VistaGen Licenses Stem Cell Technology to New Firm Backed by Big Pharma


VistaGen Therapeutics has granted an exclusive sublicense for its stem cell technologies to BlueRock Therapeutics, a new biotech backed by pharma heavyweight Bayer AG and venture capital firm Versant Ventures of San Francisco.

The sublicense, for which VistaGen Therapeutics Inc. (VTGN:NASDAQ) will receive $1.25 million upfront and the potential for additional cash infusions in milestone payments and royalties, is for stem cell technologies that will be used to advance and commercialize regenerative therapies addressing heart disease.

"VistaGen licensed exclusive rights of the cardiac stem cell technologies from University Health Network (UHN), Canada's largest research hospital, pursuant to a strategic research agreement with UHN and distinguished UHN researcher, Dr. Gordon Keller, Director of UHN's McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine (McEwen Centre), one of the world's leading centers for stem cell and regenerative medicine research," the company announced in a Dec. 14 press release.

Bayer AG and Versant Ventures announced the launch of BlueRock Therapeutics, a "next-generation regenerative medicine company that plans to develop best-in-class induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies to cure a range of diseases using an industry-leading platform," on Dec. 12. Bayer and Versant seeded the new company with $225 million, "representing one of the largest-ever series A financings for a biotech company. The funds are projected to give BlueRock Therapeutics at least four years of runway."

"Accessing cell-based therapies is part of Bayer's strategy," said Kemal Malik, member of Bayer's board of management, in the Dec. 12 release. "We are launching this enterprise to develop transformative and curative therapies for patients based on the latest stem cell technology."

BlueRock will focus on regeneration of heart tissue following heart attack or in the case of congestive heart failure, both of which are leading causes of death worldwide. According to a Dec. 12 article in the Boston Globe, the company will have offices in Toronto, New York, and possibly Boston.

"We believe BlueRock will play the leading role in the advancement of potentially life-changing cardiac cellular therapies, advancing these and other ground-breaking discoveries well beyond the lab and into the clinic, while we continue to focus our efforts on advancing AV-101 through Phase 2 clinical development for major depressive disorder and other CNS indications," said VistaGen's CEO Shawn Singh in the press release announcing the license.

VistaGen also has clinical programs ongoing in major depressive disorder, as well as the potential to expand its lead compound, AV-101, into other central nervous system indications including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

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