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UW Spinout, Beat BioTherapeutics, Aims to Make Stem Cells for Damaged Hearts

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There’s the political and religious opposition, the lack of investment support, and the scientific challenge of getting cells to differentiate into exactly the kind of cells you want, without side effects. No therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells has yet made it through FDA approval, and Menlo Park, CA-based Geron (NASDAQ: GERN) spent years jumping through hoops with the FDA before it got clearance to start the first-ever clinical trial for such a treatment back in February. A couple of other companies, Sunrise, FL-based Bioheart and Columbia, MD-based Osiris Therapeutics, are trying to turn adult stem cells into regenerative medicines for the heart, although neither has gotten FDA approval.

“What those guys are trying to do is quite different from us,” Quinn says.

Quinn is a former Microsoft test manager who has had a hand in incubating projects from the Ratner lab that later became companies, including Healionics, Inson Medical Systems, and Calcionics. BeatBio is also getting scientific consulting from Greg Mahairas, a technology scout for Arch Venture Partners and immunologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The company’s early plans are to run a couple of animal experiments to test its ideas. The first, in guinea pigs, will be to see whether BeatBio can regenerate a pin-sized tissue on the heart called the sino atrial node, which performs the job of a pacemaker, keeping the heart beating in proper rhythm. The second study, in dogs, will look into whether the technique can regenerate heart muscle. That kind of data, which will cost about $2 million and take six to nine months to generate, ought to lay the groundwork for another pitch to the venture capital crowd, Quinn says.

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  • chloe

    i read your article on Beat Biotherapeutics. i had to question the NIH funding amount of 20 Million. that is an extreamly large amount of funding considering that grants usually are under 500k. Is the 20million number accurate? can it be varified? i ask because there are many stem cell companies that are underfunded and i have yet to see participation from the NIH at this level before. is this a leading indication of how the Obama administration is going to support stem cell research. if the 20 million figure checks out then i think there is a larger story here. thanks, tony

  • Here’s Buddy Ratner’s response to the question about the $20 million in NIH support:

    “The $20M number is real. It was a grant at $2 million per year for 10 years in the NIH Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) program to Professors Ratner and Murry at the University of Washington (the grant is in its last year).

    Interestingly, the grant started under the G. W. Bush administration. Thus we were limited to approved lines of human embryonic stem cells. Even with this limitation (that we no longer have), we were able to show proof of principle. Of course, the grant was much larger in scope than just stem cells for heart muscle repair — it addressed cell sources, heart mechanics, electrical properties, biomaterials, surgery and other issues.”

  • Juno

    Any updates on how this and other stem cell companies do these days given the current crisis of US economy, consequent reduction of funding from NIH and private sector and yet, more exciting developments in the stem cell field?