Well-traveled Vericel soars on positive results for a heart failure therapy

Vericel saw its share value skyrocket Thursday on top-line results for a personalized heart failure treatment, welcome news for a biotech that has toiled for years with little clinical success.

The company, formerly Aastrom Biosciences, said its lead pipeline asset met its main goal in a trial on patients with advanced heart failure due to ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, an orphan disease that results from weakened heart muscles. In the 114-patient Phase IIb trial, Vericel's ixmyelocel-T reduced the total number of deaths and hospitalizations compared with placebo, the company said, while charting a similar safety profile.

Vericel didn't disclose detailed results from the trial, saying it plans to present full data at the American College of Cardiology conference next month.

The news roughly doubled Vericel's share value, notching a two-year high for the Cambridge, MA, biotech.

Ixmyelocel-T is a cell therapy derived from patients' own bone marrow. Vericel uses a proprietary technology to boost the number of stromal cells in patients' marrow to spur the production of anti-inflammatory factors, the company said, creating a personalized therapy Vericel believes can help repair damaged heart tissue.

The former Aastrom became Vericel in 2014, moving its headquarters from Ann Arbor, MI, to Cambridge and shifting its focus to regenerative medicine. Months before, the company bought out Sanofi's ($SNY) cell therapy business for just $6.5 million, acquiring three on-the-market therapies. After the transaction, the biotech cut 30% of its staff--about 80 employees--to conserve cash.

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