Heart Disease

Coding Dimension ID: 
295
Coding Dimension path name: 
Heart Disease

Generation and characterization of high-quality, footprint-free human induced pluripotent stem cell lines from 3,000 donors to investigate multigenic diseases

Funding Type: 
hiPSC Derivation
Grant Number: 
ID1-06557
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$16 000 000
Disease Focus: 
Developmental Disorders
Genetic Disorder
Heart Disease
Infectious Disease
Alzheimer's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Autism
Respiratory Disorders
Vision Loss
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have the potential to differentiate to nearly any cells of the body, thereby providing a new paradigm for studying normal and aberrant biological networks in nearly all stages of development. Donor-specific iPSCs and differentiated cells made from them can be used for basic and applied research, for developing better disease models, and for regenerative medicine involving novel cell therapies and tissue engineering platforms. When iPSCs are derived from a disease-carrying donor; the iPSC-derived differentiated cells may show the same disease phenotype as the donor, producing a very valuable cell type as a disease model. To facilitate wider access to large numbers of iPSCs in order to develop cures for polygenic diseases, we will use a an episomal reprogramming system to produce 3 well-characterized iPSC lines from each of 3,000 selected donors. These donors may express traits related to Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cerebral palsy, diabetes, or respiratory diseases. The footprint-free iPSCs will be derived from donor peripheral blood or skin biopsies. iPSCs made by this method have been thoroughly tested, routinely grown at large scale, and differentiated to produce cardiomyocytes, neurons, hepatocytes, and endothelial cells. The 9,000 iPSC lines developed in this proposal will be made widely available to stem cell researchers studying these often intractable diseases.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) offer great promise to the large number of Californians suffering from often intractable polygenic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and respiratory disease. iPSCs can be generated from numerous adult tissues, including blood or skin, in 4–5 weeks and then differentiated to almost any desired terminal cell type. When iPSCs are derived from a disease-carrying donor, the iPSC-derived differentiated cells may show the same disease phenotype as the donor. In these cases, the cells will be useful for understanding disease biology and for screening drug candidates, and California researchers will benefit from access to a large, genetically diverse iPSC bank. The goal of this project is to reprogram 3,000 tissue samples from patients who have been diagnosed with various complex diseases and from healthy controls. These tissue samples will be used to generate fully characterized, high-quality iPSC lines that will be banked and made readily available to researchers for basic and clinical research. These efforts will ultimately lead to better medicines and/or cellular therapies to treat afflicted Californians. As iPSC research progresses to commercial development and clinical applications, more and more California patients will benefit and a substantial number of new jobs will be created in the state.

Extracellular Matrix Bioscaffold Augmented with Human Stem Cells for Cardiovascular Repair

