FREMONT, Calif., July 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. (NYSE MKT: AST), a biotechnology company
"The FDA's decision to allow Asterias to enroll qualified patients with C-4 level injuries is the result of the data supporting the safety of both AST-OPC1 and the procedure to inject the cells, and means that the second most common cervical spinal cord injury population can now be eligible to receive AST-OPC1," said Dr. Edward Wirth, Chief Medical Officer of Asterias. "The overall changes to the study protocol will enhance our ability to enroll qualified patient candidates for our current SCiStar study and we also expect the changes to help enrollment rates in a future, larger clinical study."
The protocol amendment will expand patient eligibility and enable study investigators to administer AST-OPC1 to patients with injuries at one vertebral level higher than the trial's previous C-5 limitation, to the fourth cervical vertebra down, known as C-4, near the middle of the neck. A C-4 cervical level injury, the second most common level of SCI in the SCiStar study's targeted patient population, generally means that the injured person is paralyzed from the neck down and requires round-the-clock care. The lifetime direct costs of care for a patient suffering a high cervical spinal cord injury, such as a C-4 spinal cord injury, can approach $5 million. As suggested by existing research, if these patients can show two motor levels of improvement on at least one side they may regain the ability to perform daily activities such as feeding, dressing and bathing, which increases their quality of life and independence and significantly reduces the overall level of required daily assistance and associated healthcare costs for these patients.
In addition, the amendment to inclusion parameters will also expand the dosing window to 21 to 42 days after a patient's spinal cord injury occurs, providing study investigators more time to screen patients to determine if they are eligible to participate in the SCiStar study. The expansion of the dosing window is supported by recent preclinical research that indicated AST-OPC1 cells can durably engraft at a patient's injury site when administered up to two months after the date of injury.
About the SCiStar Trial
The SCiStar trial is an open-label, single-arm trial testing three sequential escalating doses of AST-OPC1 administered at up to 20 million AST-OPC1 cells in as many as 35 patients with subacute, C-4 to C-7, motor complete (AIS-A or AIS-B) cervical SCI. These individuals have essentially lost all movement below their injury site and experience severe paralysis of the upper and lower limbs. AIS-A patients have lost all motor and sensory function below their injury site, while AIS-B patients have lost all motor function but may have retained some minimal sensory function below their injury site. AST-OPC1 is being administered 21 to 42 days post-injury. Patients will be followed by neurological exams and imaging procedures to assess the safety and activity of the product.
The study is being conducted at six centers in the U.S. and the company plans to increase this to up to 12 sites to accommodate the expanded patient enrollment. Clinical sites involved in the study include the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Shepherd Medical Center in Atlanta, University of Southern California (USC) jointly with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, Indiana University, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose jointly with Stanford University.
Asterias has received a Strategic Partnerships Award grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which provides $14.3 million of non-dilutive funding for the Phase 1/2a clinical trial and other product development activities for AST-OPC1.
Additional information on the Phase 1/2a trial, including trial sites, can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov, using Identifier NCT02302157, and at the SCiStar Study Website (www.SCiStar-study.com).
AST-OPC1, an oligodendrocyte progenitor population derived from human embryonic stem cells originally isolated in 1998, has been shown in animals and in vitro to have three potentially reparative functions that address the complex pathologies observed at the injury site of a spinal cord injury. These activities of AST-OPC1 include production of neurotrophic factors, stimulation of vascularization, and induction of remyelination of denuded axons, all of which are critical for survival, regrowth and conduction of nerve impulses through axons at the injury site. In preclinical animal testing, AST-OPC1 administration led to remyelination of axons, improved hindlimb and forelimb locomotor function, dramatic reductions in injury-related cavitation and significant preservation of myelinated axons traversing the injury site.
In a previous Phase 1 clinical trial, five patients with neurologically complete, thoracic spinal cord injury were administered two million AST-OPC1 cells at the spinal cord injury site 7-14 days post-injury. Based on the results of this study, Asterias received clearance from FDA to progress testing of AST-OPC1 to patients with cervical spine injuries in the current SCiStar study, which represents the first targeted population for registration trials. Asterias has completed enrollment in the first two cohorts of this study. Results to date have continued to support the safety of AST-OPC1, with no serious adverse events related to AST-OPC1 or its administration. Additionally, Asterias has recently reported results suggesting reduced cavitation and improved motor function in patients administered AST-OPC1 in the SCiStar trial.
About Asterias Biotherapeutics
Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company pioneering the field of regenerative medicine. The company's proprietary cell therapy programs are based on its pluripotent stem cell and immunotherapy platform technologies. Asterias is presently focused on advancing three clinical-stage programs which have the potential to address areas of very high unmet medical need in the fields of neurology and oncology. AST-OPC1 (oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) is currently in a Phase 1/2a dose escalation clinical trial in spinal cord injury. AST-VAC1 (antigen-presenting autologous dendritic cells) is undergoing continuing development by Asterias based on promising efficacy and safety data from a Phase 2 study in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), with current efforts focused on streamlining and modernizing the manufacturing process. AST-VAC2 (antigen-presenting allogeneic dendritic cells) represents a second generation, allogeneic cancer immunotherapy. The company's research partner, Cancer Research UK, plans to begin a Phase 1/2a clinical trial of AST-VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer in 2017. Additional information about Asterias can be found at www.asteriasbiotherapeutics.com.
Statements pertaining to future financial and/or operating and/or clinical research results, future growth in research, technology, clinical development, and potential opportunities for Asterias, along with other statements about the future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans, or prospects expressed by management constitute forward-looking statements. Any statements that are not historical fact (including, but not limited to statements that contain words such as "will," "believes," "plans," "anticipates," "expects," "estimates") should also be considered to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in the development and/or commercialization of potential products, uncertainty in the results of clinical trials or regulatory approvals, need and ability to obtain future capital, and maintenance of intellectual property rights. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements and as such should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect the businesses of Asterias, particularly those mentioned in the cautionary statements found in Asterias' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Asterias disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.
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SOURCE Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc.
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