OncoCyte will use modified stem cells to carry cancer-killing genes to tumors.

BioTime established a new subsidiary, OncoCyte, to develop human embryonic stem cell therapies for cancer. The primary aim will be the development of genetically modified stem cells that carry cancer-killing genes directly to the tumor site. 

A private investor has already made a $2 million investment in OncoCyte through the purchase of 3 million shares of common stock, equivalent to a 15% stake in the new company. The same investor also has an option to purchase another 3 million shares for an additional $2 million before April 15, 2010, based on an agreed initial market cap of about $15 million.

BioTime claims that OncoCyte’s strategy differs from most other therapeutic applications of stem cells, which focus on using such cells to regenerate tissue function. The company has licensed to OncoCyte certain technologies covering the use of cell-based cancer therapies. These include early patent filings on targeting stem cells to malignant tumors.

“The ability of human embryonic stem cells to be genetically modified and then transformed into any of the cells of the human body may provide a cell-based strategy to targeting and destroying particularly intractable forms of human cancer such as metastatic breast, lung, prostate, cervical, and pancreatic tumors,” points out OncoCyte’s new CMO, David Jin M.D., Ph.D.
Parent company, BioTime, is focused on two main areas of product development: blood plasma volume expanders and regenerative medicine. Launch of the new cancer therapeutics subsidiary comes just a month or so after another subsidiary called BioTime Asia was set up to develop and market therapeutic stem cell products in the People’s Republic of China and market stem cell research products in China and other countries in Asia.

BioTime’s other subsidiary, Embryome Sciences, was established in 2007 to generate near-term revenues from stem cell technologies through the development and marketing of stem cell and regenerative medicine products for research markets. In July the company signed a co-marketing agreement with Millipore, through which Millipore is distributing Embryome Sciences’ ACTCellerate™ human progenitor cell lines worldwide.

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