. and other scientists from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and with the support of Fast Forward, a subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, demonstrates the potential benefits of MultiStem therapy for treating MS. In standard preclinical models of MS, researchers observed that MultiStem administration results in sustained behavioral improvements, arrests the demyelination process that is central to the pathology of MS, and supports remyelination of affected axons.
“MultiStem therapy has shown promise in treating multiple disease indications in the neurological and inflammatory and immune disease areas,” said Robert Mays, Ph.D., Head of Neuroscience at Athersys. “Multiple sclerosis presents as a neurological disorder, but a central component underlying the disease is immune system dysfunction. The results of our latest preclinical studies confirm that the immunomodulatory and regenerative properties of MultiStem therapy could have relevance for treatment of this disease.”
In preclinical experiments, rodents were given either an intravenous injection of MultiStem cells or placebo after the onset of symptoms in an MS model. The rodents treated with MultiStem displayed sustained and statistically significant improvement in functional testing compared to placebo treated animals. This functional improvement correlated with a statistical decrease in demyelinated lesions in the nervous system of cell treated animals compared to placebo as well as increased remyelination in cell treated animals, and this result has been confirmed in a second animal model of MS, suggesting that MultiStem treatment may accelerate the process of axonal remyelination. If validated in human clinical studies, this could represent an important advance for treating chronic progressive forms of MS that are not adequately addressed with currently available therapies.
“Long-term successful treatment of demyelinating diseases, such as MS, will likely require both the regulation of the immune system and the promotion of remyelination to protect axonal integrity,” said Robert Miller, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Technology Management at Case Western Reserve University. Miller also serves as Director of the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the university’s School of Medicine. “I am pleased that the most recent studies suggest that MultiStem treatment influences both aspects of the disease, which means it has great potential as an attractive therapeutic option.”
In 2011, Athersys and Fast Forward, LLC, a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, announced an alliance to fund the development of MultiStem for the treatment of MS, including treatment of chronic progressive forms of the disease. Fast Forward committed up to $640,000 to fund the advancement of the program to the clinical development stage.
MS is a progressive and unpredictable autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue, resulting in progressive neurological damage and deterioration. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. These problems may be permanent or may come and go. According to the National MS Society, at least 400,000 Americans have MS, and every hour someone is newly diagnosed. MS affects about 2.1 million people worldwide.
MultiStem® cell therapy is a patented product that has shown the ability to promote tissue repair and healing in a variety of ways, such as through the production of multiple therapeutic factors produced in response to signals of inflammation and tissue damage. MultiStem has demonstrated therapeutic potential for the treatment of inflammatory and immune disorders, neurological conditions, and cardiovascular disease, as well as other areas, and represents a unique “off-the-shelf” stem cell product that can be manufactured in a scalable manner, may be stored for years in frozen form, and is administered without tissue matching or the need for immune suppression. The product is extensively characterized for safety, consistency and potency. Athersys has forged strategic partnerships with Pfizer Inc. to develop MultiStem for inflammatory bowel disease and with RTI Biologics, Inc. to develop cell therapy for use with a bone allograft product in the orthopedic market.
Athersys is a clinical stage biotechnology company engaged in the discovery and development of therapeutic product candidates designed to extend and enhance the quality of human life. The Company is developing its MultiStem® cell therapy product, a patented, adult-derived “off-the-shelf” stem cell product platform for disease indications in the cardiovascular, neurological, inflammatory and immune disease areas. The Company currently has several clinical stage programs involving MultiStem, including for treating inflammatory bowel disease, ischemic stroke, damage caused by myocardial infarction, and for the prevention of graft versus host disease. Athersys has also developed a diverse portfolio that includes other technologies and product development opportunities, and has forged strategic partnerships and collaborations with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as world-renowned research institutions in the United States and Europe to further develop its platform and products. More information is available at www.athersys.com.
About Fast Forward, LLC
Fast Forward, LLC is a nonprofit organization established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in order to accelerate the development of treatments for MS. Fast Forward accomplishes its mission by connecting university-based MS research with private-sector drug development and by funding small biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies to develop innovative new MS therapies and repurpose FDA-approved drugs as new treatments for MS. More information can be found at www.fastforward.org.
About The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move forward with their lives. In 2011 alone, through its national office and 50-state network of chapters, the Society devoted $164 million to programs and services that assisted more than one million people. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested $40 million to support more than 325 new and ongoing research projects around the world. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at www.nationalMSsociety.org.
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