Swiss-based drug maker Novartis has entered into an agreement with Regenerex LLC to gain access to stem cell technology that may help kidney transplant patients avoid taking anti-rejection medicine for life.
The two companies, through an exclusive licensing deal, will work together primarily on research in this area.
Regenerex, a start-up biotechnology company based in Louisville, Kentucky, previously developed technology that enabled five out of eight kidney transplant patients to stop taking about a dozen pills every day to suppress their immune systems.
Medication needs to be taken by transplant patients to stop rejection of the new kidney and to stop the new kidney attacking the patient’s body tissue. However, the pills can damage the transplant and cause diabetes, infections, heart disease and cancer.
Regenerex’s technology may also be used in several inherited metabolic diseases such as sickle cell anaemia or metachromatic leukodystrophy, which have high unmet needs.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals global head of development Dr Timothy Wright said the company was excited to announce the agreement.
"Thirty years ago, Novartis developed ciclosporin, which changed transplantation treatment paradigms and enabled countless lives to be saved.
"Now, this collaboration, along with our internal cell therapy assets, has the potential to transform medicine once again through innovation," he added.
Last year, Novartis agreed to fund a $20m research centre at the University of Pennsylvania in a deal to gain technology that uses manipulated immune-system cells to fight cancer.
Caption: Novartis’s headquarters in Basel. Photo: courtesy of -Andrew-.