April 27, 2012

Athersys Announces Meeting With FDA to Discuss Advancing Clinical Development of MultiStem(R) for the Prevention of GvHD

Company Developing Innovative Adult Stem Cell Therapy to Address Serious Unmet Medical Need Resulting From Treatment for Leukemia and Related Conditions

CLEVELAND, April 27, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Athersys, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATHX) announced today that a scheduled meeting with the FDA was held to discuss the results of its recently completed clinical trial involving the administration of MultiStem to patients being treated for leukemia or other conditions that place them at risk of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD). Additionally, the Company discussed with the FDA its proposed plans for the next phase of clinical development, answered questions and obtained feedback on a number of specific issues related to the potential study parameters and proposed trial design. The Company intends to provide further information about its plans as it finalizes development of a detailed trial and statistical plan and receives additional FDA feedback.

"This was an important first step in defining the next phase of clinical development for this program. We sincerely appreciate the collaborative approach the FDA is taking regarding the development of innovative new therapies designed to address serious conditions and areas of significant unmet medical need," commented Gil Van Bokkelen, Chairman & CEO at Athersys. "We look forward to getting additional input from the agency as we work with them to finalize the study design."

About Graft versus Host Disease

Leukemia and certain related conditions are often treated with radiation and chemotherapy to eliminate cancerous or diseased cells, but this process also severely compromises the native blood forming and immune system in the patient, leaving them susceptible to infection and other complications. To address this, a patient will often receive an allogeneic HSCT, whereby following radiation and chemotherapy treatment a patient's blood stem cells are replaced with a transplant of hematopoietic stem cells obtained from the bone marrow or peripheral blood of a healthy donor. Donors may be related or unrelated to the patient, but are matched according to tissue type in order to minimize the potential for GvHD, where donor immune cells transplanted with the donor HSCT attack tissue and organs of the patient. Following the transplant, the patient will often remain hospitalized in specialized units until successful engraftment provides a sufficiently functional immune system. 

According to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, each year there are approximately 25,000 allogeneic HSCT performed globally, although this number is projected to increase due to the anticipated growth in incidence of hematologic malignancies associated with an aging population. While this treatment approach can be an effective medical therapy for these types of cancer, it is often associated with substantial tissue damage and side effects. GvHD is a frequent complication associated with allogeneic HSCT, affecting approximately half or more of transplant recipients, and advanced GvHD can be severely debilitating or even fatal. Several factors affect a patient's likelihood of having GvHD and GvHD severity, including the treatment protocol used, the degree of tissue match between donor and recipient (with lower GvHD rates and severity associated with related donors and better tissue matches), and the condition of the patient among other factors.

About MultiStem

MultiStem® cell therapy is a patented product that has shown the ability to promote tissue repair and healing in a variety of ways, such as through the production of multiple therapeutic factors produced in response to signals of inflammation and tissue damage. MultiStem has demonstrated therapeutic potential for the treatment of inflammatory and immune disorders, neurological conditions, and cardiovascular disease, as well as other areas, and represents a unique "off-the-shelf" stem cell product that can be manufactured in a scalable manner, may be stored for years in frozen form, and is administered without tissue matching or the need for immune suppression. The product is extensively characterized for safety, consistency and potency. Athersys has forged strategic partnerships with Pfizer Inc. to develop MultiStem for inflammatory bowel disease and with RTI Biologics, Inc. to develop cell therapy for use with a bone allograft product in the orthopedic market.

About Athersys

Athersys is a clinical stage biotechnology company engaged in the discovery and development of therapeutic product candidates designed to extend and enhance the quality of human life. The Company is developing its MultiStem® cell therapy product, a patented, adult-derived "off-the-shelf" stem cell product platform for disease indications in the cardiovascular, neurological, inflammatory and immune disease areas. The Company currently has several clinical stage programs involving MultiStem, including for treating inflammatory bowel disease, ischemic stroke, damage caused by myocardial infarction, and for the prevention of graft versus host disease. Athersys has also developed a diverse portfolio that includes other technologies and product development opportunities, and has forged strategic partnerships and collaborations with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as world-renowned research institutions in the United States and Europe to further develop its platform and products. More information is available at www.athersys.com.

The Athersys, Inc. logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=4548.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that involve risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements relate to, among other things, the expected timetable for development of our product candidates, our growth strategy, and our future financial performance, including our operations, economic performance, financial condition, prospects, and other future events. We have attempted to identify forward-looking statements by using such words as "anticipates," "believes," "can," "continue," "could," "estimates," "expects," "intends," "may," "plans," "potential," "should," "suggest," "will," or other similar expressions. These forward-looking statements are only predictions and are largely based on our current expectations. A number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors could affect the accuracy of these statements. Some of the more significant known risks that we face that could cause actual results to differ materially from those implied by forward-looking statements are the risks and uncertainties inherent in the process of discovering, developing, and commercializing products that are safe and effective for use as human therapeutics, such as the uncertainty regarding market acceptance of our product candidates and our ability to generate revenues, including MultiStem for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, acute myocardial infarction, stroke and other disease indications, including lysosomal storage disorders, and the prevention of graft-versus-host disease. These risks may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to differ materially from any future results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Other important factors to consider in evaluating our forward-looking statements include: our ability to raise additional capital; final results from our MultiStem clinical trials; the possibility of delays in, adverse results of, and excessive costs of the development process; our ability to successfully initiate and complete clinical trials and obtain regulatory approval of our products, including MultiStem; changes in external market factors; changes in our industry's overall performance; changes in our business strategy; our ability to protect our intellectual property portfolio; our possible inability to realize commercially valuable discoveries in our collaborations with pharmaceutical and other biotechnology companies; our ability to meet milestones under our collaboration agreements; our collaborators' ability to continue to fulfill their obligations under the terms of our collaboration agreements; our possible inability to execute our strategy due to changes in our industry or the economy generally; changes in productivity and reliability of suppliers; and the success of our competitors and the emergence of new competitors. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements contained in this press release, and we undertake no obligation to publicly update forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

CONTACT: William (B.J.) Lehmann, J.D.

         President and Chief Operating Officer

         Tel: (216) 431-9900

         bjlehmann@athersys.com



         Investor Relations:

         Lisa M. Wilson

         In-Site Communications

         Tel: (917) 543-9932

         lwilson@insitecony.com

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Source: Athersys, Inc.

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