Shire Hunts More Deals Amid Reawakening Interest in Stem Cell R&D

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Alliance for Regenerative Medicine are saying what we really need right now are a couple of Phase 3 trials with demonstrated success.”

The Washington, D.C.-based alliance, the chief organizer of the investor and partnering forum, was founded in 2009 to represent a variety of stakeholders—including research groups, life sciences companies, patient advocates, and others—and to focus on the obstacles to commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, according to Michael Werner, executive director for the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. “What became clear was there was a real need to take discoveries and turn them into products for patients,” Werner told me at the meeting.  Raising capital remains one of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine, he added, and the forum provides a venue that brings investors and pharmaceutical partners together.

Tozer was a senior executive at Advanced BioHealing, which makes Dermagraft bio-engineered skin patches in San Diego, and is now on the lookout for additional acquisitions that fit with the company’s new strategy in regenerative medicine.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about it after we were acquired by Shire,” Tozer says. What they ultimately saw, he says, was a lot of unmet medical need around diabetes-related complications. A patient with type 1 diabetes, whose pancreas produces little or no insulin, is also susceptible to complications from microvascular deterioration, including loss of sensation (neuropathy), loss of kidney function (nephropathy), and loss of vision (retinopathy).

Dermagraft is used to treat diabetic foot ulcers that often can be serious enough to require amputation. Another product in development, Vascugel, is focused on improving blood vessel repair for patients requiring arteriovenous (AV) access, often related to dialysis.

“A lot of these problems have a lot of work going on now in regenerative medicine,” Tozer says. “It’s now one area of principal focus [at Shire] in terms of licensing and potential acquisitions.

“The biggest thing that we’re trying to get out is that we’re open for business now [in regenerative medicine],” Tozer says. “The Advanced BioHealing deal is about 18 months behind us, and we’re looking for new partnering and licensing deals.”

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