Stem cell research boosted by Vectalys, iPS Academia licensing pact: A new licensing agreement between a French biotechnology company and a Japanese developer of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technologies over the production and sale of iPSCs promises to boost global stem cell research.
With their potential to grow into any type of body tissue, stem cells are expected to provide a breakthrough in regenerative medicine and drug development.
But the advancement of stem cell research is held back by controversies surrounding the rightness of using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that are derived from human embryos that are destroyed and discarded.
Because iPSCs are adult stem cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to return to an embryonic stem cell–like state, their use will allow scientists around the world to skirt the ethical reservations surrounding the use of hESCs.
On Jan. 11, French biotechnology company Vectalys S.A.S. announced that it had been licensed to use a patent on technology for the manufacture of iPSCs developed by Kyoto-based iPS Academia Japan Inc.
Vectalys plans to combine the patented technology developed by Dr. Yamanaka with its own viral vector technology, a method of using viruses to inject genes into skin cells and other cells.
With the combined methods, Vectalys will manufacture and sell viral vectors kits for the generation of iPSCs, as well as provide services to generate iPSCs for its customers using its viral vectors kit.
“Because iPSCs are generated without the involvement or destruction of human embryos, iPSCs are expected for uses in drug discovery and disease research, said iPS Academia CEO and president, Shosaku Murayama in a press release.
“Vectalys will provide the highest quality of customized or ready-to-use viral derived vectors for efficient and fast cell reprogramming into iPSCs,” Murayama said.
“Since Vectalys develops research tools for pharmaceuticals, biotechnology companies and academic laboratories, we believe that Vectalys’ distribution of iPSC generation highly concentrated and purified vectors kit will further accelerate research and development for practical use of the iPSC technology,” he added.
Under the agreement terms, iPS Academia will receive a license fee from Vectalys for the worldwide non-exclusive licensing agreement. The other terms haven’t been disclosed.
According to the Mainichi Daily News, iPS Academia has signed similar license pacts with six other overseas entities, but the deal with Vectalys is the first with a foreign corporation since the Kyoto University patent on manufacturing technology for induced pluripotent stem cells was approved in Europe and the United States last year.
Founded in 2008, iPS Academia manages the intellectual properties over iPSC technologies developed by Prof. Shinya Yamanaka and his colleagues at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA).
An affiliate of Kyoto University, iPS Academia believes its role is to manage these technology patents to ensure that “research results contribute to health and welfare worldwide.”
Currently (as of November 2011), its patent portfolio consists of more than 50 patent families, with over 200 applications in iPSC technology and more than 40 license arrangements with Japanese or international companies.
“We hope for the further advance of the iPSC technology and its practical use these years and we continue to support expanding the iPSC technology by licensing our patent portfolio,” Murayama says.
Operating as a genomic platform based on viral vector technologies, Vectalys offers gene silencing, gene over-expression, cell-based assay development, protein expression and production, preclinical trials for gene therapy, batches of retroviral or lentiviral vectors, viral vector tittering, research and preclinical batches, drug screening, gene works, and project audit and protocol design solutions.