Stem Cell Firm Cellular Dynamics to Provide Heart Cells to Takeda

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

 Fujifilm said it plans to use stem cells developed by Cellular Dynamics International, a Wisconsin-based company it owns, as part of a new partnership between Fujifilm and Takeda Pharmaceutical that’s aimed at developing regenerative medicine therapies.

Takeda and Fujifilm, both headquartered in Japan, recently signed a contract giving Takeda the global commercialization rights to therapies that use stem cell-derived heart muscle cells, which are being developed by Madison, WI-based Cellular Dynamics.

Cellular Dynamics has been a Fujifilm subsidiary since 2015, when it was acquired by the Japanese company for $307 million.

The new Fujifilm-Takeda deal is aimed at developing therapies that help patients with heart failure generate heart muscle, Fujifilm said. Under the terms of the contract, Takeda will make a one-time payment to Fujifilm for the commercialization rights. The two companies will work together to evaluate the safety and efficacy of any regenerative therapies developed using Cellular Dynamics’ cell lines, Fujifilm said.

The cells Cellular Dynamics is developing—and which Takeda could later commercialize—are cardiomyocytes, the cells that constitute heart muscle, Fujifilm said.

The Wisconsin company is focused in part on developing therapies using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can develop into a variety of cell types found in the human body. James Thomson, who co-founded Cellular Dynamics in 2004, helped discover iPS cells and is considered a stem cell pioneer. The cardiomyocytes at the heart of the new partnership are derived from Cellular Dynamics’ iPS cells.

Many experts see promise in iPS cells and believe they could be used to repair and regenerate disease- or injury-ridden tissues. In 2016, Cellular Dynamics spun out a new company, Opsis Therapeutics, that focuses on developing medicines to treat diseases of the retina. David Gamm, chief scientific officer at Opsis Therapeutics, said at the time that iPS cells could be used to create specific types of eye cells, or even whole retinas.

In a news release announcing its contract with Takeda, Fujifilm cited Takeda’s “abundant experience in drug development and clinical trials,” as well as the company’s work in the stem cell field. Fujifilm said it will lend its engineering and cell manufacturing chops, as the companies seek to overcome some of the “unaddressed technological and economic challenges” in developing regenerative medicines.

The two companies will also work with researchers at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Fujifilm said.

According to a report in Nikkei Asian Review, Fujifilm and Takeda expect to begin clinical testing of a new drug that has been developed using iPS cells from Cellular Dynamics as soon as next year. The companies are reportedly testing the experimental drug on animals today.