NIH Issues Research Action Plan for Funding Liver Disease, a Leading Cause of Death in America
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Jan. 4, 2005 -- HepaLife Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB:HPLF), a development stage biotechnology company focused on the research, development and eventual commercialization of technologies and products for liver toxicity detection and the treatment of various forms of liver dysfunction and disease, today announces that on January 3, 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a comprehensive plan (Action Plan for Liver Disease Research) addressing the burden of liver disease in the United States and directing NIH funding and research resources towards the prevention, diagnosis, and management of liver and biliary diseases.
Prepared by a consortium of 17 NIH institutes and 250 liver disease experts, including clinical researchers, doctors, academicians and concerned lay persons, the purpose of the NIH Action Plan is to identify areas of scientific opportunity and then provide funding and research resources for advancing research on liver and biliary diseases, one of the leading causes of death in America. According to the Action Plan, an estimated one quarter of Americans will suffer from a liver or biliary disease at some point in their lifetime.
In a subsection of the Action Plan (Complications of Liver Disease; Prevention of Acute Liver Failure) the NIH report states, “In the area of acute liver failure, the primary goals of research should be in developing means to prevent acute liver failure and ameliorate its course....Most helpful would be an artificial or bioartificial liver assist device that could be used to sustain patients and serve as a bridge to liver transplantation, which is the only effective treatment that is currently available for fulminant hepatic failure.”
Commenting on the NIH Action Plan, Mr. Arian Soheili, President and CEO of HepaLife Technologies states, “It’s encouraging to witness so much thought and capital being committed to one of the top killers of our day and age -- liver disease. Because of this support, our society will one day benefit immensely as more and more of the basic research being funded by the NIH plan translates into meaningful treatment solutions and cures for liver disease sufferers.”
Mr. Soheili continues, “HepaLife has been working on developing the first-of-its kind artificial liver device for some time now. It is deeply encouraging to know that one of the world’s foremost medical research centers, the NIH, concurs with our long-standing research conviction -- for patients suffering from acute liver failure and chronic liver disease, there is an immediate and absolute need for an artificial liver device. It is my sincere hope that one day, our progressive research and hard work will deliver this critical, life-saving treatment to those liver disease patients who need it most.”
In response to the growing number of individuals suffering from liver disease as a result of drug overdoses or interactions, rampant alcohol abuse and the worldwide hepatitis epidemic, HepaLife Technologies is developing the first of its kind artificial liver device incorporating the PICM-19H cell line, which has now been in continuous culture for over two years without presenting any detectable changes in hepatocyte morphology and function, a significant achievement.
As reported in HepaLife’s press release dated December 8, 2004, results from ongoing research into its proprietary embryonic liver stem cell line, PICM-19H, have surpassed initial expectations. Notably, these cells recorded higher growth density than their parent cell line, while determinations of inducible P-450, ammonia removal, and urea production similarly yielded markedly positive results, all highly beneficial attributes towards the development of a bio-artificial liver device for use by human patients suffering from liver disease.
In government-sponsored efforts to assist these patients, vigorous NIH support has led to numerous advances in liver and biliary research, many of which are highlighted in the NIH Action Plan. The NIH is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research, often through funding grants to researchers at universities, medical schools and other research institutions. In 2003, the NIH invested $388 million on liver and biliary disease research, a three-fold budget increase within the last decade alone.
ABOUT HEPALIFE TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
HepaLife Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB:HPLF) is a development stage biotechnology company focused on the research, development and eventual commercialization of technologies and products for liver toxicity detection and the treatment of various forms of liver dysfunction and disease.
Currently, HepaLife is concentrating its efforts on creating the first-of-its-kind artificial liver device and developing proprietary in vitro toxicology and pre-clinical drug testing platforms.
Artificial Liver Device
Presently, through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, HepaLife Technologies is working towards optimizing the hepatic functionality of the patented PICM-19 cell line. The hepatic characteristics of the PICM-19 cell line have been demonstrated to have potential application in the production of an artificial liver device for use by human patients with liver failure.
With 25 million Americans suffering from liver disease, the need for an artificial liver device able to remove toxins and improve immediate and long-term survival results is more critical today than ever before. Limited treatment options, a low number of donor organs, the high price of transplants and follow up costs, a growing base of hepatitis, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, and other factors that result in liver disease all clearly indicate a strong need for an artificial liver device.
In Vitro Toxicology Testing
Hepatotoxicity, or liver damage caused by medications and other chemical compounds, is the single most common reason leading to drug withdrawal or refusal of drug approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, about one third of all drugs fail pre-clinical or clinical trials due to the toxic nature of the compounds being tested, costing pharmaceutical companies around $2 billion annually on such toxicity-related drug failures.
With the cost to develop an FDA approved drug approaching $1 billion and taking 10 to 15 years, a 10% improvement in predicting failures before clinical trials could save $100 million in development costs per drug. Despite efforts to develop better methods, most of the tools used for toxicology and human safety testing are decades old.
The PICM-19 cells grown in vitro synthesize liver specific proteins such as albumin and transferrin, and display enhanced liver-specific functions such as ureagenesis and cytochrome P450 activity. As a result, HepaLife, using the patented PICM-19 cell line, plans to develop proprietary in vitro toxicological and pre-clinical drug testing platforms that will more accurately determine the potential toxicity and metabolism of new pharmacological compounds in the liver.
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