Nobel Prize-Winner's Stem Cells Help GlaxoSmithKline Pinpoint Risks

Published: Oct 22, 2012

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) is applying Shinya Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize-winning discovery in stem cells to identify heart risks linked to experimental drugs earlier in the development process. Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine this month for his work in turning ordinary skin cells into induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells with the potential to become any cell in the body. That breakthrough has enabled the London-based drugmaker to create heart-muscle stem cells that may be used to test compounds for cardiovascular safety, said Jason Gardner, head of Glaxo’s early-stage regenerative medicine research. About half of all experimental drugs fail for safety reasons, and half of those failures are due to toxic effects on the heart, Gardner said. Finding that risk even before animal testing could potentially save drugmakers millions of dollars in clinical-trial costs and better protect patients, he said. “I call this a low-risk, must-do approach to stem cells,” Gardner said in an interview in Upper Providence, Pennsylvania, where Glaxo has been building on research using iPS cells that began in the U.K. in 2010. “It’s on the verge of being used now for decision-making.”

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