Partnership for iPS cell-based heart therapy

A Japanese biotech startup and a leading Danish pharmaceutical company say they have entered into a license agreement to develop a stem cell-based therapy for heart failure.

Heartseed, a venture firm created by Keio University Professor Fukuda Keiichi and others, and Novo Nordisk held a news conference on Monday.

The Japanese venture is working on a treatment for heart failure using induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. The iPS cells are created from human cells and can develop into various kinds of body tissue.

The therapy involves transplanting cardiac muscle cells derived from iPS cells into the heart of a patient by using a special injection needle.

The firm says it plans to conduct a clinical trial as early as the second half of this year to gain approval from Japanese authorities.

The agreement makes the venture eligible for receiving payments totaling up to 598 million dollars from Novo Nordisk for development and other costs.

The Japanese venture aims to put the therapy into practical application in around three years. It says it will also work with Novo Nordisk for its commercialization including manufacturing and sales.

Fukuda said it is often very difficult to lead basic research to clinical development and actual medical application due to financial constraints.

He said the partnership with Novo Nordisk will help overcome the difficulty and expressed his hope to make heart failure curable.