A Medical Device Daily

StemCells (Palo Alto, California) said it has entered a collaboration with Universitè Catholique de Louvain (UCL; Louvain, Belgium) and the UCL-affiliated St. Luc Hospital to further develop the company’s human liver engrafting cells (hLEC) as a potential cell-based liver therapy.

The company describes the hLEC as “a population of cells that are isolated from primary human tissue, engraft in vivo in animals and produce important human proteins that are missing or deficient in liver disease.”

Under the collaboration, the parties will use UCL-St. Luc Hospital’s recently established GMP cell-processing facility to optimize procedures to derive hLEC and thereafter to initiate a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of the hLEC as a treatment for children with liver-based metabolic disorders.

The collaboration will be conducted with Etienne Sokal, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and chairman of the department of pediatrics at UCL, and director of the pediatric clinical investigation center, the pediatric liver unit and the Pediatric Research Institute, all at St. Luc Hospital.

According to StemCells, Sokal and the liver transplant program at UCL-St. Luc Hospital are among the leaders in researching and developing the transplantation of hepatocyte preparations, an alternative to whole organ liver transplants. In addition, UCL-St. Luc has one of the leading pediatric liver transplant programs in Europe, with more than 700 children transplanted since 1984.

“We are very excited to be working with Professor Etienne Sokal, one of the true pioneers in this developing field,” said Maria Millan, MD, vice president and head of the liver program at StemCells. “UCL-St. Luc Hospital has an excellent reputation, a strong transplant program, and the vision to establish a GMP facility dedicated to the isolation and preparation of cells for transplantation.”

She added, “This relationship creates a convergence of complementary skills and interests which, we believe, advances our mission to develop novel treatments for liver disease.”

“Children suffering from liver-based metabolic disorders are at risk for life-threatening metabolic crisis and subsequent irreversible damage to the brain or other organs, with deeply affected quality of life,” Sokal said. “Liver cell transplantation is a promising treatment alternative, well tolerated and easy to conduct.”

He said that, based on StemCells’ pre-clinical data demonstrating that the hLEC have more consistent biochemical and metabolic activity compared to hepatocytes, I expect the hLEC will improve the current results of liver cell transplantation [and] will advance our efforts to treat liver diseases and bring cell transplantation to clinical practice.”

Martin McGlynn, president and CEO of StemCells, said the company anticipates initiating a clinical trial with the hLEC in 2008.

Atlantis bought by Astra Tech for $71 million

Atlantis Components (Cambridge, Massachusetts), a manufacturer of dental implants, reported that it has been acquired by Astra Tech (M lndal, Sweden), a subsidiary of AstraZeneca (London), for $71 million in cash.

Atlantis said that the purchases will increase its market penetration of the dental market while further enhancing Astra Tech’s ability to provide comprehensive solutions including digital dentistry needs.

Bob Stockard, CEO of Atlantis, said, “Astra Tech, with its focus on research and its global sales organization is the perfect owner for Atlantis as it offers the ideal environment within which to further develop Atlantis’ unique technology as well as grow the business.”

Peter Selley, president/CEO of Astra Tech Group, said, “We are committed to strengthening our position in North America and ... we will now be able to introduce the latest digital CAD/CAM technology in Europe. Atlantis produces a family of patient-specific abutment products for the dental implant market. These products are designed to work as a system to greatly simplify the process of restoring the tooth function by the clinician while providing the highest esthetics currently available.”

Selley said: “We will develop a Center of Excellence in the U.S. for esthetics, based on Atlantis’ unique know-how and technology in order to offer advanced digital dentistry solutions.”

Atlantis Abutments are made with a process ensuring abutment margins, combining 3-D optical scanning, advanced software-based expert systems, and sophisticated manufacturing methods to deliver patient-specific abutments requiring no hand-modification, according to the company. It says it produces custom dental implant abutments in the most materials and for more implant systems than any other manufacturer of patient-specific abutments.

Astra Tech said it will begin producing Atlantis’ CAD/CAM abutments for the European market at its headquarters location in 2008, with those sales handled by Astra Tech’s sales organization.

Atlantis says that Atlantis Abutments were the first CAD/CAM designed and milled patient-specific abutments available to dental practitioners.

It says that in the past few years it has grown at more than 40% a year while the global market for dental implants is showing an average of 18%-20% growth. It puts the U.S. market for dental implants at nearly $700 million, growing close to 20% each year for the coming years and reach an estimated $1.2 billion in 2011. More than 1.5 million dental implants were placed in the U.S. last year.

“Through the acquisition of Atlantis, we can offer all dentists working with implants an optimal solution, in terms of both esthetics and function,” said Scott Root, president/CEO of Astra Tech’s U.S. unit, Astra Tech, North America (Waltham, Massachusetts).

Astra Tech, with 1,900 employees worldwide, manufactures dental implants and advanced disposable medical equipment healthcare and is represented by 16 subsidiaries and local partners. Since 2004, the North American subsidiary has grown from 60 to over 200 employees.

Astra Tech’s North American urology operations are in Torrance, California.

Irish insurer in accord with Flagship

Flagship Global Health (New York), which provides access to doctors on a global basis, reported an inter-consultation agreement with Quinn-healthcare of Ireland to provide access to second-opinion services for its 460,000 policyholders. The Quinn Group purchased BUPA Ireland in 2007 and is a provider of healthcare insurance.

“One of the ways to offer [better] customer service is by teaming up with Flagship for our Consultant Connections benefit, which provides second-opinion services by the world’s leading physicians for our members who have serious medical issues,” said Donal Clancy, general manager of Quinn-healthcare.

Flagship will provide Quinn-healthcare policyholders with differential diagnoses for referrals to Flagship’s list of physicians.

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