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05626
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$4 939 140
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
An estimated 16.3 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease. Every 25 seconds, someone has a coronary event and every minute, someone dies from one. Treatment for coronary heart disease has improved greatly in recent years, yet 1 in 6 deaths in the US in 2007 was still caused by this terrible disease. Stem cells have been used as an supplemental form of treatment but they have been most effective for patients treated immediately after their first heart attack. Unfortunately, stem cell therapy for chronic heart disease and heart failure has been less successful. With current delivery methods for stem cells into the heart, most are washed away quickly, whereas our device will hold them in the area that needs repair. With this project we are testing a novel approach to improve the benefits of stem cell therapy for patients suffering from chronic heart disease. By applying a type of bone marrow stem cells known to enhance tissue repair (mesenchymal stem cells) to a biological scaffold, we hope to greatly amplify the beneficial properties of both the stem cells and the biological scaffold. This device will be implanted onto an appropriate preclinical model that have been treated so as to mirror the chronic heart disease seen in humans. We predict that this novel device will heal the damaged heart and improve its function to pave the way for a superior treatment option for the thousands of Americans for whom the unlikely prospect of a heart transplant is currently the only hope.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability in California and in the US as a whole. An estimated 16.3 million Americans over the age of 20 suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD) with an estimated associated cost of $177.5 billion and CHD accounted for 1 in 6 deaths in the US in 2007. Advances in treatment have decreased early mortality but consequently lead to an increase in the incidences of heart failure (HF). Patients with HF have a 50 percent readmission rate within six months, which is a heavy cost both in terms of quality of life and finances. The high cost of caring for patients with HF results primarily from frequent hospital readmissions for exacerbations. The need for efficient treatment strategies that address the underlying cause, massive loss of functional myocardium, is yet to be met. We believe that present project proposal, development of a combined mesenchymal stem cell and extra cellular matrix scaffold device, will lead to improved standards of care for patients suffering from chronic myocardial infarction who are thus at risk of developing HF. By not only retarding disease progression but by actually restoring cardiac function, we believe that the proposed project will have a tremendous impact on both the cost of care as well as the quality of life for large groups of Californians and patients worldwide for whom the improbable prospect of heart transplantation is the only curative treatment option available.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is a major cause of death and disability in the US, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths and costing more than 100 billion annually. While significant improvements have been made towards treating and managing heart disease, we are still not able to effectively return the heart to a healthy state and cure the patients. With our project we have set out to develop a novel strategy for not only halting the disease progression but to reverse the devastating effect on the function of the heart. By combining bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells with a biological scaffold material, we hope to create a patch for the heart that will support and regenerate the diseased tissue to the point where the patient will be relieved of the burden of their disease and have a markedly improve quality of life. We have in the past year made significant advances toward establishing an animal disease model in which we can study novel ways of treating heart disease. We have in the same time isolated and characterized cells that reside in the bone marrow and that have the potential to heal the diseased tissue by improving blood flow, minimize scarring and generally promoting recovery of the heart function. We have studies these cells under when grown under different conditions and found their ability to mediate tissue regeneration to be highly dependent on their local environments. We are currently trying to identify the optimal combination of cells and microenvironment that may achieve maximal regenerative effect in our disease model and ultimately help our patient combat their heart disease.

Heart Repair with Human Tissue Engineered Myocardium

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05556
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$4 766 231
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the US. With an estimated 1.5 million new or recurrent myocardial infarctions, the total economic burden on our health care system is enormous. Although conventional pharmacotherapy and surgical interventions often improve cardiac function and quality of life, many patients continue to develop refractory symptoms. Thus, the development of new therapies is urgently needed. “Tissue engineering” can be broadly defined as the application of novel bioengineering methods to understand complex structure-function relationships in normal or pathological conditions and the development of biological substitutes to restore, maintain, or improve function. It is different from “cell therapy”, which is designed to improve the function of an injured tissue by simply injecting suspensions of isolated cells into the injury site. To date, two main limitations of cell therapy are (1) acute donor cell death due to unfavorable seeding environment and (2) the lack of suitable cell type that genuinely resembles human cardiac cells. Our proposal seeks to use engineered tissue patches seeded with human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes for treatment of ischemic heart disease in small and large animal models. It represents a significant development of novel techniques to address both of the main limitations of cell therapy, and will provide a new catalyst for the entire field of stem cell-based tissue engineering.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Patients with end-stage heart failure have a 2-year survival rate of 25% by conventional medical therapy. Not commonly known to the public is that this dismal survival rate is actually worse when compared to patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, or stroke. Following a heart failure, the endogenous repair process is not sufficient to compensate for cardiomyocyte death. Thus, novel therapies with stem cells in combination with supportive scaffolds to form engineered cardiac tissue grafts is emerging as a promising therapeutic avenue. Engineered tissues have now been used to make new bladders for patients needing cystoplasty, bioarticial heart patches seeded with bone marrow cells, and more recently new trachea for patient with late stage tracheal cancer. Our multi-disciplinary team intends to push the therapeutic envelop by developing human tissue engineered myocardium for treatment of post-myocardial infarction heart failure. We will first test our engineered cardiac tissue in small and large animal models. We will perform extensive quality control measures to define morphological, molecular, and functional properties. At the end of 3 years, we are confident we will be able to derive a lead candidate that can move into IND-enabling preclinical development. These discoveries will benefit the millions of patients with heart failure in California and globally.
Progress Report: 
  • Despite advances in medical and device therapies, patients with end-stage heart failure have a survival rate of only 25% during the first 2 years following their diagnosis. Heart failure typically follows from damage induced by severe myocardial infarction (MI; heart attack). After a severe MI, the human heart may lose up to 1 billion heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). For most of these patients, heart transplantation is the only useful therapy, but there is a severe shortage of donor hearts. Recently, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have become available to take over the pumping function of the crucial left ventricle chamber of the heart. These devices were originally used as “bridge to transplant” (a temporary measure to keep patients alive until a new heart became available); recently some patients have received LVADs as “destination therapies” (permanent substitutes for transplanted hearts). The problems associated with these mechanical implants, however, include increased risk of stroke (blood clots that form due to the devices) and infection (the LVADs are powered from batteries that are carried outside the body and require wires to pierce the skin).
  • We are working to develop cardiac regenerative medicine using Engineered Heart Muscle (EHM). We are using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) because they can be grown in very large quantities and, with the appropriate methods, can be triggered to differentiate into the cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts and smooth muscle that are lost after MI. Because these cells can be produced in essentially unlimited quantities, we could theoretically treat a very large number of patients who currently have no options.
  • During the first year of this project, we have a) established methods for producing the multi-billion quantities of hESC-derived cells needed to address this problem; b) developed methods to freeze and ship these cells to our collaborator in Germany for EHM assembly, and c) used these cells to generate 2 different forms of EHMs to compare their survival and function both in vitro (composition, force generated) and in vivo (after transplantation into rats that have been given MIs). We are now refining the EHM design with the goal of moving forward to testing them in animals with more human-like hearts (based on size and heart rate); this step will be essential to evaluate their safety and function before any clinical trial.

