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VistaGen Therapeutics (VSTA) Focused on Preventing Some Very Costly Surprises

Recently, when Bristol-Myers Squibb was forced to suspend testing of its pill for hepatitis C because one of the patients suffered heart failure, it was a major blow to the pharmaceutical giant. Bristol had spent more than a billion dollars in their search for a hepatitis C treatment, and they thought they had it with a nucleotide from an earlier acquired company called Inhibitex. The potential market is enormous for an effective remedy that is easier to administer than current hepatitis C treatments, with possible sales estimated to be well over a billion dollars. Bristol had paid $2.5 billion in cash for Inhibitex, and was in the process of performing safety tests for the drug when the heart failed in one of the test subjects. Adding to the problem was the fact that it was not even clear if the drug had actually caused the failure. In any event, Bristol-Myers was left with a lot less money and now no clear direction regarding the future of their very expensive drug.

The financial disaster was an example of exactly the type of costly mistake that VistaGen believes it can help pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers avoid. VistaGen has spent years developing stem cell technology-based bioassay systems to help drug developers find out early on whether their drug candidates face a potential problem with heart or liver toxicity.

The company’s platform, called Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube, is based upon a combination of proprietary and exclusively licensed stem cell technologies. These technologies enable controlled differentiation, or development, of pluripotent stem cells into mature human cells specific to the company’s predictive toxicology, drug metabolism, drug rescue, and cell therapy interests. In effect, it’s like having a human heart or liver in a test tube, allowing a close analysis of drug/tissue interaction at the earliest stages of development, and opening the possibility of drug rescue to leverage millions already spent by pharmaceutical companies to discover potential clinical benefits of new drug candidates put on the shelf due to heart or liver safety concerns. The potential savings all of this represents to the pharmaceutical industry is immense.

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