UCL?Pfizer to develop stem cell sight therapies

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UCL has entered into a collaboration with the biopharmaceutical group Pfizer, negotiated by UCL Business, to advance development of stem cell-based therapies for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD affects around a quarter of people over the age of 60 in the UK. The condition arises when cells supporting the light-sensitive cells in the retina fail, causing progressive loss of sight. There are two forms of AMD, ?wet’ or ?dry’. While recent advances have produced a therapy for the wet form, unfortunately there is no current or emerging therapy for the dry form.

The London Project to Cure Blindness, led by Professor Pete Coffey (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology), is involved in producing a cell replacement therapy from human embryonic cells; a therapy which it aims to introduce into clinics by 2011. The goal is to replace cells essential for “seeing” lost through disease at the back of the eye.

The UCL?Pfizer collaboration will accelerate the research process by bringing together the pioneering work of UCL’s researchers in the field of cell-based therapies and Pfizer’s expertise in design and delivery of therapeutics.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will provide funding to UCL to enable research into the development of stem cell-based therapies for AMD as well as other retinal diseases. Pfizer will also contribute expertise in the design and execution of clinical studies, interaction with global regulators, and in product manufacturing techniques.

After the completion of preclinical safety studies, Pfizer will have the option to conduct clinical trials to determine efficacy of treatment and commercialise any resulting product.

The announcement of the collaboration coincides with the official launch of the UCL Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine taking place on 24 April 2009. The event will gather together some of the key figures in this area of scientific research to discuss the latest trends and developments in the field.

Source: University College London, UK

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