Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Living Cell gets go-ahead for Parkinson's trial

More patients to be implanted with cells from Auckland Island pigs after review by independent board of first recipient.

Andrea Grant.
Andrea Grant.

Auckland biotechnology firm Living Cell Technologies has got the green light to continue human trials of its regenerative cell therapy for Parkinson's disease.

The first patient was implanted with the company's NTCELL therapy at Auckland City Hospital in September.

Living Cell's treatments involve transplanting cells taken from Auckland Island pigs into humans.

The NTCELL clinical trial follows the first round of testing on Chinese monkeys last year, which yielded promising results including improvements in neurological defects and recovery from abnormal movements.

Living Cell said an independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) had reviewed findings from the first patient and advised that implants of the remaining three Parkinson's sufferers involved in the trial could proceed.

The trial is being carried out on patients who have been diagnosed with the disease for at least five years.

Living Cell managing director Dr Andrea Grant said data from the first patient were consistent with the findings of the primate trial, which were recently published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

"We understand from the clinical team that the patient is well, all things considered," she said.

Grant said the main purpose of the current trial was to prove the safety of NTCELL.

"The first opportunity we will have to obtain an indicative assessment of efficacy will be when all four patients complete six months of follow-up post their first implant," Grant said.

"Whilst this is some way off, we have met another significant milestone in being able to secure DSMB approval to go on and implant all four patients."

Grant has said the therapy could potentially delay or even prevent the symptoms of Parkinson's, a central nervous system disorder that affects about four million people worldwide.

Living Cell is developing NTCELL in partnership with its Japanese investor, the Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory.

The company said it would receive a cash payment of A$2 million from Otsuka now the monitoring board had approved the continuation of the patient trial. Living Cell has already received A$3 million from the Japanese firm in return for the option to license NTCELL.

Otsuka is also funding the research and development costs of the current clinical trial, which are estimated at A$2.1 million.

Grant has said it would be at least 2018 before the NTCELL could be taken to market.

NTCELL also has the potential to be used to treat stroke victims and hearing loss, according to Living Cell's website.

The cells are coated with the company's proprietary IMMUPEL technology, which prevents attack by the patient's immune system.

Living Cell is also developing a cell-based treatment for type-1 diabetes, called DIABECELL.

Through the agreement with Otsuka, Living Cell retains the rights to 50 per cent of the future profits from its two lead products.

Living Cell shares closed at A10.5c on the ASX on Friday.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 22 Dec 2014 19:38:50 Processing Time: 529ms