Direct Cardiac Reprogramming for Heart Regeneration

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05593
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$6 319 110
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Directly Reprogrammed Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure. Because heart muscle has little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart, called fibroblasts, into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offers a novel approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. 50% of cells in the human heart are cardiac fibroblasts, providing a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts in to new muscle by delivering the three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming of cells in the intact organ was more complete than in cells in a dish. We now propose to develop the optimal gene therapy approach to introduce cardiac reprogramming genes into the heart, to establish the optimal delivery approach to administer virus encoding cardiac reprogramming factors that results in improvement in cardiac function in a preclinical model of cardiac injury, and to establish the safety profile of in vivo cardiac reprogramming in a preclinical model.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
This research will benefit the state of California and its citizens by helping develop a new therapeutic approach to cardiac regeneration. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in adults and children in California, but there is no current treatment that can promote cardiac regeneration. This proposal will lay the groundwork for a clinical trial that could result in generation of new heart muscle cells from within the heart. If successful, there is potential economic benefit in terms of productive lives saved and in the commercialization of this technology.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure. Because heart muscle has little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart, called fibroblasts, into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offers a novel approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. 50% of cells in the human heart are cardiac fibroblasts, providing a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts into new muscle by delivering the three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming of cells in the intact organ was more complete than in cells in a dish. We now identified a combination of factors that reprogram human and pig cardiac fibroblasts and are optimizing a gene therapy approach to introduce cardiac reprogramming genes into the heart of pigs. In a pig model of cardiac injury, these factors were able to convert non-muscle cells into new muscle in the area of injury. We also found a viral vector that can preferentially infect the fibroblasts compare to the muscle cells. We are now in a position to test for functional improvement in pigs.

Metabolic regulation of cardiac differentiation and maturation

Funding Type: 
Basic Biology V
Grant Number: 
RB5-07356
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 124 834
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Cells in the body take up nutrients from their environment and metabolize them in a complex set of biochemical reactions to generate energy and replicate. Control of these processes is particularly important for heart cells, which need large amounts of energy to drive blood flow throughout the body. Not surprisingly, the nutritional requirements of heart cells are very different than those of stem cells. This proposal will investigate the metabolism of pluripotent stem cells and how this changes during differentiation to cardiac cells. We will determine which nutrients are important to make functional heart cells and use this information to optimize growth conditions for producing heart cells for regenerative medicine and basic biology applications. We accomplish this by feeding cells nutrients (sugar, fat) labeled with isotopes. As these labeled molecules are consumed, the isotopes are incorporated into different metabolites which we track using mass spectrometry. This advanced technique will allow us to see how sugars and fat are metabolized inside stem cells and cardiac cells obtained through differentiation. We will also study the electrical activity of these heart cells to ensure that adequate nutrients are provided for the generation of cells with optimal function. Ultimately, this project will lead to new methods for producing functional heart cells for regenerative medicine and may also lead to insights into how cardiac cells malfunction in heart disease.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in California. As a result, much of the regenerative medicine community in the state and the many Californians suffering from heart failure are interested in obtaining functional heart cells from stem cells. Our work will identify the most important nutrients required to coax stem cell-derived heart cells to behave like true adult heart cells. This information will make more effective cell models for researchers and companies to study how this disease affects heart cell metabolism. Since enzymes are highly targetable with drugs, the basic scientific findings from our work will be of great interest to California biotechnology companies and can stimulate job growth in the state. Our findings will also provide insight into very specific types of genetic heart disease, and this work may lead to additional grants from federal funding sources, bringing about additional revenue and job growth in California. A better understanding of how different nutrients influence heart cell function may provide guidance into new treatment strategies for heart disease. Finally, this work will highlight the importance of diet, nutrition, and healthy heart function, providing useful information relating to public health.

