Japan's CiRA hopes for iPS cell clinical work as early as this year with stockpile cost advantage

Japan's Center for iPS Cell Research Application (CiRA) of Kyoto University hopes to ramp up clinical tests starting this or early next year with unspecified clinical research projects aimed at finding possible cures for various diseases as academic, clinical and company efforts merge, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

One key for the push is an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell stockpile that could significantly cut the cost of regenerative treatments that is often hundreds of millions of yen, Naoko Takasu, the head of the medical applications promotion office at CiRA, told Nikkei.

"We will begin to provide iPS cells for use in transplantation as soon as this autumn," Takasu said.

Nikkei also cited Jun Takahashi, deputy director of CiRA, as one of the possible clinical pathbreakers. He is a neurosurgery expert studying regenerative medicine to treat impaired cranial nerves that cannot fully recover with ordinary surgery.

Japanese firms, research centers and clinics are increasingly working together on iPS studies as the government has promoted such collaboration through funding and other efforts as part of a drive to take a leadership area in a promising are of biomedical studies that could lead to new treatments.

Earlier this month, U.S.-based Minerva Biotechnologies and iPS Academia Japan signed an agreement allowing Minerva worldwide rights to use and commercialize the iPS cells patent portfolio arising from the work of Nobel laureate Professor Shinya Yamanaka.

And in April, CiRA and Takeda announced a decade-long R&D effort to discover new applications for induced pluripotent stem cells in areas such as heart failure, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders and cancer immunotherapy, according to a press release.

The program is led by Yamanaka, while Takeda provides long-term funding and related logistics.

In March, Nikkei said, Yamanaka laid out the goals for CiRA at the 14th congress of the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine, that include establishing a way to ensure the safety of iPS cell use by cutting risks of cancer after transplant and acquiring key basic patents pertaining to iPS cells both at home and abroad.

- here's the story from the Nikkei Asian Review