Updated 11:47 AM ET October 5, 2000
The single company grant of $1.9m over 3 years has been awarded to fund further work on an innovative approach to deriving mammalian pluripotent stem cells (i.e. cells having the ability to develop into all types of cells). The research to be funded provides an important advance, in that an unlimited number of pluripotent cells can be obtained using a method that does not require an embryo intermediate. This approach has shown promise in early- phase research and a patent application has been filed. The first grant, awarded in October 1999, which supports PPL's xenotransplantation program, has already resulted in the birth of the world's first cloned pigs.
Research funded by this second ATP grant will be focused exclusively on the production and differentiation of stem cells from non-human primate and livestock species. Experience gained in the development of this technology in animals will provide the groundwork for future applications in the area of human stem cell production, both for autologous (i.e. cells are isolated from, and used to treat, the same patient) and non-autologous medical applications.
Therapies and products from human pluripotent stem cells, potentially have broad applications in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injury, cancer, burns, and heart, lung, and liver disease, which collectively are projected to be at least a $6 billion market by 2010. When subsequently extended to the human stem cell arena, the method being developed by PPL would provide a significant benefit over existing technologies in that it bypasses the need for embryonic or fetal materials. PPL's proprietary method should provide more ethically acceptable stem cell therapies.
Ron James, CEO and Managing Director of PPL Therapeutics said: "PPL's work on stem cells should lead to more ethically acceptable cellular therapies. Coupled with our xenograft program, it builds on our core competencies and gives PPL a second area of focus to add to its main business of producing therapeutic proteins and peptides in the milk of transgenic animals."
Dave Ayares, Vice President of Research & Development at PPL Therapeutics Inc said: "This ATP award constitutes an important, peer-reviewed validation of the uniqueness and strength of PPL's entry into the stem cell field".
Alan Colman, Research Director of PPL Therapeutics said: "Cellular therapy has enormous potential to treat human disease. Current efforts would be greatly enhanced by the routine availability of human pluripotent stem cells. Through its research on cloning sheep, cattle and pigs, PPL has shown itself to be at the forefront of developing technologies which demonstrate that the genetic programming of specialized (differentiated) cells can be completely re-scripted. The research supported by this ATP award extends that work while avoiding the need to first create an embryo."
Contact: Dr. David Ayares, VP Research and Development, of PPL Therapeutics
Inc., 540-961-5559; or Dr. Ron James, Managing Director, of PPL Therapeutics
plc, +44 -0-131-440-4777