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VistaGen (VSTA) Licenses Customized Stem Cell-Based Drug Discovery Assays to Sanwa, a Japanese Pharmaceutical Company

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company using leading-edge embryonic stem cell (ES Cell) technologies for predictive toxicology and drug discovery, today announced that Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho Co. Ltd. (Sanwa), an international pharmaceutical company headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, has, pursuant to the terms of the parties’ joint research and development agreement, selected to license three customized ES Cell-based beta-islet differentiation assay systems developed under the agreement. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sanwa will use these customized ES Cell assays to identify and screen new diabetes drug candidates.

The assay systems were developed to expand the capabilities of VistaGen’s ES Cell technologies to discover novel biologic products to treat diabetes and to accelerate Sanwa’s internal discovery and screening programs for new small molecule drug candidates for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

During the discovery phase of the collaboration, VistaGen and Sanwa leveraged VistaGen’s industry-leading ES Cell technologies and bioinformatics databases to identify biological molecules that can be used to expand beta-islet cell differentiation and/or insulin production. Several discoveries resulting from these studies are now under evaluation as potential candidates for joint drug development programs. Other than the assay systems licensed by Sanwa, VistaGen has the right to participate equally with Sanwa on any drug development programs involving joint discoveries derived from VistaGen’s technology in the field of diabetes.

Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, VistaGen’s President and CEO, said, “We are pioneering an exciting new era where innovative stem cell technologies give us new tools and approaches to dramatically improve R&D productivity and accelerate the discovery and development of safe and effective new drugs in ways that we never could before.”

He explained that this license of three customized assay systems by Sanwa reflects the pharmaceutical industry’s need for clinically relevant, high quality, differentiated cells suitable for large-scale drug discovery screening.

Working with VistaGen, Sanwa researchers used VistaGen’s proprietary FRED™ knowledgebase system and bioinformatics software tools to analyze the growth and differentiation of stem cell-derived beta-islet cells. The goal was to identify novel genes and growth factors associated with the differentiation and expansion of beta-islets and the regulation of insulin production as potential therapeutic biological molecules or as drug targets.

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