TEL AVIV BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics said the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has agreed to conduct a clinical trial of the company's adult stem cell treatment for ALS.
The Mayo Clinic is the third leading U.S. clinical site to sign a letter of understanding, following the University of Massachusetts and Massachusetts General, BrainStorm said on Monday.
Israel-based BrainStorm is developing NurOwn for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Initial results from Phase I studies suggest that patients with ALS experience a positive clinical outcome after treatment with NurOwn cells, the company said.
Anthony Windebank, principal investigator at the Mayo Clinic, said the clinic started patient stem cell safety trials last year.
"The next logical ... step is the type of modification that enables BrainStorm's NurOwn cells to deliver factors to the nervous system that are known to promote motor nerve cell survival," Windebank said.
BrainStorm plans to enroll patients into clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Massachusetts and Massachusetts General as early as the second half of 2013.
"This is another step forward in finding a potentially effective treatment option for those patients with ALS," said BrainStorm Chief Executive Alon Natanson.
BrainStorm will be presenting Phase 1 data of its NurOwn treatment in ALS at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology on March 20.
According to the ALS Association, 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with the disease, which has severely disabled British physicist Stephen Hawking.
(Reporting by Tova Cohen)