Tokyo's Heartseed reaps $26M to test its stem cell injections for heart failure

Heartseed aims to sow spherical clusters of heart cells within the heart muscle wall to potentially improve the strength of contractions as they grow. (Pixabay)

Tokyo-based Heartseed has raised 2.8 billion yen, or about $26 million U.S., to help develop its stem cell-based treatment for heart failure. 

The company has its eyes on two clinical trials, set to start in the next year: an investigator-initiated study through its research partner Keio University in dilated cardiomyopathy, followed by a phase 1/2 trial in late 2020 for heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction.

Heartseed’s treatment differs in approach from other, similar therapies using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), where sheets of cells are grafted onto the surface of the heart to improve vascularization and blood flow.

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Instead, the company forms spherical clusters of heart cells from purified, allogeneic iPSCs, which are injected directly into the heart muscle wall. As they grow and electrically sync with other cells within the myocardium, Heartseed expects to see improvements in the strength of contractions.

The company’s series B round included new investors SBI Investment, JMDC, Gene Techno Science, Nissay Capital and SMBC Capital as well as Astellas Venture Management, returning from Heartseed’s series A raise. The latest proceeds bring its total funding to 3.8 billion yen, or about $35 million. 

RELATED: Growing transplantable arteries from stem cells

Heartseed was founded in 2015 through the research of its CEO, Keiichi Fukuda, a professor in the department of cardiology at Keio University, and his team’s work in regenerative medicine and cell production, purification and delivery.

“We are grateful for the support of our investors, which I believe is a reflection of their expectation and confidence that our lead pipeline HS-001 can be a curative therapy for severe HF, with the mechanism that transplanted ventricular-specific highly-purified cardiomyocytes engraft to patient’s heart and retain for a long-term,” Fukuda said in a statement.

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