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Novo Nordisk increases its focus on stem cell-based therapies

Christian Målov Novo Nordisk

The Danish pharma company has announced an increased commitment to stem cell-based therapies, something made possible through a collaborations with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in which a first milestone in the development of human embryonic stem cell lines has been reached.

Under the terms of the agreement with UCSF, Novo Nordisk has licenced a technology to enable the generation of good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines as well as the rights to further develop these into future regenerative medicine therapies. The milestone was reached in early May when a new GMP laboratory at UCSF was inaugurated. Employees from the university and Novo Nordisk will be working here on deriving the cell lines that are expected to define a new quality standard in production of stem cell-based therapies, reports the company.

Encapsulation device

Together with Cornell University, Novo Nordisk has also made progress in developing an encapsulation device that will protect the beta cells that are transplanted into patients from attack by the immune system. Novo Nordisk anticipates that the first clinical trial could be initiated within the next few years.

“Finding a cure for diabetes is part of Novo Nordisk’s vision and recent progress in our stem cell research and the access to robust and high-quality cell lines raises hopes for people with type 1 diabetes. Our collaboration with UCSF is also expected to accelerate current and future partnerships to develop stem cell-based therapies for treatment of other serious chronic diseases”, said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk.

Collaboration with BioLamina and University of Lund

The development of GMP grade stem cell lines in collaboration with UCSF has also enabled Novo Nordisk to expand the focus on serious chronic diseases beyond diabetes. For example, through partnerships with the Swedish biotech company Biolamina and Lund University, activities have been initiated to develop stem cell-based treatments for Parkinson’s disease. In another partnership with Biolamina and the DUKE National University Singapore Medical School, the research focus is on chronic heart failure and age-related macular degeneration. Novo Nordisk has an ambition to pursue further collaborations to develop stem cell-based therapies for other serious chronic diseases.