Summer
2011

fountainhead

The National Center for Regenerative Medicine and the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Combine Forces

The National Center for Regenerative Medicine and the Center for Stem Cell and 
Regenerative Medicine Combine Forces

In the spring of this year, the National Center for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM) and the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, both at Case Western Reserve University, joined forces to become a single entity—the NCRM—within Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Now that these two centers are one, 125 members from University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University—not to mention a growing number of commercial partners—are able to collaborate more effectively to develop therapies that will benefit patients everywhere.

"Now we have an academic home, which we never really had before," says Stanton Gerson, MD, director of the NCRM and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Asa and Patricia Shiverick-Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology at the School of Medicine and director of the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. "It allows us to do education and training, grant preparation and coordination, and more. It also really labels the quality and the impact of the research that takes place as being highly important to the mission of the School of Medicine and the university."

Collaboration is already taking place between investigators at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Cleveland Clinic for the benefit of patients. "We have a brand new cell therapy trial in patients with multiple sclerosis," explains Gerson. In the trial, led by Jeffrey Cohen, MD, many of the patients will come from the Mellon Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research at Cleveland Clinic. Hillard Lazarus, MD, at the Dahms Clinical Research Unit at University Hospitals will extract the bone marrow, and the cells from that bone marrow will then be taken to the NCRM cell production facility in the Wolstein Building at the School of Medicine, where they'll be grown and prepared to the FDA's specifications. Then they'll be transported back to Cleveland Clinic, where they'll be infused back into the patient. "That couldn't have happened without the structure and the organization of the NCRM and the whole facility," says Gerson.

Another of the many results of these collaborations is the evaluation of the product MultiStem® in various disease areas. MultiStem is being developed by the biopharmaceutical company Athersys, a founding company behind the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and a commercial partner in the NCRM. MultiStem comes from a special class of human, adult stem cells that has shown the potential to enable healing and tissue repair in multiple ways, and it's shown promise for treating a range of diseases and conditions, including myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke and inflammatory bowel disease.

Because Athersys is able to work with other NCRM researchers to investigate the potential uses of MultiStem, the product can be researched more thoroughly and brought to market faster than if Athersys had gone it alone.

"The whole idea of the center is to leverage the expertise and the capabilities of the various participants so that you can take advantage of each other's strengths, knowledge, expertise and capabilities," says Gil Van Bokkelen, PhD, chair and CEO of Athersys. "Being able to have outstanding investigators and thought leaders independently evaluate promising new regenerative medicine therapies through this type of collaborative framework is a highly effective way to gauge their potential. It's a great way to advance the field."