The National Center for Regenerative Medicine’s (NCRM) efforts to advance the use of stem cells for patient health earned a major endorsement last week when Ohio’s Third Frontier Commission awarded $2.4 million to the center’s latest initiative.

The center’s OH-Alive project builds on the earlier collaborative work to take stem cell therapies from concept through testing and, ultimately, to meaningful benefit for those who need it most. NCRM’s partners believe so strongly in the project that they committed to match the state grant, bringing the total investment to $4.8 million. The funds will support acquisition of state-of-the-art technology and equipment, some of which will be customized for the groundbreaking work. The award also will enable the center to create a dedicated team of scientists and other experts who will advise and guide the work to bring new therapies to market.

“This award brings together companies developing novel manufacturing systems to culture cells with NCRM investigators at Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and University Hospitals, who are developing cell therapy treatments for a wide variety of diseases,” said Stanton L. Gerson, MD, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and National Center for Regenerative Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “The center hopes this platform will accelerate movement of discoveries in the lab to clinical trials. There is no other facility like it in the country.”

The therapies NCRM helps develop can restore and rejuvenate functions within the body. But the journey from a laboratory success to an effective approach for patients requires multiple steps and adaptations. This award enables the center and its partners to continue their pioneering work.

“The OH-Alive platform establishment is an outstanding example of synergism between multiple institutions and commercial partnerships. Our assembly of the needed technologies and competencies was immediately recognized as valuable and many people, institutions and corporations joined the effort,” said Jan Jensen, PhD, the Eddie J. Brandon Chair of Diabetes Research at the Cleveland Clinic and Technical Director of OH-Alive. “We already have a strong local presence in future cell therapy in Cleveland, represented by the NCRM, leading national hospitals, and companies such as Athersys. OH-Alive will strengthen this further, extending our reach throughout the State collaborating with academic institutions and companies from Cincinnati to Cleveland.”

OH-Alive’s infrastructure for cell culture optimization and manufacturing will come from collaboration with BioSpherix’s Xvivo system, which will provide a GMP-compliant space to work in and TECAN building customized robotic equipment for liquid handling to test specific culture conditions to grow and change the cells in.

The grant was awarded to Case Western Reserve University in collaboration with Athersys, BioEnterprise, BioOhio, BioSpherix, Cleveland Clinic, TECAN, Renovo Neural, and NanoFiber Solutions.

The National Center for Regenerative Medicine is a multi-institutional center composed of more than 100 investigators from Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, Athersys Inc. and The Ohio State University. Building on the 30-year history of adult stem cell research in northeast Ohio, NCRM was created in 2003 with a $19.4 million award from the Third Frontier Program.  Visit www.ncrm.us/ncrm.