Sumitomo Dainippon stem cell treatment for vision loss in development with Riken

An injectable stem cell treatment for a disorder that causes vision loss is under development by Japan's Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and the Riken research institute with clinical trials slated as early as 2017, Nikkei Asian Review said.

The technique for age-related macular degeneration, which afflicts more than 100 million patients worldwide with around 700,000 in Japan, will rely on induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, Nikkei said.

Nikkei said that a Sumitomo Dainippon-backed venture in which it holds a 50% stake will set up an iPS cell cultivation facility in Kobe by the end of fiscal 2015.

If the clinical trials are successful, the company foresees marketing approval for the treatment in Japan as early as 2020, Nikkei said.

In March, after announcing the successful treatment of an age-related macular degeneration patient that transplanted some of her own cells, Riken said it planned to conduct a trial.

It was not immediately clear if the treatment last year was the same one outlined by Nikkei. Riken and Sumitomo Dainippon were not immediately available for comment.

In the earlier Riken study, researchers said that by drawing on the institute's own stockpile, enough iPS cells could be created at the same time to transplant into dozens of patients.

That process can take about 10 months, Nikkei said.

In the planned trials, Sumitomo Dainippon is expected to use iPS cells from other patients via injection, Nikkei said, adding that that cuts time and costs.

The stem cell injections may also be used in other research areas such as pigmentary retinal degeneration, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries, Nikkei said.

- here's the story from Nikkei