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StemCyte to conduct clinical trials for spinal cord injuries in India

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After conducting clinical trials for spinal cord injuries in the US and China, US-based stemcell transplantation and therapeutics company, StemCyte Inc is planning to conduct the same in India next year.

The company has set up a first-of-its-kind umbilical cord blood (UCB) public bank for India in a joint venture with Chennai-based Apollo Hospitals and Ahmedabad-based Cadila Pharmaceuticals. All set to be operational by the end of this year on the hospital premises in Ahmedabad, the new entity, called StemCyte India Therapeutics Pvt Ltd (SCITPL), will aid in carrying out clinical trials in India.

“Umbilical cord blood stem cells have become a prime source of stem cells for the field of regenerative medicine for various diseases and our aim is to provide the service of banking cord blood cells to families who want to store stem cells. We are looking at being fully operational by next year in India and will start clinical trials for spinal cord injury here as well. At present, we plan to focus on spinal cord injuries resulting out of an accident or trauma,” said Kenneth Giacin, chairman and CEO of StemCyte Inc.

In 2008, StemCyte signed two research and licensing agreements for human umbilical cord blood stem cell treatment for spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other problems of the central nervous system. The initiatives are being developed by Wise Young, a neuroscientist at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and John Lin, professor at China Medical University Hospital, Taiwan as part of a research agreement with StemCyte.

“There are numerous diseases that can be treated from umbilical cord blood cells including thalassemia, neurological disorders, leukemia and we are also exploring the treatment of spinal cord injuries through these cells. These research programs will soon be conducted in India, ” Young said.

The cost of processing one unit of stem cell is estimated at Rs five lakhs. “The company plans to process and store 25,000 UCB units for treating patients throughout the world, including India. StemCyte has already matched three to four stem cells from Ahmedabad, Chennai and Pune at the company’s US facility ,” said Tushar Dalal, president, StemCyte India.

Apollo may also consider setting up similar facilities in Chennai and Hyderabad, according to sources. Besides, Apollo Hospitals, in collaboration with StemCyte, has also announced its plans to establish a Rs 60 crore stem cell research institute in Gujarat to be completed by the year end.

According to IA Modi, chairman, Cadila Pharma, “The collaboration will aid in heightening the importance of research in stem cells, which will have a far-reaching impact on patient care in future.”

StemCyte, on the other hand, plans to open up such ventures in one or two countries in the next two-three years. “There is immense demand for cord blood units. In the US alone, there is a need for 10,000 cord blood units. Apart from entering more countries to set up UCB public banks, we are working upon value-added stem cells for numerous surgeries,” Giacin added.

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