StemCyte Inc., which banks newborn cord blood, signed a university licensing agreement last week that could speed commercialization of a new spinal cord injury therapy.

In the process, it might help polish the reputation of the often-maligned cord blood industry.

The Arcadia-based company will help fund clinical trials for a therapy being developed by Dr. Wise Young at Rutgers University's W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience. Young is studying whether giving patients lithium salt, after they've received an injection of stem cells extracted from umbilical cord blood, can boost stem cell production to heal the spinal injury.

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells that are capable of growing into a variety of human cells and organs. StemCyte has a proprietary process for extracting and preserving the cells after the blood is harvested following birth.

If the product or other assets resulting from the collaboration are successfully commercialized by StemCyte, Rutgers will receive royalties. A second of four planned trials is expected to launch within a week or two.

The deal with Rutgers is expected to be the first of several for StemCyte, according to David Carmel, vice president for business development. Three years ago the company began to identify top researchers whose work might create a market for its cord blood inventory.

StemCyte, like other private cord blood banks, offers mothers the opportunity to pay for storage of their infant's umbilical cord blood for future use by the child or its family. Private banking is criticized by medical experts who contend few families will ever need it, or even be able to use it.

But StemCyte, like non-profit banks, also offers families the ability to contribute for free to a separate donor bank for use by the general public. That blood can be used for research like Dr. Young's or in current treatments of diseases like leukemia.

RadNet Acquisitions

In a tough commercial credit market it can be hard for businesses to get the cash to jump on an opportunity quickly. But RadNet Inc. was able to swing a term loan to help fund several local acquisitions last month.

Los Angeles-based RadNet, considered the nation's largest owner and operator of fixed diagnostic imaging centers, signed a definitive agreement to purchase imaging centers in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake, Encino, Van Nuys and Valencia from InSight Health Corp. for $8.5 million.

Earlier in the month RadNet bought two Rolling Oaks Radiology imaging centers in Thousand Oaks area for $5.9 million in cash and the assumption of approximately $5.9 million of debt.


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