The South San Francisco-based start-up iZumi Bio has teamed up with the pioneering stem cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka to commercialize new therapies developed from stem cells created through cellular reprogramming.
Yamanaka has been a key player in cellular reprogramming--reprogramming adult cells to act like embryonic stem cells, which can develop into a variety of different tissues. iZumi Bio will team with Yamanaka in refining the way in which genes are used in the reprogramming process and then advance new therapies based on the refined product.
iZumi has laid plans to advance therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's. But the start-up and the scientist plan initially to create new cell lines that can be used to test the toxicity of experimental drugs, a growing field in the stem cell field. The new joint venture is getting started at a time that many in the research field are predicting an upsurge of work as the federal government removes restrictions on ESC projects.
The joint project has attracted $20 million in venture support, which includes an investment group that signed former vice president Al Gore as a partner.
"I just think it's a very important breakthrough that is filled with promise and hope," says Gore, a partner with the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.