Allele Mail Bag

Press Release: Ocata Therapeutics Licenses Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Technology from Allele Biotechnology and Extends Leadership Position in Cell Therapy Capabilities

Ocata Announces Proof-of-Concept Results in Restoring Vision and Prevention of Blindness

MARLBOROUGH, Mass., Mar 24, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Ocata Therapeutics, Inc. (“Ocata” or “the Company”; NASDAQ: OCAT), a leader in the field of Regenerative Ophthalmology™, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Allele Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of San Diego, CA (“Allele”) to access Allele’s proprietary technology for generating human induced pluripotent stem cells (“iPSCs”).

“This agreement with Allele is part of our strategy to broaden our technology platform and increase our leadership in regenerative ophthalmology,” said Paul Wotton Ph.D., President and CEO of Ocata. “Ocata can now take advantage of induced and embryonic pluripotent stem cells to produce commercially viable human tissue for transplantation. We recently confirmed proof of concept in creating photoreceptors capable of preventing blindness and restoring vision in established animal models. Data from these studies will be published later this year.”

Since Dr. Yamanaka discovered how to generate iPSCs in 2007 there has been tremendous enthusiasm about the potential to use these pluripotent cells to develop commercially viable therapies. Despite many efforts to develop iPSC derived therapies in the same scalable and reliable way as embryonic stem cells, many of those efforts have been unsuccessful due to issues relating to the growth capacity, differentiation potentials and epigenetic properties of iPSCs. The “footprint-free” reprogramming technology developed by Allele potentially offers a reliable and scalable process for producing iPSCs with superior properties and is a major step for translation of iPSC technology to practical clinical use. These iPSCs can potentially be used to manufacture millions of treatment doses as off-the-shelf therapies for any patient.

“We have had a strong leadership role in this area,” said Robert Lanza, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Ocata. “Ocata has extensive experience and patent rights in generating both ocular and non-ocular cell types from human iPSCs. We have painstakingly and patiently evaluated many different iPSC technologies and selected the Allele technology only after we were satisfied and confident that this represented the best of all approaches and could permit us to generate transplantable tissues that would be potentially safe in human patients. In our hands, the iPSCs we are generating are comparable to our embryonic stem cells in those features required for use in potential human therapies.”

“It is particularly rewarding to us that Ocata, a company whose understanding of the science and regulatory requirements in this space is unparalleled, has selected the iPSC technology developed at Allele for application in its own pipeline,” said Jiwu Wang Ph.D., President and CEO of Allele. “It only serves to confirm our belief that our iPSC platform is a solution to what otherwise have been unresolved issues associated with the maturation of iPSCs to a fully functional state. The ability to predictably derive stable iPSC lines without using any viral element or foreign DNA enables both fundamental scientific research and clinical applications, which has been the mission of Allele Biotechnology from its inception.”

For Contact at Allele:,
P 858-587-6645, 800-991-RNAi(7624)
F 858-587-6692

For full release with Ocata contact, see MarketWatch

Allele’s SBIR Grant to Develop All-RNA CRISPR

Precise engineering of the genomes of mammalian cells enabled biological and medical applications researchers had dreamed of for decades. Recent developments in the stem cell field have created even more excitement for genetically modifying genomes because it enables delivering more beneficial stem cell-derived therapeutic cells to patients [1]. For instance, by correcting a gene mutation known to be critical to Parkinson’s disease, LRRK2 G2019S, in patient-specific iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells), it appeared possible to rescue neurodegenerative phenotypes [2].

Significant amount of fund and energy had been invested in technologies such as ZFN and TALEN, however, judging from the explosion of publications and business activities in just about 2 years since the illustration of its mechanism (just today, Jan 8th, 2015, Novartis announced CRISPR collaborations with Intellia, Caribou, applying it in CAR T cell and HSCs), the CRISPR/cas system is the rising star. This system uses a guide RNA to direct the traffic of a single nuclease towards different targets on a chromosome to alter DNA sequence through cutting. The nuclease, cas9, can be mutated from a double-stranded DNA endonuclease to a single-strand cutter or a non-cutting block, or further fused to various functional domains such as a transcription activation domain. This system can also be used to edit RNA molecules.

A weak spot on the sharp blade of CRISPR is, like any methods for creating loss-of-function effects (RNAi if you remember), the potential of off-target effects. While they can never be completely avoided, with the ever growing popularity of deep sequencing, at least we can know all unintended changes on the edited genome. Almost a perfect storm! As an interesting side story, when we at Allele Biotech first saw the paper in Science describing the CIRPSR/cas system [3], we immediately wrote an SBIR grant application for applying the bacterial system to mammalian cells. The first round of review in December 2012 concluded that it would not work due to eukaryotes’ compact chromatin structures. Of course, the flurry of publication in early 2013, while our application was being resubmitted, proved otherwise. The good news is, Allele Biotech still received an SBIR grant from NIGMS in 2014. Unlike most of the genome editing platforms known in the literature, our goal was to build an all-RNA CRISPR/cas system, thereby with higher potency, less off-target effects, and, as a footprint-free platform, more suitable for therapeutic applications. This system will be combined with our strengths in iPSC and stem cell differentiation, fluorescent protein markers, and deep sequencing based bioinformatics to improve cell therapy and cell based assays.

