Minerva is focused on the space between stem cells and cancer cells. Minerva discovered that a novel growth factor receptor, MUC1*, and its ligand, NM23, mediate the growth of 100% of human stem cells and 75% of cancers, including over 96% of breast cancers and 50% of prostate cancers. Minerva was first to discover that cancer cells grow, and evade standard chemotherapy, by hijacking an otherwise normal stem cell growth mechanism. The paradox was how do stem cells limit their self-replication, while cancer cells self-replicate indefinitely. Minerva elucidated the precise molecular details of an NM23-mediated feedback loop that limits the self-replication of stem cells, but which cancer cells override via mutation and aberrant gene expression to achieve uncontrolled self-replication.
On the stem cell front, Minerva has developed a novel stem cell growth system that does not use FGF, TGF-beta, feeder cells or feeder cell conditioned media. In the Minerva system, NM23 is the only growth factor added to a minimal and xeno-free media. The added stem cells adhere to a surface coated with an anti-MUC1* antibody, as the MUC1* growth factor receptor is expressed on all human stem cells. In the Minerva system, stem cells proliferate faster than they do using conventional methods and remain 100% pluripotent without manual dissection or other manipulations, which would interfere with large-scale production and automated cell culture.
Unexpectedly, this natural growth factor, NM23, makes human stem cells revert to their most primitive (‘NaÏve’) state and maintains them there indefinitely. It is widely believed that figuring out how to stably induce naÏve pluripotency in human stem cells is critical for realizing the promise of human stem cell therapies. Mouse stem cells have been much easier to work with because the growth factor that maintains them in the naÏve state has been known for some time. However, the growth factor that maintains human stem cells in the naÏve state was, until now, unknown. Thus, the numerous breakthroughs in mouse stem cell science simply could not be reproduced using human stem cells. We have now demonstrated that our naÏve human stem cells differentiate into mature, functional adult cells in ways that are superior to FGF-grown stem cells.
On the cancer front, Minerva is developing a revolutionary class of anti-cancer therapeutics that stop the progression of cancers by reactivating the feedback loop trigger that makes stem cells (and cancer cells) naturally mature, which stops self-replication.
The following are specific details regarding Minerva’s presentation at the conference:
A live video webcast of all company presentations will be available at: http://stemcellmeetingonthemesa.com/webcast/ and will also be published on ARM’s website shortly after the event.
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Source: Minerva Biotechnologies