Ireland's first major effort in stem cell research is getting off the ground at the National University of Ireland (Galway). The National Center for Biomedical Engineering Science at the college has secured EUR 15 million from Science Foundation Ireland and another EUR 4 million from industry partners to establish the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), which plans to develop approaches to treating vascular disease and arthritis based on genetically modifying adult stem cells.

"We plan to combine the two technologies to deliver genes to stem cells in order to augment their properties," REMIDI director Tim O'Brien said. The center will study genes associated with stem cell properties, such as proliferation, differentiation and directional migration, with a view to boosting the therapeutic potential of stem cells via genetic manipulation.

Industry partners Medtronic (Minneapolis, Minnesota), whose vascular division already has a manufacturing and research and development presence in Galway, and arthritis specialist ChondroGene Ltd. (Toronto, Ontario) will help to devise and direct the research program, O'Brien said.

O'Brien returned to Ireland in 2001 to become professor of medicine at the National University of Ireland, having previously worked at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota).

Taxus OK'd for reimbursement in France

Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts) has received reimbursement approval from the French government for its Taxus Express2 paclitaxel-eluting coronary stent system. The approval will enable patients to be treated with the Taxus system in private clinics and hospitals. Taxus was previously available in France primarily through public hospitals.

Boston Sci said the product is available for immediate shipment to private facilities.

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver, British Columbia) provides the paclitaxel for the stent system under a license granted to Boston Scientific.

Boston Scientific said France is the second-largest market in Europe for coronary stents, with about 150,000 stents implanted annually. Of that figure, 55% are implanted in private clinics and hospitals and 45% in public hospitals.

The Taxus Express2 system was launched in Europe and other international markets in February 2003, and the company has said it is the leader in those markets today.