May 29, 2018
Korean company funds laboratory devoted to stem cell–based aging research
Korean company funds laboratory devoted to stem cell-based aging research
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has received $1.5 million for research into the cellular underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease from NANOS Co. Ltd. (“NANOS”), a company based in the Republic of Korea. The funds will establish a dedicated laboratory space called the NANOS Alzheimer’s Disease Stem Cell Suite, which will serve as a cell bank focused on Alzheimer’s. This cell bank will house both stem cells and somatic (body) cells from human donors, critical for analysis and testing of therapeutic drugs.
“With Alzheimer’s among the leading causes of death, the disease has long been a significant focus for Salk researchers,” says Salk President Rusty Gage, whose lab is one of several at Salk that studies cellular models of dementia and other diseases of aging. “As people worldwide live longer, the need to find novel treatments and therapies for diseases of aging becomes ever more urgent and we are very grateful for the opportunity to partner with NANOS to expand our efforts in this vital area of research.”
“We are very excited to support this research into Alzheimer’s and build an emerging partnership between Salk and NANOS,” says Seon Gil Yang, chief executive officer of NANOS. “It is vitally important for companies to support foundational research and build collaborations that can lead to essential therapies. Ultimately, the purpose of the collaboration between NANOS and Salk is to open a discussion about the creation of research and development centers focused on the biology of aging and Alzheimer’s research. Such centers could involve various parties such as the Korean government, NANOS, the Salk Institute, and select medical university committees between the U.S. and Korea.”
Alzheimer’s is an aging-related neurodegenerative disorder that results in severe memory loss and cognitive decline. Nearly 50 million people worldwide have this disease and related dementias, with estimates from various Alzheimer’s organizations suggesting that 130 million people will be affected by 2050. The global cost in 2018 will be $1 trillion, yet numerous clinical trials targeting Alzheimer’s have failed to stem this public health crisis. It is imperative to explore alternative mechanistic drivers for Alzheimer’s, and to understand the disease within the broader context of aging.
Led by Gage, a renowned neuroscientist and stem cell biologist, the Salk Institute is home to many of the world’s foremost leaders in the fields of neuroscience, aging, epigenetics, DNA damage repair, long-lived proteins, mitochondria, metabolomics, and machine learning, making the Institute uniquely positioned to identify game-changing breakthroughs that deepen humanity’s understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. In recent years, Salk researchers have discovered how immune cells in the brain called microglia may be linked to neurodegeneration, developed better ways of modeling the brain in the lab, and revealed new insights into the neuro-circuitry and supporting cells that contribute to healthy and diseased brain function.
NANOS, an SBW Group company from Korea that invests in the biomedical sector, began the collaboration with the Salk Institute through an introduction by One Holdings Group LLC (“One Holdings”), a biomedical investment consulting company based in Irvine, CA. One Holdings advises funds from various publicly held companies in Korea and China on their investments in the U.S.
The new suite will allow Salk scientists to collect samples and data from a large number of individuals to more accurately pinpoint processes, like DNA repair, that go awry in Alzheimer’s and to identify novels avenues for intervention. By collecting skin samples from hundreds of individuals and transforming these cells into neurons in the NANOS Alzheimer’s Disease Stem Cell Suite, Salk scientists will be able to analyze these brain cells and test novel therapeutic compounds.
“This will represent an invaluable experimental resource for both researchers at Salk and the Alzheimer’s disease research community at large,” says Gage. “With the body of knowledge we have accumulated at Salk and the committed support from companies such as NANOS, we believe novel therapies for Alzheimer’s are within reach.”
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Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk’s mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer’s, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin.