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Israel’s Cell Cure Trialling Solution for Macular Disease

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Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Jerusalem’s Cell Cure is doing clinical trials on OpRegen, an injectable suspension containing stem-cell-derived replacement cells for the retina.

As reported in Israel21C:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness in people over age 60. About 90 percent of those with AMD have the “dry” form for which there is no approved therapy.

And so the race is on to find a cure. The potential is huge, as products for treating the much smaller population of those with wet AMD ring up about $5 billion in annual sales.

The Israeli company Cell Cure Neurosciences in Jerusalem has thrown its hat in the ring with a treatment of injectable human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells — the essential “helpers” for the eye’s photoreceptor cells — produced from stem cells.

CEO Charles Irving explains that with age, RPEs get run down and fail to provide the photoreceptors with the nutrients and pigments they need to function.

“The photoreceptor cells can only make it a little longer on their own before dying, and that’s irreversible,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “Our goal is to enable, for the first time, transplantation with new RPE cells so we can save the photoreceptors that haven’t already died and stop the progression of the disease.”

Cell Cure Neurosciences’ OpRegen is being clinically tested for safety on advanced AMD patients at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. The company won fast-track approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for further trials in the United States.

Founded in 2005, Cell Cure has 25 employees. Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Benjamin Reubinoff was one of the first in the world to derive human embryonic stem cells and is an expert in their use in regenerative medicine. The company’s three main shareholders are US-based BioTime, Hadasit Bio-Holdings (a publicly traded subsidiary of the tech-transfer company of Hadassah) and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

OpRegen’s route to commercialization depends on the outcome of the current study and approvals for efficacy studies, as well as financing and business partnerships. Cell Cure has received annual grants totaling approximately $9.6 million from the Israel Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist) of the Ministry of Economy and Industry.

Other Israeli solutions for AMD include ForeseeHome from Notal Vision, the first FDA-cleared home monitoring device to detect changes in vision that may indicate progression of AMD from the dry to the wet form; VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies’ telescope implant for patients with end-stage AMD; and Nano-Retina’s artificial retinal prosthesis now being developed in collaboration with a nanotech lab in Texas.

If successful, Cell Cure’s regenerative vision solution has great potential to benefit Australians. Age-related macular degeneration is the number one cause of severe vision impairment in Australians over 40.