Human ES cell based therapy of heart failure without allogenic immune rejection

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05559
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 857 600
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart failure is a major and ever-growing health problem affecting an estimated 5.8 million Americans with about half a million new cases every year. There are limited therapeutic options for heart failure. Heart transplantation is effective but has limited impact due to scarcity of donor organs and eventual immune rejection even under chronic immune suppression. Therefore, there is a clear unmet medical need to develop new effective therapies to treat heart failure. Human ES cell based cell therapy could provide a cure for heart diseases by providing renewable source of human cardiomyocytes (CMs) to restore lost cardiomyocytes and cardiac functions. In support of this notion, hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) can repopulate lost cardiac muscle and improve heart function in preclinical animal models of advanced heart failure. However, one key bottleneck hindering such clinic development is that hESC-CMs will be rejected by allogenic immune system of the recipients, and the typical immunosuppressant regimen is especially toxic for patients with heart diseases and leads to increased risk of cancer and infection. To resolve this bottleneck, I propose to develop a novel approach to protect the hESC-CMs from allogenic immune system. If successful, our approach will not only greatly improve the feasibility of developing hESC-CMs to treat heart failure but also has broad application in other hESC-based cell therapies for which allogenic immune rejection remains a major hurdle.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability among Californians with an above average rate of mortality. It costs the State tremendous expenditure for the treatment and loss of productivity. There are limited therapeutic options for advanced heart diseases. In this context, heart transplantation is effective but limited by the shortage of donors. Therefore, there is clearly an urgent unmet medical need for new and effective therapies to treat heart failure. Human ES cell based cell therapy approach offers the unique potential to provide renewable source of cardiomyocytes to treat heart failure by restoring lost cardiomyocytes and cardiac function. However, one key bottleneck is that the allogenic hESC-derived cardiomyocytes will be immune rejected by recipients, and the typical immunosuppression regimen is especially toxic for fragile patients with heart diseases. In addition, chronic immune suppression greatly increases the risk of cancer and infection. Our proposed research is aimed to develop novel strategies to prevent allogenic immune rejection of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes without inducing systemic immune suppression. If successful, our approach will greatly facilitate the development of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes for treating heart disease and also has broad application in other hESC-based therapy for which allogenic immune rejection remains a bottleneck.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart failure affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans with about half a million new cases every year. It is also one of the leading causes of death and loss of productivity in California. There is a clear unmet medical need to develop new therapies to treat patients with heart failure. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can undergo unlimited self-renewal and retain the pluripotency to differentiate into all cell types in the body. Therefore, as a renewable source of various cell types in the body, hESCs hold great promise for the cell replacement therapy of many human diseases. In this context, significant progress has been made in the differentiation of hESCs into functional cardiomyocytes (CMs), providing the potential of cell replacement therapy to cure heart diseases through the restoration of lost cardiac function. However, one key bottleneck hindering the clinic development of hESC-derived CMs is that hESC-derived CMs will be rejected by allogenic immune system of the recipients, and the typical immunosuppressant regimen can be highly toxic for patients with heart diseases. To resolve this bottleneck and improve the feasibility of the hESC-based therapy of heart failure, we developed and validated a novel approach to protect the hESC-derived CMs from the allogenic human immune system in vivo.

