October 31, 2013

U of L researcher to perform global research

By: Olivia Krauth

U of L has announced researcher Dr. Suzanne Ildstad will be working with Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation, to continue research on stem cell technology that may assist transplant patients.

Ildstad, professor of surgery and CEO of Louisville-based biotechnology company Regenerex LLC, developed the Facilitating Cell Therapy approach and published her findings in March 2012. The process aims to allow both the donor and the patient’s bone marrow systems work together in the patient’s body. The process has been proven to decrease or eliminate the patient’s need to take anti-rejection medicine for life.

This is the first process in which the donor and the patient don’t have to be related biologically, nor do they have to match on an immunological basis.

“The potential impact for transplant patients throughout the world is truly amazing,” said President James Ramsey. “Additionally, Novartis will look at developing the treatment as a platform for other diseases such as sickle cell anemia and others. And they will help Suzanne and her program in funding their research initiative for additional medical breakthroughs.”

Dr. David Dunn, executive vice president of health affairs, referred to Ildstad’s work as “potentially Nobel Prize-winning work.”

Ilsdtad said that the reason they decided to commercialize the product was that news of their success spread and they didn’t have the funding to support all interested in receiving the treatment.

“We realized in an academic setting, we could not meet the need,” said Ilsdtad. “We needed to commercialize it to make it widely available.”

The first patient to go through the treatment successfully, Bob Waddell, was present for the announcement.

Ildstad was one of the first faculty members to come to U of L through the Bucks for Brains program, a program that Ramsey said “transformed the University of Louisville.”

“Suzanne believed in the University of Louisville. She wanted to be part of helping us achieve our statutory mandate of being one of the best universities anywhere,” continued Ramsey.

“What is has done to our city in terms of saying ‘We’re a city that’s going to compete’…is extraordinarily rewarding,” said Mayor Greg Fischer on the Bucks for Brains program.

While in Louisville, Ildstad’s research has attracted 55 employees, as well as multiple grants.

“We talk a lot in Kentucky about manufacture. We talk a lot in Kentucky about the legacy of agriculture, and those are important and we continue to focus on them,” said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson. “But the reality is, the focus on technology and biosciences and all that leads to biotechnology is tomorrow. It’s the future.

“I would say it’s been a pretty good investment in terms of the Commonwealth, and the University, and the hospital.”

“It’s not only good for the University of Louisville and our faculty, but more importantly, something that is good for our people of our region, state, and in this case, the globe,” said Ramsey

Photo Courtesy of Regenerex LLC

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