GE Healthcare and Geron agreed to work together to develop human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived assay products for in vitro drug screening. The companies claim the hESC approach could address current bottlenecks in drug research and speed the development process. They hope initial products will be available by early 2010.
Under the worldwide, exclusive license and collaboration agreement, GE Healthcare obtained an exclusive license to Geron’s hESC IP and a sublicense under Geron’s rights to foundation hESC patients held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. IP arising from the alliance will be shared between the companies, with GE Healthcare retaining rights to the resulting technologies for drug discovery applications and Geron for cell therapy applications.
The joint research will combine GE Healthcares Cell Factory technology for bulk cell reproduction and manufacturing with Geron’s hESC technology to generate large-scale supplies of hESC-derived cells that retain their normal cellular functions. GE Healthcare will fund the R&D program and is responsible for manufacturing, sales, and distribution of hESC-derived assay products. The research will focus on stem cells derived from hESC lines listed on the NIH Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry.
Geron claims cardiotoxicity and hepatotoxicity issues are the most common reasons drugs fail in development. The company believes hESC-derived functional cell types such as liver hepatocytes and cardiomycotes could be used to more accurately evaluate metabolism, biodistribution, and toxicity of drug candidates.
“There is much anticipation of the availability of hESC-derived cells for drug discovery applications within the pharmaceutical industry,” claims David J. Earp, Ph.D., Geron’s svp business development and chief patent counsel. “Geron is intensely focused on developing hESC-based cell therapies, and the expertise that we have developed in scalable manufacturing and differentiation of hESCs to specific cell types is directly applicable to the production of these dells for drug discovery.”