Oscine Therapeutics is a newcomer to the stem cell sector, a private biotech company exploring mechanisms for treating neurodegenerative disorders through the use of replacing lost or damaged glia cells. The company is based the renowned research of Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine.
The focus of Dr. Goldman’s research has been to manipulate the chemical signaling of pluripotent stem cell types, including embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), to create healthy glia cells.
Glia are non-neuronal cells within the human central nervous system (CNS) that support neurons through several important functions. First, glia structurally support neurons. Second, they supply neurons with critical nutrients and oxygen. Third, they insulate neurons, and finally, they act as local “regulators” by fighting disease causing pathogens within the brain and removing dead neurons.
Funding for Oscine Therapeutics
In a June 10, 2019, announcement, Oscine announced that the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has received a “significant multi-year investment to support both research and development of cell-based therapies for neurological disorders” and its “funding represents the largest-ever investment in a URMC start-up company.”
In January 2019, Sana Biotechnology was founded by former Juno Therapeutics executives Hans Bishop and Steve Harr, among other all-star executives. With operations in Seattle, WA, Cambridge, MA and San Francisco, CA, the company is focused on creating engineered cells as medicines for patients.
The company is a spin-out from Flagship Pioneering and is backed by notable investors that include ARCH Venture Partners & F-Prime Capital. The earliest public mention of the Sana Biotechnology is a trademark application filed August 2018, although it had likely been assembling its leadership team and IP portfolio prior to that time.
Sana Biotechnology’s Investment into Oscine
While the terms of Sana Biotechnology’s investment in Oscine are unknown, it is known that the funding will support R&D activity at Oscine, with the goal of commercializing cell-based therapeutics for myelin-related disorders and neurodegenerative disorders.
As stated on Oscine’s website:
“Oscine is pioneering the development of a robust Glia Progenitor Cell platform that is applicable to a variety of cell sources including embryonic stem cells (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Initially Oscine will progress a hESC based therapeutic candidate into the clinic …. in 2020, while continuing the assessment of iPSC derived products which in the current regulatory environment are expected to face longer time to clinic and potential higher risk of tumor generation.”
Oscine’s Manufacturing (CMO) Partner
Oscine currently uses Waisman Biomanufacturing as its CMO partner. Because of its association with the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), Waisman Biomanufacturing is an experienced manufacturer for many types of biotherapeutics, including stem cells, cell therapies, and gene therapies.
Of importance to Oscine is that Waisman has clinical production experience with both human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).
As stated by Oscine, “The starting material for the our cell product will be cGMP-grade ESC or cGMP-grade iPSC and all raw materials and reagents are of the highest grade available.”