Identification of Novel Therapeutics for Danon Disease Using an iPS Model of the Disease

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05687
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 701 575
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Pediatrics
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Autophagy is the cells mechanism for breaking down and recycling proteins. Danon disease is an inherited disorder of autophagy. Patients with this disease have major abnormalities in heart and skeletal muscle and generally die by the time they are in their 20s. Recently we used a new technology to turn skin cells from two patients with this disease into stem cells. The objective of our work is to use these cells to find new medications. To achieve this objective we will use techniques we helped develop to make Danon disease stem cells into heart cells. We will then screen hundreds of thousands of different drugs on these heart cells, to find drugs that make these cells work better. The most promising drugs will be tested on mice with a genetic defect that is similar to those found in patients with Danon disease. When complete, the proposed research will result in the development of a drug suitable for clinical trials of patients with Danon disease. As impaired autophagy is associated with may other diseases, including heart failure, cancer and Parkinson's disease, it is possible that the drug identified will be suitable for treatment of a variety of ailments. Furthermore, the studies will serve as proof of concept for other stem cell based drug discovery systems.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart failure is among the most common reasons Californians are hospitalized, and one of the greatest expenses for the health care system. Danon disease is a type of heart failure that patients inherit. It is rare but almost always fatal. Patients who suffer from Danon disease cannot correctly perform autophagy, which is a way that cells recycle proteins. We believe that our work will help in the development of new drugs to treat Danon disease. It is also possible that the drugs we discover will be useful for the treatment of other types of heart failure. As other disease such as cancer and Parkinson's disease are associated with impaired autophagy, these drugs may help them as well. From a public health perspective, the development of new drugs for heart failure would be of great benefit to Californians. Furthermore, the work could lead to additional grants from federal agency's, as well as larger studies on patients done in partnership with industry. Such studies have the potential of creating jobs and revenue for the state.
Progress Report: 
  • The goal of our project was to use stem cells to help identify new drugs for the treatment of Danon Disease, a rare, inherited disease that causes severe heart disease. Patients with Danon disease generally die in the second and third decade of life of heart failure. We have been working on this project for roughly one year. Since starting we have developed multiple stem cell lines from patients with Danon Disease. We have used these stem cells to make heart cells and have begun testing medicines on these heart cells to see if we can get them to work better. We plan in the future to identify new medicines to test any new medicines we identify on mice that have been made to mimic the disease. We are very hopeful that by the end of this project we will have come up with new ways for helping patients with this deadly disease.

Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes for Patients with End Stage Heart Failure

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05394
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$108 895
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. This dismal survival rate is actually significantly worse than patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, stroke, and other debilitating diseases. Stem cell therapy may be a promising strategy for inducing myocardial regeneration via paracrine activation, prevention of cardiac apoptosis, and other mechanisms. Several studies have convincingly shown that human embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) and that these cells can be used to effectively improve cardiac function following myocardial infarction (MI). The objectives of this CIRM Disease Team Therapy proposal are two-fold: (1) to perform IND enabling studies involving hESC-CM for subsequent FDA approval and (2) to complete a Phase I trial with ESHF patients undergoing the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) procedure whereby hESC-CMs will be injected at the same time.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in the US. Following myocardial infarction (MI), the limited ability of the surviving cardiac cells to proliferate thereafter renders the damaged heart susceptible to dangerous consequences such as heart failure. In recent years, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising candidate for treating ischemic heart disease. In contrast to adult stem cells, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the advantage of being pluripotent, which endows them with the ability to differentiate into virtually every cell type. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) can improve cardiac function in small and large animal models. In addition, the FDA has approved hESC-derived oligodendrocyte progenitor cells for patients with acute spinal cord injury and hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelial cells for patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy. Hence the conventional controversies and regulatory hurdles related to hESC-based trials are no longer major barriers to the field. In this proposal, we seek to extend and translate the robust pre-clinical data into clinical reality by demonstrating the safety and feasibility of hESC-CM transplantation. We will perform careful IND-enabling research in the first 3 years. Afterwards, our medical teams will initiate a phase 1 clinical trial involving 10 patients with end stage heart failure (ESHF). We will perform direct intramyocardial injection of hESC-CMs in ESHF patients undergoing left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation as a bridge toward orthotopic heart transplantation (OHT). After the patients have received matching donor hearts, the native recipient hearts will be explanted. This will provide us an opportunity to carefully assess the fate of these cells and to ensure safety before we can embark on a larger clinical trial in Years 5-10.
Progress Report: 
  • Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. This dismal survival rate is actually significantly worse than patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, stroke, and other debilitating diseases. Stem cell therapy may be a promising strategy for inducing myocardial regeneration via paracrine activation, prevention of cardiac apoptosis, and other mechanisms. Several studies have convincingly shown that human embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) and that these cells can be used to effectively improve cardiac function following myocardial infarction (MI). Over the past year, we have assembled a strong multi-disciplinary team and applied for the CIRM Disease Team Therapy proposal.

