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GE Expands Geron Corp. Stem Cell Licensing Deal

Stem Cells (NSF)

Stem Cells (National Science Foundation)

GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric Company, is expanding its licensing agreement with biopharmaceutical company Geron Corp. in Menlo Park, California for stem cell tests used in drug discovery. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In 2009, Geron agreed to license its human embryonic stem cells technology to GE Healthcare for the creation of tools to test for toxicity in drug compound candidates. Under that agreement, GE Healthcare and Geron collaborate on research using human embryonic stem cells from the lines registered with National Institutes of Health.

Cells derived from human embryonic stem cells resemble their counterparts in the body, and can help predict a new drug’s pharmacological effects. Heart and liver toxicity are common causes of drug safety problems that can lead to the withdrawal of drugs during development. Cell models derived from stem cells, in particular those for the liver and heart, can perform metabolism, biodistribution, and toxicity testing of drug candidates.

As a result of the 2009 agreement, GE Healthcare introduced its Cytiva line of human heart cells called cardiomyocytes derived from stem cells, used by pharmaceutical companies to identify drug candidates with toxic effects in the lab, before submitting the new drugs for human clinical trials. GE Healthcare plans to develop a similar line of Cytiva hepatocytes, or liver cells, for toxicity testing.

Under the new licensing agreement, Geron will license to GE Healthcare exclusive global rights to Geron’s intellectual property to develop and market cellular tools derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, which are artificially derived from adult rather than embryonic stem cells. The 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology was awarded to medical researchers John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their discoveries of the ability of adult cells to be reprogrammed into cells with stem cell capabilities.

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