Company hopes to have first MAPC-based products ready for surgery in 2012.

RTI Biologics is paying Athersys a $3 million license fee for rights to use the latter’s Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cell (MAPC) technologies in the development of biologic implants for orthopedic applications. RTI says it aims to make the first MAPC technology-based implants available for use in orthopedic surgery during the first half of 2012.

Under terms of the deal, RTI has access to Athersys’ technology for isolating and preserving cells from organ and tissue donors. On top of its license fee, Athersys could earn another $2 million in development and commercialization milestones and $35.5 million in cumulative revenue milestones, plus additional royalties from sales of implants developed using its technologies.

RTI says it evaluated a number of stem cell technologies before deciding on the Athersys platform. “We have determined that the MAPC technology offers the greatest potential to create high-quality, innovative implants for our surgeons and their patients,” comments Brian K. Hutchison, RTI’s chairman and CEO. “Licensing this technology is an important step in enhancing and further differentiating RTI’s orthobiologics offering, an area of strategic focus for the company.”

Athersys maintains that the deal with RTI will allow it to broaden the applications of its technology beyond the development and commercialization of expanded off-the-shelf cell products, which are currently spearheaded by clinical-stage MultiStem® product candidates for the treatment of cardiovascular, central nervous system-related, inflammatory, and immune system diseases. “This collaboration allows for the utilization of our already developed stem cell technologies in an additional area,” points out William Lehmann, Jr., president and CEO at Athersys. “Further, it provides potential near-term revenues from the orthopedic market.”

MutliStem stem cells have the ability to express a range of therapeutically relevant proteins and other factors, as well as form multiple cell types. Produced using human stem cells obtained from adult bone marrow or other nonembryonic tissue sources, the MutliStem cells can be expanded on a large scale for future clinical use and stored in frozen form until needed. Athersys claims factors expressed by MultiStem cells have the potential for therapeutic applications in areas such as reducing inflammation, protection of damaged or injured tissues, and the formation of new blood vessels in regions of ischemic injury. Most or all of the cells are also cleared from the body over time.

RTI specializes in the development of sterilized allograft and xenograft implants for spine, sports medicine, orthopedic, dental, and other specialty surgeries. The firm in its current incarnation was established through the merger in 2008 of Regeneration Technologies with Tutogen Medical.

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