1 Urnov, F.D., et al., Genome editing with engineered zinc finger nucleases. Nat Rev Genet, 2010. 11(9): p. 636-46.
2 Reinhardt, P., et al., Genetic Correction of a LRRK2 Mutation in Human iPSCs Links Parkinsonian Neurodegeneration to ERK-Dependent Changes in Gene Expression. Cell Stem Cell, 2013. 12(3): p. 354-67.
3 Jinek, M., et al., A Programmable Dual-RNA-Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity. Science, 2012.

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What Does It Take to Bring New Nano Antibodies (nAbs) to the Hands of Researchers?

Judging from the hundreds of papers published using camelid VHH antibodies as reagents, there are probably thousands of researchers who have experience with this type of antibodies by now. We like to call the ~15kD camelid VHH antibody nano antibody or nAbTM. Once someone experiences how well a nAb works for co-IP using a fluorescent protein as tag, they often wonder what it takes to bring nAbs to broader use.

The success of a nAb project starts with the antigen presentation. It is critical to build the capability to produce large quantities of recombinant antigen for immunization. At Allele, our scientists also established some unique presentation formats for traditionally difficult targets (e.g. large membrane proteins).

After llama immunization, the next step is screening. With the goal of creating large scale nano antibodies against diverse targets, we have developed multiple high throughput screening methods to cover very large, diverse libraries generated from immunized animals. The technologies will continue to evolve as the scale of nAb generation continues to expand. We have the ability to functionally screen for site-blocking antibodies and antibodies that only recognized natively folded targets, or targets in their naturally occurring presentations.

A nAb isolation project does not end with the obtaining of a cDNA clone. Or, if it does, the nAb is probably not as great as what Allele Biotech has been offering. In our hands, all nAbs go through an engineering step beginning with the generation of a 3D structural model of the isolated clone. We use structure-guided design to alter the protein, allowing us to improve its properties. This includes increasing affinity, solubility, or altering the protein to improve performance for specific applications. We also like to use known structures of traditional monoclonal antibodies to assist camelid VHH antibody engineering against specific targets.

With a finalized clone in hand, the next step is to establish protocols for commercial production. The Allele team spends a tremendous amount of effort aimed solely at high-yield, low-cost recombinant VHH antibody production in a variety of formats, so that the costs for other scientists to take advantage of these great reagents can be kept as low as possible.

Last but not the least, nAb labeling, including conjugating stable soluble VHH antibody to solid supports for immunoprecipitation or to fluorophores for detection, requires additional expertise and tight operation control. However, our vision is to have a modular system for antibody labeling that will enable the end user to select from a variety of fluorophores and other detection tags, which can be instantaneously and irreversibly coupled via simple mixing.

Note added: we work with commercial (diagnostic and clinical) partners from developing nAbs all the way to the market. We have expert scientists available to customers and licensees for consultation and troubleshooting antibody- and imaging-related questions and problems.

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Allele Biotech Acquires BioCarta’s Distribution Business

Allele Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is pleased to announce that as of January 1st, 2014, it has acquired the distribution business of BioCarta. This transaction will strengthen Allele Biotech’s presence in the antibody field, enhancing a broad customer and partnership base to further its plan in clinical diagnostics. Biocarta has been a leader in the field of gene expression for 10 years and has contributed immensely through its world leading effort of charting molecular biology pathways. The gene function maps published by Biocarta have been used and referred to by the NIH through the National Center for Biological Information and National Library of Medicine.

Among its well-regarded distribution business, for the past 11 years BioCarta had been the US and Canada’s exclusive distributor of Immune Function Assay Kits for Flow Cytometric Analysis by Glycotope Biotechnology, GmbH. These kits are clinically approved blood cell diagnostic assay products that are also heavily used for non-clinical blood studies.

Allele Biotech has recently launched a major business plan to create a large number of nano antibodies (nAbsTM). The nAbTM line will be great research tools for immunoprecipitation (co-IP), immunohistochemistry (IHC), Western blotting, co-crystallization, biologics purification. Additionally, nAbsTM willbe suitable for diagnostic assays because the single domain antibodies derived from camelid family animals are sturdy, specific, and low-cost. The inclusion of the BioCarta distribution channels in the antibody and pathway reagent fields will help speed up Allele Biotech’s expansion.

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Thursday, January 16th, 2014 Allele Mail Bag No Comments

We at Allele Biotech encourage you to help those in need

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) has devastated vast areas in the Philippines and the local people are still suffering, particularly those who had minimum resources even before the disaster hit. Our company’s representatives’ recent trip to the country created a special bond between our employees and the people in the Philippines, and we will do what we can to help, including directly donate to agencies like the Philippine Red Cross. We encourage our clients, colleagues, and friends to do the same. Thank you.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 Allele Mail Bag No Comments