Preclinical Development and First-In-Human Testing of [REDACTED] in Advanced Heart Failure

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05434
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$106 239
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
This application seeks to bring to the clinic a new treatment for myocardial disease based on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) derived cardiomyocytes. hESC-cardiomyocytes have the unique potential to address the underlying cause of heart disease by repopulating areas of damaged myocardium (heart tissue) with viable cardiac cells. This therapeutic approach represents a potential breakthrough in heart disease treatment, serving one of the most intractable, largest, and most costly unmet clinical needs in the U.S. Currently available heart disease treatments have demonstrated ability to slow progression of the disease, but to date none can restore the key underlying defect in heart failure, a loss of contractile function. Cell therapy approaches have generated excitement for their unique potential to play a curative role in myocardial disease through the restoration of lost contractile and/or circulatory function. hESC-cardiomyocytes are unique amongst the cell therapy approaches in that they are a human cardiomyocyte (heart muscle cell) product; replacing damaged myocardium with viable heart cells which can integrate and form fully functional cardiac tissue. This approach has the potential to significantly halt or reverse cardiac functional decline. These benefits can significantly impact patient medication requirements and hospitalizations associated with ongoing cardiac decline, key drivers of the enormous health care costs associated with heart failure. The proposed scope of this project includes activities leading up to and including a regulatory filing with the FDA to initiate clinical testing of hESC-cardiomyocytes for the treatment of heart failure, as well as the enrollment and initial follow-up of a small cohort of patients in a first-in-human trial. The proposed product has completed extensive process development, product characterization, and preclinical (animal model studies) proof-of-concept studies to date. The scope of the proposed research includes: (i) performance of key preclinical safety and efficacy studies to enable entry to clinical testing (ii) manufacture of material for use in preclinical studies, development work, and clinical testing (iii) development and qualification of assays for product characterization, and (iv) preparation for and execution of initial clinical studies.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The proposed project has the potential to benefit the state of California through 1) providing improved medical outcomes for patients with heart disease, 2) increasing California’s leadership in the emerging field of stem cell research, and 3) preserving and creating high quality, high paying jobs for Californians. Heart disease is one of the most intractable, wide-spread, and fatal diseases in the U.S. More than 5.8 million Americans currently suffer from heart failure; close to 60% of heart failure patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. Although specific statistics are not available for California, they are likely similar to those nationwide, with incidence of more than 10 in 1000 individuals >65 years of age (AHA, 2010). Currently available heart disease therapies have demonstrated the ability to slow disease progression, but to date none can restore the key underlying defect leading to heart failure, a loss of cardiac contractile function. Cell therapy, an approach to regenerate or repair the damaged heart with new cells, addresses this fundamental need, and is considered one of the most important and promising frontiers for the treatment of heart disease. Although multiple other cell therapy products are currently being evaluated for the treatment of heart disease, human embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes have unique potential to address the underlying defect of loss of contractile activity in heart failure, by replacing scarred or damaged heart tissue with new, functional human heart cells to restore cardiac function. California has a history of leadership in biotechnology, and is emerging as a leader in the development of stem cell therapeutics. Cutting edge stem cell research, in many cases funded by CIRM, is already underway in academic research laboratories and biotechnology companies throughout the state. The proposed project has the potential to further increase California’s leadership in the field of stem cell therapeutics through the performance of the first clinical testing of an hESC-derived cardiac cell therapy. The applicant has been located in California since its inception, and currently employs nearly 200 full-time employees at its California headquarters with more than 50% of employees holding an advanced degree. These positions are highly skilled positions, offering competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits. The successful performance of the proposed project would enable significant additional jobs creation as the program progresses through more advanced clinical testing.

