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Histocell, Barcelona Hospital Clínic and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have closed a licensing agreement through which this Basque biotech company will invest at least €3 millions and its capacity to industrialize cell therapy drugs in order to push forward in the development of drugs to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis over the next three years. Genoma España, through its Innocash program, will contribute €450,000 in additional funding, in the form of a loan.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis leads to the irreversible and progressive loss of respiratory capacity. The average survival rate from the onset of symptoms is from three to five years and the incidence rate is 15 cases per 100,000 people. There is currently no effective treatment available and conventional treatments to fight this disease are based on the use of corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents and cytotoxins, antioxidants and antifibrotic agents, which rarely affect the progress of the fibrosis, except in some cases which a slight remission in the disease has been observed.

The results of the study, which was begun in 2004 and headed by CSIC researcher Dr. Ana Serrano —who participated in the workshop Challenges and Risks of Research in Advanced Therapies held by Biocat and the TCUB last Friday— and Dr. Antoni Xaubet, research physician at Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, were patented in 2005. In 2008, they were incorporated into the Genoma España technology portfolio. The results obtained in animal models showed that certain cells extracted from the lungs helped recover lost function in lungs affected by idiopathic fibrosis. From these results, a clinical program was started up with patients suffering from moderate pulmonary fibrosis with a negative prognosis, which received funding from Genoma España, the Carlos III Institute of Health and the CSIC. The results of this clinical study will be made public throughout 2012.

Histocell, part of the Noray Bioscience Group, specializes in tissue and cell therapy engineering applied to regenerative medicine. Their technology is based on the use of adult pre-differentiated or undifferentiated stem cells applied on their own or in combination with cutting-edge biomaterials. This project positions the company at the forefront of application of cell therapy to treat pulmonary diseases.

In addition to the €3 millions currently earmarked for the project, which will go to extend clinical trials in patients and ensure the technical viability of the expansion of pulmonary cells, Histocell also expects to undertake the later stages of clinical development, for which they will soon open up a round of capital increase. Histocell CEO Julio Font explains, “This is a unique opportunity to apply cell therapy in order to modify the development of an illness that currently has no treatment, with the aim of reaching patients in a much shorter timeframe than is normally required for this type of development.” The treatment could begin to be applied generally as of 2013.

Dr. Ángel Caballero, head of the CSIC Associate Vice-Presidency for Knowledge Transfer, said, “This agreement is a magnificent example of how research carried out in public bodies can be transferred to industry.” Dr. Joan Bigorra, director of Innovation at Hospital Clínic, highlights that “thanks to the translational nature of the research, which is the result of close collaboration between basic and clinical scientists, we have been able to transcend the academic arena and pass the baton to industry in order to transfer knowledge of social and economic value.”

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