Former Quadriplegic Enrolled in Asterias’ SCiStar Study to Throw Ceremonial First Pitch at Major League Baseball Game
FREMONT, Calif., Aug. 08, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. (NYSE MKT:AST) today announced that Lucas Lindner of Eden, Wisconsin, a quadriplegic patient who has regained functional use of his fingers, hands and lower arms after receiving the company’s investigational stem cell therapy for complete cervical spinal cord injury, AST-OPC1, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch of a Major League Baseball game in Milwaukee on Sunday, August 13th.
“Lucas has been an inspiration to our employees at Asterias who have worked so hard to bring AST-OPC1 to where it is now being administered to patients in a clinical trial, as well as to thousands of others who have seen his story on the internet or on television,” said Mike Mulroy, President and CEO of Asterias. “We are excited about the progress he has made since receiving 10 million cells of AST-OPC1 and look forward to cheering him on as he takes the field before the game.”
Lucas suffered a severe spinal cord injury when his car swerved off the road into a tree to avoid hitting a deer in May 2016. He was flown to the hospital and received immediate surgery to stabilize his spine. He was left without the ability to move his limbs below the neck and upper arms.
In June 2016, Lucas received 10 million cells of AST-OPC1 in Asterias’ ongoing SCiStar Phase 1/2a clinical study by Shekar N. Kurpad, MD, PhD, Sanford J. Larson Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Director of the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Spinal Cord Injury Program. Lucas has since regained the ability to move triceps, hands and fingers.
As of his latest follow-up visit (12 months following administration of AST-OPC1), Lucas has achieved two motor levels of improvement on one side of his body. As suggested by existing research, patients with severe spinal cord injuries that show two motor levels of improvement on at least one side may regain the ability to perform daily activities such as feeding, dressing and bathing, which significantly reduces the overall level of daily assistance needed for the patient and associated healthcare costs.
"Throwing out the first pitch at a Major League game is not something I could have imagined a year ago,” said Lucas. “I want to show everyone that there is hope that spinal cord injury patients can regain function. I am looking forward to going back to school, pursuing my dream of working in the IT field and living independently someday."
“When I first met Lucas about a year ago, he had some use of his arms and little to no use of his hands or fingers,” said Dr. Kurpad. “The fact that he is throwing out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game is amazing. It illustrates the strides medical science is starting to make in helping paralyzed patients regain useful function. I'm very encouraged by the early results we are seeing with AST-OPC1 and am grateful for the improvement Lucas has made.”
Asterias has now completed enrollment and dosing in four of the five planned SCiStar study cohorts and enrolled twenty-two patients in the SCiStar study. Twenty-seven patients have been administered AST-OPC1 after including patients from a previous Phase 1 safety trial and results-to-date continue to support the safety of AST-OPC1. In June 2017, Asterias reported 9 month data from the AIS-A 10 million cell cohort that showed improvements in arm, hand and finger function observed at 3-months and 6-months following administration of AST-OPC1 were confirmed and in some patients further increased at 9-months. The company intends to complete enrollment of the entire SCiStar study later this year, with multiple safety and efficacy readouts anticipated during the remainder of 2017 and 2018.
The SCiStar trial is an open-label, single-arm trial testing three sequential escalating doses of AST-OPC1 administered at up to 20 million AST-OPC1 cells in as many as 35 patients with subacute, C-4 to C-7, motor complete (AIS-A or AIS-B) cervical SCI. These individuals have essentially lost all movement below their injury site and experience severe paralysis of the upper and lower limbs. AIS-A patients have lost all motor and sensory function below their injury site, while AIS-B patients have lost all motor function but may have retained some minimal sensory function below their injury site. AST-OPC1 is being administered 21 to 42 days post-injury. Patients will be followed by neurological exams and imaging procedures to assess the safety and activity of the product.
The study is being conducted at eight centers in the U.S. and the company plans to increase this to up to 12 sites to accommodate the expanded patient enrollment. Clinical sites involved in the study include the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Shepherd Medical Center in Atlanta, University of Southern California (USC) jointly with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, Indiana University, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose jointly with Stanford University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in partnership with Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, in Philadelphia, and UC San Diego Health in San Diego.
Asterias has received a Strategic Partnerships Award grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which provides $14.3 million of non-dilutive funding for the Phase 1/2a clinical trial and other product development activities for AST-OPC1.
AST-OPC1, an oligodendrocyte progenitor population derived from human embryonic stem cells originally isolated in 1998, has been shown in animals and in vitro to have three potentially reparative functions that address the complex pathologies observed at the injury site of a spinal cord injury. These activities of AST-OPC1 include production of neurotrophic factors, stimulation of vascularization, and induction of remyelination of denuded axons, all of which are critical for survival, regrowth and conduction of nerve impulses through axons at the injury site. In preclinical animal testing, AST-OPC1 administration led to remyelination of axons, improved hindlimb and forelimb locomotor function, dramatic reductions in injury-related cavitation and significant preservation of myelinated axons traversing the injury site.
In a previous Phase 1 clinical trial, five patients with neurologically complete, thoracic spinal cord injury were administered two million AST-OPC1 cells at the spinal cord injury site 7-14 days post-injury. Based on the results of this study, Asterias received clearance from FDA to progress testing of AST-OPC1 to patients with cervical spine injuries in the current SCiStar study, which represents the first targeted population for registration trials. Asterias has completed enrollment in the first four cohorts of this study. Results to date have continued to support the safety of AST-OPC1. Additionally, Asterias has recently reported results suggesting reduced cavitation and improved motor function in patients administered AST-OPC1 in the SCiStar trial.
About Asterias Biotherapeutics
Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company pioneering the field of regenerative medicine. The company's proprietary cell therapy programs are based on its pluripotent stem cell and immunotherapy platform technologies. Asterias is presently focused on advancing three clinical-stage programs which have the potential to address areas of very high unmet medical need in the fields of neurology and oncology. AST-OPC1 (oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) is currently in a Phase 1/2a dose escalation clinical trial in spinal cord injury. AST-VAC1 (antigen-presenting autologous dendritic cells) is undergoing continuing development by Asterias based on promising efficacy and safety data from a Phase 2 study in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), with current efforts focused on streamlining and modernizing the manufacturing process. AST-VAC2 (antigen-presenting allogeneic dendritic cells) represents a second generation, allogeneic cancer immunotherapy. The company's research partner, Cancer Research UK, plans to begin a Phase 1/2a clinical trial of AST-VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer in 2017. Additional information about Asterias can be found at www.asteriasbiotherapeutics.com.
Statements pertaining to future financial and/or operating and/or clinical research results, future growth in research, technology, clinical development, and potential opportunities for Asterias, along with other statements about the future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans, or prospects expressed by management constitute forward-looking statements. Any statements that are not historical fact (including, but not limited to statements that contain words such as "will," "believes," "plans," "anticipates," "expects," "estimates") should also be considered to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in the development and/or commercialization of potential products, uncertainty in the results of clinical trials or regulatory approvals, need and ability to obtain future capital, and maintenance of intellectual property rights. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements and as such should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect the businesses of Asterias, particularly those mentioned in the cautionary statements found in Asterias' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Asterias disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.