BioTime, a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing products addressing degenerative diseases, has been awarded a grant of up to $1.56 million from the Small Business Innovation Research program of the NIH. The grant provides funding to further develop BioTime’s innovative, next generation vision restoration program for more advanced retinal diseases and injuries, which severely impact the quality of life for millions of people with no treatment option. This initiative aims at improving vision in people affected by blindness, whether caused by retinal injuries, age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or other causes.
“This grant is a significant validation of our vision restoration program from the NIH, which funds research and development that they believe has a strong potential for technology commercialization,” said Francois Binette, Ph.D., Head of Global Development at BioTime. “At BioTime, we are leveraging our expertise to develop a rich pipeline of cell therapy products for ophthalmology. We remain focused on working with various institutions to support these activities through important non-dilutive funding like this grant.”
BioTime scientists have grown a piece of 3-dimensional (3-D) retinal tissue using the company’s proprietary pluripotent cell technology platform. The 3-D retinal tissue contains all the cell types that comprise the human retina, including retinal pigment epithelium cells, photoreceptors and ganglion cells. Data presented at ARVO demonstrates that BioTime’s 3-D retinal tissue closely resembles a developing human retina. The technology may ultimately be used to repair and restore sections of degenerated retinal tissue to improve vision caused by retinal degeneration and traumatic injury. The company’s 3-D retinal tissue technology may address the unmet need of implementing a retinal restoration strategy to address severe retinal degenerative diseases, with a mutation-free retinal tissue produced in a strictly controlled laboratory setting.
This vision restoration program will be a collaborative effort led by BioTime’s Principal Investigator Igor O. Nasonkin Ph.D., with Dr. Simon Petersen-Jones, Michigan State University (MSU) and Dr. Magdalene Seiler, University of California, Irvine (UCI). Dr. Petersen-Jones is the Myers-Dunlap Endowed Chair in Canine Health in the department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at MSU and is a board certified veterinary surgeon. Dr. Petersen-Jones specializes in ophthalmology and has characterized numerous large-eye animal models that will play an essential role in demonstrating the feasibility and utility of BioTime’s vision restoration therapies. Dr. Seiler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI’s School of Medicine and has developed a well characterized small animal model for assessing structure/function of subretinal tissue transplantation.