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January 10, 2002

New start-up firm focuses on muscle-derived stem cells

Pitt and Cook Group Inc., of Bloomington, Ind., are collaborating on potential uses for adult stem cells in treating disease.

Through Pitt's Office of Technology Management (OTM), the Pittsburgh-based company, Cook MyoSite, has licensed technologies related to stem cells derived from adult muscle tissue. These muscle-derived stem cells have the ability to repair diseased or damaged muscle, bone and cartilage, and to deliver therapeutic genes. Cook Group will provide the initial financing and management for Cook MyoSite.

"We are pleased to launch this important new start-up company in partnership with such a well-established and respected company as Cook Group," said Pitt Provost James Maher. "We believe this firm is well suited to capitalize on the breadth of potential applications of this adult stem cell technology."

According to Cook Group president Kem Hawkins, "The Cook organization has a tremendous history of innovation, and we see this collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh as another area where we can help provide breakthrough medical solutions to patients around the world."

"Adult stem cells hold great promise in treating a broad range of human diseases," said Carl Cook, president of Cook MyoSite. "Building on the pioneering work of Pitt's outstanding researchers, I believe this new company will soon be at the forefront of developing commercial medical applications using this exciting biotechnology."

The Pitt research teams that developed the stem cell technologies were led by Johnny Huard and Michael Chancellor. Huard is an associate professor, division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, in the School of Medicine; an associate professor of bioengineering in the School of Engineering, and director of the Growth and Development Lab at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Chancellor is a professor of urology and gynecology in the School of Medicine.

Huard and Chancellor will be on the scientific advisory board for Cook MyoSite and will serve as consultants to the company. Their collaboration was fostered by networking assistance and seed funding from the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, an organization supporting tissue engineering research and related economic development in Pittsburgh. They received additional support for this research from the National Institutes of Health, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The Parents Project and the Orris C. Hirtzel and Beatrice Dewey Hirtzel Memorial Foundation.

The University's OTM worked with the inventors to file patents on the stem cell technologies and to develop a commercialization strategy to move the technologies into the private sector. OTM actively marketed the technologies to a number of such potential partners before concluding a deal with Cook Group.

Founded in 1963 with headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., Cook is a leading global designer, manufacturer and distributor of medical products.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 9

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