Phase I study of IM Injection of VEGF Producing MSC for the Treatment of Critical Limb Ischemia

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05423
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$76 861
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Critical limb ischemia (CLI) represents a significant unmet medical need without any approved medical therapies for patients who fail surgical or angioplasty procedures to restore blood flow to the lower leg. CLI affects 2 million people in the U.S. and is associated with an increased risk of leg amputation and death. Amputation rates in patients not suitable for surgery or angioplasty are reported to be up to 30-50% after 1 year. Patients who are not eligible for revascularization procedures are managed with palliative care, but would be candidates for the proposed phase I clinical trial. In an effort to combat CLI, prior and ongoing clinical trials that our group and others have conducted have evaluated direct injection of purified growth factors into the limb that has low blood flow. Some trials have tested plasmids that would produce the blood vessel growth factors for a short period of time. These therapies did show benefit in early stage clinical trials but were not significantly better than controls in Phase III (late stage) trials, probably due to the short duration of presence of the growth factors and their inability to spread to the areas most needed. Other clinical trials ongoing in our vascular center and others are testing the patient’s own stem cells, moved from the bone marrow to the damaged limb, and those studies are showing some benefit, although the final assessments are not yet completed. Stem cells can have benefit in limb ischemia because they can actively seek out areas of low oxygen and will produce some growth factors to try to encourage blood vessel growth. But in cases where the circulation needs very high levels of rescue, this strategy might not be enough. As an improved strategy we are combining the stem cell and growth factor approaches to make a more potent therapy. We have engineered human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) to produce high levels of the strong angiogenic agent VEGF for this novel approach (MSC/VEGF). We and others have documented over the past 20+ years that MSC are capable of sustained expression of growth factors, migrate into the areas of lowest oxygen in the tissues after injection, and wrap around the damaged or tiny blood vessels to secrete their factors where they are needed most. These MSC/VEGF cells are highly potent, safe and effective in our preclinical studies. These human stem cells designed to produce VEGF as “paramedic delivery vehicles armed with growth factor to administer” rapidly restored blood flow to the limbs of rodents who had zero circulation in one leg. With funding that could be potentially obtained through the proposed application we will follow the detailed steps to move this candidate therapy into clinical trials, and will initiate and complete an early phase clinical trial to test safety and potential efficacy of this product that is designed to save limbs from amputation.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) represents a significant unmet medical need without any curative therapies in its end stages, after even the best revascularization attempts using sophisticated catheters, stents, and bypass surgeries have failed. CLI affects over 2 million people in the US and the prevalence is increasing due to the aging of our population and the diabetes epidemic. In 2007, the treatment of diabetes and its complications in the USA generated $116 billion in direct costs; at least 33% of these costs were linked to the treatment of ischemic foot ulcers, associated with CLI. Once a patient develops CLI in a limb, the risk of needing amputation of the other limb is 50% after 6 years, with devastating consequences. Treatment costs are immense and lives are significantly shortened by this morbid disease. The symptoms associated with this very severe form of lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) are pain in the foot at rest, non- healing ulcers, limb/digital gangrene and delayed wound healing. The quality of life for those with CLI is extremely poor and reported to be similar to that of patients with end stage malignancy. Most patients with CLI will undergo repeat hospitalizations and surgical/endovascular procedures in an effort to preserve the limb, progress to immobility and need constant care. Unfortunately, the limb salvage efforts are often not effective enough, and despite multiple attempts at revascularization, the wounds still fail to heal. The final stage in 25% of cases is limb amputation, which is associated with a high mortality rate within 6 months. Amputation rates in patients not suitable for revascularization are reported to be up to 30-50% after 1 year. Fewer than half of all CLI patients achieve full mobility after an amputation and only one in four above-the-knee amputees will ever wear a prosthesis. Between 199– 1999, over 28,000 first time lower extremity bypass procedures were performed in California for CLI, and 29% of patients were admitted to the hospital for at least one subsequent bypass operation or revision procedure. The 5-year amputation free survival rate for this group of CLI patients from California was only 51.1%. The direct costs to California for the treatment of CLI and diabetic ischemic ulcers are substantial. The lost ability of no-option CLI patients to remain in the CA workforce, to support their families, and to pay taxes causes additional financial strain on the state’s economy. The goal of the proposed study is to develop and apply a safe and effective stem cell therapy to save limbs from amputation due to disorders of the vasculature that currently cannot be cured. The successful implementation of our planned therapies will significantly reduce the cost of healthcare in California and could bring people currently unable to work due to immobility back to the workforce and active lifestyles, with a significantly improved quality of life.
