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GEN News Highlights : Oct 14, 2010

Fate and BD Join Forces to Develop Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Tools

Firms will work on products for R&D as well as manufacture of cell-based drugs.

Fate Therapeutics and BD Biosciences are teaming up to advance tools and technologies based on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The goal is to provide life science researchers and the pharmaceutical community with reliable access to advanced iPSC tools and technologies for use in human disease research, drug discovery and development, and the manufacture of cell-based therapies.

Under the three-year collaboration, Fate and BD will endeavor to co-develop certain stem cell products using Fate's iPSC technology, and BD will commercialize the products worldwide. Fate will receive an up-front payment, research funding, commercialization milestones, and royalties.

The license agreement includes exclusive rights to certain inventions of Rudolf Jaenisch, M.D., founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and scientific founder of Fate Therapeutics, and of Sheng Ding, Ph.D., associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute and a scientific founder of Fate Therapeutics. It also covers a U.S. patent entitled "Methods for Reprogramming Somatic Cells," which is believed to be the earliest art describing broad methods and key agents to reprogram human somatic cells to a pluripotent state.   

Fate Therapeutics says that its technology incorporates the most advanced viral, small molecule, and protein-reprogramming methods into proprietary assays and model systems to find small molecules that guide cell fate. It offers a highly efficient platform to recapitulate human physiology for commercial-scale drug discovery and therapeutic use, the firm adds.

Dr. Ding discovered the creation of iPSCs using proteins and small molecules. This technique is not only more efficient but effectively eliminates any risk of genetic modification compared to the viral delivery method, according to Fate Therapeutics. Dr. Ding also discovered novel small molecule conditions to generate iPSCs in a manner that is 200 times more efficient than and twice as fast as conventional methods for reprogramming adult human cells, the company explains.

Fate Therapeutics is applying this iPSC technology to develop stem cell modulators (SCMs), small molecule or biologic compounds that guide cell fate for therapeutic purposes. It is currently conducting a Phase Ib trial of FT1050, a small molecule SCM designed to enhance hematopoietic stem cell support during the normal course of a stem cell transplant in patients with hematologic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma. 

Commenting on the company’s deal with BD Biosciences, Paul Grayson, president and CEO of Fate Therapeutics, notes, “This collaboration allows Fate additional resources and to focus on our primary mission of discovering and developing modulators of stem cell function to treat unmet medical needs.”