OSAKA -- Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma plans to develop an injectable stem cell treatment for a disorder that can cause vision loss, aiming to begin clinical trials as early as 2017.
The Japanese drug company will work with the government-backed Riken research institute on a new cell transplantation technique for age-related macular degeneration, which afflicts more than 100 million patients worldwide and some 700,000 in Japan. The method will employ induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.
Riken implanted a retinal sheet developed from a patient's own iPS cells into the same patient last September. That process, from initial extraction of cells to transplanting the sheet, takes about 10 months.
Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma's treatment will use iPS cells from other patients and be administered via injection. This will simplify the process and slash the time needed, along with cutting costs.
A venture in which Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma holds a 50% stake will set up an iPS cell cultivation facility in Kobe by the end of fiscal 2015. The company hopes to obtain marketing approval for the treatment in Japan as early as 2020.
Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma will also consider developing injectable treatments for such other conditions as pigmentary retinal degeneration, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.