Progress Report: 
  • A) Pre-clinical: The remainder of the IND-enabling studies for the development candidate MSC/VEGF were designed in consultation with Biologics Consulting Group (BCG). The project will begin with the IND-enabling phase and transition through regulatory approvals and through the Phase I clinical trial. The project has a Preclinical unit under the leadership of co-PI Dr. Jan Nolta, and a Clinical unit under the leadership of PI Dr. John Laird. The two units are well integrated, since the team has been meeting frequently since 2008 to plan the testing of the current and prior development candidates. The team is currently performing a Phase I stem cell therapy to test a medical device, as the result of those interactions. During the planning phase we met weekly, and worked continually on the MSC/VEGF project.
  • Co-PI Jan Nolta, Ph.D. is Scientific Director of the UC Davis/CIRM GMP Facility. Dr. Nolta’s team is expert in translational applications of gene-modified MSC at the level of GLP. The Pre-Clinical team is performing all IND-enabling studies for MSC/VEGF, and will manufacture and qualify the MSC and MSC/VEGF products in the GMP facility at UC Davis that is directed by Dr. Bauer (CMC lead). These studies are ongoing and we have been advised by BCG consulting lead Andra Miller, who was formerly Gene Therapy Group Leader at the FDA, CBER, Division of Cell and Gene Therapies. BCG is assisting with preIND preparation, through the planning grant period funding for this project.
  • B) Clinical: The Clinical team is led by PI John Laird MD, Medical Director of the UCD Vascular Center, who is an internationally recognized leader in the field of peripheral vascular interventions. He is the PI for multicenter and multinational trials to evaluate novel treatments for peripheral arterial disease. He has led clinical trials investigating the use of FGF-1, Hif, and VEGF to treat claudication and CLI. Christy Pifer is the experienced Project Manager who will guide the entire process. She is the Vascular Center’s clinical trials manager and orchestrates accrual of patients to all trials, including one ongoing Phase I stem cell clinical trial and another pending, as well as a Phase III gene transfer clinical trial. Ms. Pifer has coordinated over 100 Phase I, II and III clinical trials over the past 12 years. The planning grant allowed Ms. Pifer to contribute significant amounts of time to conducting meetings and designing the clinical study with Dr. Laird and other Vascular Center faculty. We had weekly meetings with the clinical and translational team members to finalize the CIRM Disease Team Grant Application.
  • C) Consultant meetings conducted through the Planning Grant Mechanism:
  • - Paragon was chosen as our CRO for the proposed trial. We had on-site meetings and conference calls with Paragon during the planning phase.
  • - Our consultant Dr. Andy Balber, was a Founder, and for ten years served as the CSO of Aldagen, Inc. At Aldagen since 2000, he helped the Company establish and maintain a clinical program during which patients were treated with stem cell products under seven cleared INDs. Dr. Balber has assisted our team with preparation of the preIND application, and will assist with further dialog with the FDA. We met frequently through conference call and email, and he edited our Disease Teams Grant proposal.
  • - Andra Miller, Director, Cell and Gene Therapy, Biologics Consulting Group, Inc, is a consultant for the development of regulatory strategies to facilitate rapid development of our cell and gene based therap. She and her team are providing support for CMC submission, pre-IND, RAC and IND preparation, Phase I product development strategies and assessment of cGLP compliance. Dr. Miller was Gene Therapy Group Leader for the Division of Cellular and Gene Therapies, Office of Therapeutics of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, for ten years. We met through conference call and email during the Planning Grant period and she edited our Disease Teams grant application.
  • Partner PI group: Dr. Herrera from the Reina Sofia Hospital, Cordoba University, Andalucia, is our partner, identified through the planning grant phase. Her team is currently performing clinical trials of MSC injections for CLI using intra-arterial administration. Now, using the strong development candidate MSC/VEGF, the two teams will each embark upon parallel clinical trials in their respective countries, each capitalizing on their own team’s stem cell delivery strengths to patients at the same stage of no option CLI. The two teams will use similar inclusion and exclusion criteria and will work closely together, if funded, to develop Phase I trials that are highly similar except for the route of injection. We had Skype and conference call meetings with interpreters, and frequent email contact during the Planning Grant phase. This partnership would not have been possible without the CIRM Planning Award.

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