Maryland technology development agency awards grant to study stem cells for improving flu vaccine

The Maryland Technology Development Corp. has awarded a $750,000 grant to Longeveron LLC, a Miami-based biopharmaceutical company, to study whether stem cells can make a better flu vaccine for seniors with a researcher from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. Sean Leng, an associate professor in the school’s division of geriatric medicine and gerontology, and his team will conduct a clinical trial with Longeveron to examine the safety and efficacy of one of its stem-cell products to improve the immune-response to the flu vaccine in frail, elderly patients, the company announced today.

Seniors are often the hardest hit by seasonal influenza and its complications, as their immune response to the vaccine declines over time.

“Regenerative stem-cell therapies hold great promise to bolster the immune systems of older people for greater resistance to flu,” said Dr. Joshua Hare, a former Hopkins researcher who is Longeveron’s co-founder and chief science officer.

The money comes from TEDCO’s Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, which announced the award last Thursday.

“We are very excited about this great project to test Longeveron’s cells clinical capabilities in improving inflammation and immunity,” said Dr. Dan Gincel, the fund’s executive director. “This is an important test of cell therapy technology and may have long-term implications in vaccine strategies in older adults.”

The Longeveron product being tested comes from the bone marrow of young, healthy adult donors. The test will measure how well it helps frail seniors with physical performance, lung function and inflammation.

Another study using stem cells from Longeveron is based at Hopkins and the University of Maryland and aimed at improving outcomes for babies born with an often-fatal heart defect. It also received a grant from the state’s stem cell research fund, which awarded about $7 million to projects this year to advance research and cures.

So far, there are few government-approved uses for stem cells.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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