News & Events

Vala awarded stem cell grant

Published 11 December, 2008

Irvine, California, December, 10, 2008 - Vala Sciences was awarded funding by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state stem cell agency, as one of 23 grants to 18 institutions aimed at generating new tools and technologies to overcome barriers in stem cell research. At a meeting of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, the 29-member governing board for CIRM, members voted to approve more than $19 million in funding for this round of grants.

The Tools and Technologies Awards are intended to support work that either creates new reagents and methods for stem cell research, or that scales up existing technologies-all designed to accelerate the development of critical therapies for patients with chronic disease or injury.

"These awards represent the entry of the biotechnology industry into CIRM-funded initiatives to accelerate progress," said Alan Trounson, President of CIRM.

This project focuses on the development of new and improved techniques for deriving homogenous, mature, and functionally relevant cardiomyocyte populations from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Vala's plan is to generate transgenic hESC lines expressing a fluorescent protein under the control of promoters or enhancers which are associated with specific cardiomyocyte (CM) subtypes. The analysis of temporal expression and persistence of these reporters will allow identification of key steps and stages of CM subtype differentiation. This information, together with the generation of antibiotic-resistant hESC lines, will facilitate isolation of cardiomyocyte subtype populations. Finally, the resulting cells will be characterized by analysis of their electrophysiological properties, and the role of extra-cardiac cells in the differentiation and maturation process will be investigated.

This project will be executed in close collaboration with laboratories at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research led by Vincent Chen and Mark Mercola. This is the first stem-cell devoted research in California aimed at optimizing the selection, identification and induction of maturation of large numbers of a specific phenotype of hESC-CMs in order to develop a safe cell-based therapy. "Our approach will offer new insights as to what defines the functional maturity of cardiac myocytes, as well as provide a powerful strategy for isolating and scaling up their production," said Jeffrey H. Price, Vala's founder and CEO. Automated fluorescence image cytometry tools developed by Vala and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, which measure the electrophysiological properties (NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant R42HL086076 "Live cell and HCS assays to quantify production of cardiomyocytes from stem cells"), will enable detailed characterization of maturity. Achieving the ability to produce large numbers of cardiac cells of particular maturities and types may make California the first state to have a safe and effective cell-based therapy for myocardial repair with a mature and homogeneous population of hESC-CMs.

Vala Sciences Inc is a fast-growing San Diego-based biotechnology company that develops and sells cell-image-based reagents and analysis software tools to academic, pharmaceutical and biotechnology scientists. Vala has developed intellectual property that enables information-rich high throughput measurements for making fundamentally new insights into cell function. Vala Sciences assays and CyteSeer Image Cytometry software can be applied to images acquired on any microscope system. 



Casey Laris 1-800-960-1392 x102