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VistaGen Therapeutics (VSTA) and NuPotential Receives NIH Grant to Develop Safer Approaches for Producing Patient-specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. and NuPotential, Inc. today announced that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded to the companies a grant of approximately $500,000 to accelerate development of novel and safer approaches to generate patient-specific induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for regenerative medicine, drug discovery and drug rescue. VistaGen’s versatile Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ platform involves the use of integrated stem cell technologies and validation processes associated with the function and utility of pluripotent stem cells to produce human heart, liver, pancreas and blood cells. NuPotential’s innovative cell programming technology involves the use of proprietary small molecule-based cell reprogramming processes for generating patient-specific iPS cells instead of commonly-used retroviruses or cancer-inducing oncogenes.

Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into any of the more than 200 types of cells in the human body. Recent developments in stem cell research have made it possible to obtain pluripotent stem cell lines from any individual without the use of embryos. Human iPS cells are mature adult cells that have been “reprogrammed” to induce and maintain the pluripotential property of embryonic stem cells. Most approaches to produce human iPS cells use retroviruses to activate and/or express multiple key genes, including an oncogene that is associated with production of cancer cells. The use of retroviruses and oncogenes are potentially problematic for clinical applications involving cells derived from iPS cells due to the significant increased risk of inducing a cancer transformation. NuPotential’s cell reprogramming technology could represent a dramatic improvement in the safety profile of iPS cells.

This NIH grant will support further development of patient-specific iPS cell programming processes by NuPotential, as well as VistaGen’s differentiation protocols and processes focused on the validation and use of the iPS cells for regenerative medicine applications and in clinically-relevant biological assays for small molecule drug discovery and drug rescue. Dr. Jong Rim, Senior Scientist at NuPotential, and Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, VistaGen’s President and Chief Scientific Officer, will serve as Principal Investigators for this new NIH grant program.

“The iPS cells produced through NuPotential’s safer reprogramming processes are expected to offer us many advantages in drug discovery and drug rescue applications of our Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube platform,” said Shawn K. Singh, JD, VistaGen’s Chief Executive Officer. “We also expect these iPS cells to play a key role in our regenerative medicine initiatives focused on heart and liver disease and cartilage-repair. This initial NuPotential/VistaGen collaboration is a perfect next step to advance leading-edge stem cell technology at both companies.”

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