VistaGen, WARF sign license agreement for human embryonic stem cell technology

December 18, 2008 By Janet Kelly

VistaGen Therapeutics and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) have signed a license for human embryonic stem cell patents for the development and commercialization of stem cell-based research tools.

VistaGen, a biotechnology company based in South San Francisco, is one of the world’s leading companies focused on using the power of stem cell technology to transform the ways drugs are discovered and tested. WARF is the private, non-profit patenting and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin–Madison, one of the top-ranked public research universities in the U.S.

The licensed patents result from the research of stem cell pioneer James Thompson of the University of Wisconsin Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center and director of regenerative biology at the new Morgridge Institute for Research. The license will accelerate VistaGen’s commercial programs focused on providing customized, next-generation, stem cell-based predictive toxicology and drug discovery screening assays to increase preclinical research and development (R&D) productivity for the pharmaceutical industry.

“This agreement with WARF is another critical step in our strategy to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the world’s premier stem cell differentiation systems,” says Ralph Snodgrass, VistaGen’s CEO. “It enhances our fundamental expertise for capturing the value of human embryonic stem cell biology for predictive toxicology, drug discovery screening and drug development. When combined with our strong stem cell-based intellectual property estate, the key terms of the new license provide a strong foundation to support our commercial programs focused on high-end R&D services, strategic discovery collaborations and enabling licenses.”

“We are very pleased to have signed a licensing agreement with VistaGen,” says Andy DeTienne, WARF’s licensing manager for stem cell technologies. “VistaGen’s approach to the commercialization of human embryonic stem cell technologies as next-generation tools for drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry strongly complements our ongoing efforts to support growth of the human ES cell industry.” He notes this licensing agreement with VistaGen demonstrates that commercial interest in human embryonic stem cells remains strong.

In 2009, VistaGen expects to launch a new era of R&D productivity in the pharmaceutical industry, an era driven by clinically relevant, commercially scalable, human biology-based screening systems capable of predicting the safety and efficacy of new drugs in ways never before possible. The company plans to use predictive information from its stem cell-based “Clinical Trials in a Test Tube(TM)” to increase the efficiency of identifying effective drug candidates and reduce clinical trial failures, especially failures due to heart or liver toxicity. VistaGen expects its next-generation stem cell-based human systems biology platform to dramatically enhance the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to deliver innovative drugs for some of the world’s most challenging diseases and conditions.

WARF was established in 1925 as the world’s first university-based technology transfer office. WARF supports world-class research at the university by protecting the intellectual property of its faculty, staff and students, and licensing their discoveries to companies for commercial use to benefit humankind. Through WARF’s work, university research benefits the public by bringing resources back to the university to continue the cycle of investment, research and invention. WARF has completed 35 varied licensing agreements for stem cell technologies with 27 companies to date.