BioTime, Inc., and Hepregen Corporation announced the formation of Ascendance Biotechnology, Inc.
Ascendance combines Hepregen’s application-directed, cellular micro-patterningdrug and chemical screening technologies with BioTime’s ESI BIO research products and proprietary stem cell technologies. This asset combination will allow Ascendance to offer a broad portfolio of current and new stem-cell-derived assays and other products and services to Hepregen’s major pharmaceutical and chemical company customers.
Ascendance will continue to market Hepregen’s well-known HepatoPac® and HepatoMune® micro-patterned liver products, and plans to develop new and unique cell-based and micro-patterned products using BioTime’s stem cell technologies and broad intellectual property and product portfolio, including BioTime’s PureStem® embryonic progenitors and ESI embryonic stem cells. Ascendance expects that its first stem cell-based product will be targeted to important testing and assay applications in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Ascendance also expects to develop additional stem-cell-derived products that will be useful for toxicity testing in the cosmetic, environmental, and food industries.
Ascendance will be led by Hepregen’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Vincent R. Zurawski, Jr., a pioneer in the biotechnology industry, who was a co-founder of Centocor, Inc. Centocor was one of the first companies to commercialize monoclonal antibodies for diagnostic and therapeutic use, and was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 1999 for more than $5 billion. Dr. Zurawski stated, “Ascendance will combine Hepregen’s proprietary technology and BioTime’s proprietary cell lines and technology to provide its clients in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries with an enhanced portfolio of next-generation, drug-development and safety-testing products and services comprised of both liver cells and additional cell types. Also, the combination of Hepregen and BioTime technologies may provide Ascendance with a potential path to the development of new drug products in collaboration with biopharma companies.”
According to Jeffrey Janus, previously President of BioTime’s ESI BIO division and now President of Ascendance, “The formation of Ascendance gives BioTime’s shareholders a two-fold benefit. It will provide BioTime’s cell-based products with a pathway to the pharmaceutical drug screening marketplace while providing a new source of revenues through the sale of the Hepregen line of assay products and new products slated for development by Ascendance. In addition, BioTime is retaining the rights to any cell-based therapeutic products generated by clinical researchers using BioTime’s stem cells and hydrogels.”
“Forming Ascendance as an independent company responsible for its own funding, and with its own sales and marketing capabilities, is aligned with our commitment to focus on therapeutics while allowing BioTime investors the opportunity to benefit from our extensive portfolio of technologies and intellectual property. Our ownership of part of Ascendance will allow our shareholders to benefit from the rapid growth of the large market for products used in drugefficacy screening and safety testing,” said Adi Mohanty, BioTime’s co-Chief Executive Officer.
Detailed financial terms of the transaction, and Hepregen’s historical revenue growth, are not being disclosed at this time. In exchange for its contribution of certain assets relating to its research products and related patents and technology, BioTime will acquire a majority equity position in Ascendance.