Eco Quest investing in stem cell development


Transcription of Finance News Network Interview with Dr Allen Bollands, President and Co-Founder of US Incorporated Stem Cell Company, Cynata

Joel Spreadborough: Hello I’m Joel Spreadborough for the Finance News Network. Joining me is Dr Allen Bollands, who is the Melbourne based President and co-founder of US Incorporated Stem Cell Company, Cynata. Allen thanks for joining us. 

Dr Allen Bollands: It’s a pleasure; it’s nice to be here.

Joel Spreadborough: Tell me Allen, what’s the origin of Cynata, why was it formed?

Dr Allen Bollands: One of the co-founders of Cynata is a colleague of mine, Ian Dixon. And Ian was looking for a next generation stem cell technology, really one that would allow us to develop a platform technology, but without some of the limitations that are inherent in current technologies. And so Ian set himself a number of very clear criteria for cells that would make the perfect therapeutic candidate. 

He then went and scoured the patent database to find a series of patents that would match the criteria that he’d established. And fortunately, he came up with some work that my colleague Igor Slukvin had done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which really matched perfectly the characteristics that he was looking for.

Joel Spreadborough: Allen you’re based in Australia but the Company is based in California. Why is that?

Dr Allen Bollands: Sure, because really California is where the expertise is to develop our products. There’re also a number of sources of undiluted funding to be had in California, so we think it makes sense strategically to base our operations there.

Joel Spreadborough: So your Company is working on medical applications and therapies that use a type of stem cell known as a mesenchymoangioblast (MCA). Can you explain to me what role this stem cell plays inside the body?

Dr Allen Bollands: MCA is a really important precursor cell in the developing tissues. MCA is the common precursor for a range of different types of tissue, but fundamentally it is the building block for the heart, the vasculature and the blood. So we think that’s going to give it unique therapeutic properties.

Joel Spreadborough: So could this stem cell potentially be used in any type of therapy where you need to prompt the growth of blood vessels, and restore healthy blood circulation?

Dr Allen Bollands: Absolutely and in fact that’s where we’re looking and so our first indication is going to be a disease called Critical Limb Ischaemia (CLI), which is a disease suffered by many diabetic patients. Only CLI - these are patients who have an impaired vasculature because of their disease and that means that they suffer from things like pain in the legs, they suffer from bad ulceration, gangrene and ultimately amputation. We think our cells, because of their ability to develop vasculature, will be able to support new vasculature growth in those limbs.

Joel Spreadborough: Can you tell me how common is this condition in the community?

Dr Allen Bollands: Look it’s a very common problem, diabetes is growing all the time. Australia has the second most obese population in the world and Australia has a diabetic problem, just like the USA. It’s a very common problem; there are three million people in the USA with CLI. At least half of them will undergo an amputation within a year of diagnosis of CLI, and another 30 to 40 per cent will die. So it’s a very important medical problem, it costs a lot of money and it causes a lot of tragedy. 

Joel Spreadborough: And what sort of treatment can we currently offer these people?

Dr Allen Bollands: Yeah there are a number of different ways that it’s treated at the moment, none of which are terribly successful. So doctors can try to open up the arteries which are blocked, by using balloons. Another way they do it is to apply stents, which is small pieces of metal which force the artery open, but there are limitations to those therapies. And we think that a complex disease actually needs a complex solution. And we think that a stem cell product delivered directly to the damaged tissue is going to produce a range of therapeutic molecules, which will allow the body’s own recovery systems to kick in.

Joel Spreadborough: So your treatment could potentially enable these people to avoid a lower limb amputation, that’s quite a significant medical benefit. Do you know what type of affect this treatment could have on overall mortality from CLI?

Dr Allen Bollands: We don’t know that and we can’t know that until we do the clinical trials. What we can say is that people with CLI do die in large numbers. As I said before, 30 to 40 per cent of patients with CLI do die within a year of having the disease diagnosed. So if we were able to preserve the limb, it means that we may be able to prolong life and quality of life as well.

Joel Spreadborough: Allen can you explain to me where you would get these MCAs from, they’re not embryonic stem cells sourced from human embryos. Is that correct?

Dr Allen Bollands: That’s correct, we’ll only be using embryonic stem cells for our products; we’re going to be using induced pluripotent stem cells. An induced pluripotent stem cell is a stem cell which has all the same properties of an embryonic stem cell, but is actually derived from an adult tissue. And so there is no destruction in embryos involved in the manufacturing process that we’ll go through.
Joel Spreadborough: Allen what are you hoping to achieve with Cynata over the next 12 months?

Dr Allen Bollands: Over the next 12 months we’ve got a number of very important things that we need to do. But really, broadly speaking, these can be divided into two areas. First of all - manufacturing. So before we can provide ourselves - if we can give ourselves to any humans in clinical studies, we have to manufacture them to standards dictated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration). And so we’re working on our manufacturing process to ensure that we can get batch to batch reproducibility in our product, that’s the first thing. 

The second thing is our pre-clinical study program. And we’ll be investigating the performance of ourselves in a range of different animal models of disease, so that we can select the one that best suits us to take through the overall development pathway, and onto the market.

Joel Spreadborough: Final question Allen, your Company is part of an emerging new field of regenerative medicine. Can you tell me how therapies based on stem cells differ from other more conventional forms of medicine?

Dr Allen Bollands: Sure, from a development perspective actually they’re very similar. So we’ll still need to go through the pre-clinical programs and all the various phases, one, two and three studies in order to get a product on market. But there the similarities end. Stem cells and other regenerative medicine therapies really represent a paradigm shift, because they seek to address the underlying cause of disease and modify the body’s response to disease, rather than simply treating symptoms which is typically what a classical pharmaceutical will do.

Joel Spreadborough: Dr Bollands, thank you for your time and insight.

Dr Allen Bollands: You’re very welcome; it’s great to be able to share the Cynata story.

Eco Quest Limited (ASX:ECQ) has acquired 27 per cent of Cynata Inc.
Eco Quest Limited (ASX:ECQ) has expressed interest in acquiring more shares in Cynata Inc.


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