AgeX Therapeutics has announced a research collaboration with an as-yet-undisclosed Japanese biopharm company to further the development of its immunotolerance technology platform.
AgeX is focused on developing therapeutics for human aging and Longevity; its UniverCyte platform uses a proprietary form of human leukocyte antigen G (HLG-A) or histocompatibility antigen to allow donor cells to be transplanted into non-tissue-matching patients without the need for immunosuppressant medication.
Longevity.Technology: AgeX has universal therapies in its sights and this savvy collaboration has research as well as business benefits. A universal pluripotent stem cell line would have numerous research, medical and commercial uses.
As well as widening the donor pool, cutting out immunosuppressive drugs will remove the deleterious effect they have on patient resistance to infectious diseases and some cancers. Immunosuppressants can also cause organ damage and a build-up of toxins in the body.
The research programme is set to test and evaluate how well UniverCyte works on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), as well as the ability of those UniverCyte-modified iPS cells to evade the recipient’s immune responses and to differentiate into different types of tissue.
Dr Greg Bailey, AgeX’s Chairman said: “Given its near- and long-term clinical and commercial potential, we are deeply focused on deriving value and generating revenue from our UniverCyte technology platform .”
The Japanese economy is the third-largest in the world; but an aging population and increasing rates of heart disease and cancer means that a spotlight is being shone on healthcare spending. Although Japan’s spending on healthcare (as a percentage of GDP) has been below the OECD average, recent years have bucked the trend, with 2018 showing Japan at 10.9%, the sixth-highest spending country.
Japan’s pharmaceutical industry is expected to reach $109 billion by 2026  and more than ¥10 trillion is spent annually on medications in Japan , but government revision of drug prices to curb costs had left investors wary. Japanese pharma is responding by cutting staff and accelerating digital models for engagement and analytics. The deregulation of the Japanese pharma industry has quickened the pace of R&D and both investors and big pharma are being wooed back to Japan.
In a smart move, AgeX will have rights to “use any improvements to its UniverCyte technology developed through the research.”.
“Our work to engineer our own universal pluripotent stem cell line is proceeding as planned,” said Dr Nafees Malik, COO of AgeX. “This exciting collaboration nicely complements our own in-house research. Our aim is to be a world leader in the engineering of universal cells .”
AgeX and its largest shareholder, Juvenescence, recently published a joint paper in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Regenerative Medicine highlighting the UniverCyte technology platform, “Engineering strategies for generating hypoimmunogenic cells with high clinical and commercial value.”
Image credit: Pavel Kapysh / Shutterstock