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help transplanted stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood take root in the body and begin to produce new blood cells and immune cells, Wolchko explains.
The treatment would address a major need among thousands of patients with who need stem cell transplants. Cord blood—taken from umbilical cords and placentas after babies are born—could offer a more readily available source of stem cells for transplants than sources such as bone marrow and donated blood, in part because cord blood transplants don’t need to match a recipient’s tissue type as closely as bone marrow and donor blood transplants do, explains Jessica Yingling, a spokeswoman for Fate. But cord blood stem cells can take longer to establish in recipients’ bodies than those from the other sources, leaving patients’ immune systems vulnerable. Fate’s drug is intended to be added to the cord blood before it is transplanted in patients and make the stem cells better equipped to take root more quickly and effectively.
The firm’s trial will involve 12 patients and is intended to first show the firm whether its drugs are safe, Wolchko says, and the results may also provide data on how effective the drugs are. The trial is expected to wrap up early next year.
Wolchko says that the firm’s planned clinical trial is to his knowledge the first that will test the use of chemical drugs to make stem cells into more specialized cells. Still, one of Fate’s big ideas is to develop drugs that seek out adult stem cells in the body and induce them to become specialized cells to regenerate tissue or treat diseases. Bob last year captured the whole story about how this exciting science—which doesn’t rely on controversial use of stem cells from embryos—spurred venture capitalists Amir Nashat of Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, MA, and Alex Rives of ARCH Venture Partners to raise initial financing and rally leading scientists in the field to launch Fate.