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Kyoto start-up readies commercialization of mass-produced platelets from iPS cells

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 9th, 2017

A Kyoto-based medical start-up based on technology developed at two of Japan’s leading universities said Monday it intends to commercialize what it believes to be the world’s first method for mass-producing blood platelets from induced pluripotent stem cells, better known as iPS cells, opening new possibilities for controlling bleeding after accidents or surgeries.

Megakaryon Corp. teamed up with a group of 15 other Japanese companies for the iPS cell project, including the Otsuka Pharmaceutical group and Sysmex Corp., to develop a cheaper method to mass produce platelets.

Genjiro Miwa, CEO and founder of Megakaryon, said the consortium plans to get approval to sell and distribute the product in Japan and the United States by 2020 and hopes to expand its use in other nations. Clinical trials in Japan and the U.S. are expected to begin next year.

Speaking to The Japan Times, Miwa said that around 800,000 platelet transfusions take place annually in Japan, generating a market worth around $11 billion, and the U.S. market is around three times that size. Once the new technology gets the green light, the consortium hopes to produce iPS-derived platelets to meet roughly 10% of that annual requirement, Miwa said.

The company said Japan’s aging population and low birth rate have raised concerns about the long-term supply of platelets provided through donations alone. “Our aim is to fill the expected shortage of platelets,” Miwa said.

Platelets play an important role in the blood-clotting process. While donated platelets have a shelf life of only four days, Megakaryon says those made from iPS cells can be stored for two weeks. It says the technology will also lead to cheaper production of platelets.

The new technology is based on techniques developed by Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi of the University of Tokyo and Professor Koji Eto of Kyoto University. Megakaryon, founded in 2011, obtained the exclusive rights to the patents on the technologies.

Miwa said his company is already capable of producing enough platelets to help several patients each week, but that he hopes to boost output by a factor of 1,000 through partnerships with major pharmaceutical firms and other companies.

Source: The Japan Times

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