ISCO.OB announced today that it had entered into a strategic alliance with The Automation Partnership (NYSE:TAP) to automate and scale up the production of stem cell-derived human corneal tissue. The alliance has been formed to create instrumentation for ISCO.OB partners and affiliates to produce development and commercial volumes of donor tissue for cornea transplantation and to reduce the use of animals and animal eyes in safety testing of drugs, chemicals and consumer products.
Cornea-related loss or reduction of vision can be caused by physical injury, infections and degenerative diseases. In cases where cornea replacement is indicated, current medical practice typically involves a one-two hour outpatient procedure under local anesthesia using full or partial corneas from healthy human cadavers. 10 million people worldwide are candidates for such treatment, primarily in Asia and Europe where there is significant quantitative and qualitative shortage of human cornea donation.
Global efforts are underway to transition from the use of live animals and excised animal eyes to test drugs, chemicals and consumer products. In the US, the NIH and the EPA have launched a 5 year program dedicated to finding new, non-animal technologies for toxicity testing of chemical compounds.
ISCO.OB has discovered and filed for patents on a cell culture process for the synthesis of standardized, human, corneal tissue using stem cells. Histology, permeability and optical testing has demonstrated compatibility with natural corneas. Efforts are ongoing to further characterize this tissue and standardize and scale up its synthesis. Automation is necessary to produce sufficient, reproducible tissue for development and commercialization of the therapeutic and toxicity testing applications.