BURLINGAME, Calif.—VistaGen Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the use of embryonic stem (ES) cells as discovery and development tools for novel drugs for the treatment of diabetes and central nervous system disorders, announced it renewed and extended the scope of its two-year-old research collaboration with Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho Co. Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan.
The work being conducted by the two companies centers around diabetes and the discovery of biological molecules, growth factors and drug targets related to β-islet cell growth and insulin production.
"In our initial research with Sanwa, there were two major goals," says Ralph Snodgrass, president and CEO of VistaGen. "First was to develop modified and engineered ES cell assays and validate those assays. Second, we wanted to provide as a proof-of-concept how our ES cell system can be used to identify novel protein biologics and new drug targets."
To accomplish the proof-of-concept, VistaGen provided Sanwa a collection of genes it predicted would be important in β-islet biology. VistaGen was able to take the genes and, using its proprietary ES cell technology, quickly re-engineer the ES cells, modify the expression of those genes and in the process got a lot more than just proof that its technology worked.
"Out of the nine genes we predicted would have some impact, three of those had a significant impact on the growth of β-islet cells and the expression of insulin," Snodgrass notes.
Now, based on these results, the collaboration has been extended whereby VistaGen will apply its core ES cell technologies to discover critical biological molecules, growth factors, and drug targets related to β-islet cell growth and insulin production. Sanwa will use VistaGen's customized, stem cell-based assays to screen its compound libraries for new drug candidates for treatment of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. According to the companies, the partnership represents the first collaborative pharmaceutical application of ES cells to discover novel therapeutics for the treatment of diabetes.
"We are very pleased with the success of this partnership and impressed by the speed and efficiency of VistaGen's stem-cell-based discovery platform, which has enabled us to identify multiple important biological molecules and drug targets important to diabetes. We look forward to the next phase of our important partnership," says Satoshi Terao, Sanwa's VP for R&D.
Specific financial details of the partnership were not released, but under the extended agreement, VistaGen will receive funded research payments, downstream milestone payments, and royalties on product sales.