$10M award to enable trials for Heart Regeneration Program

Washington Research Foundation invests in UW Medicine stem-cell therapy to restore heart muscle

A $10 million investment from the Washington Research Foundation will enable UW Medicine scientists to begin clinical trials of a treatment that has the potential to restore heart tissue in people who have suffered heart attacks.

The investment supports UW Medicine’s Heart Regeneration Program, which develops and clinically tests stem-cell therapies to combat the effects of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

The foundation supports efforts statewide to advance the life sciences, physical sciences and information sciences.

“We are hoping to help a team of top researchers dramatically change the treatment of heart disease,” said Ron Howell, the organization’s president and CEO. “The problem is huge, and we think that the Murry team has the potential to solve it in the next decade.”

The Heart Regeneration Program is founded in the research of Drs. Charles Murry, UW professor of pathology, bioengineering and medicine, and Michael LaFlamme, a former UW associate professor of pathology.  The program’s co-directors are Drs. Robb MacLellan, head of UW Medicine’s Division of Cardiology, and Scott Thies, a stem-cell scientist with more than 15 years of biotech experience.

Murry’s group has successfully restored damaged heart muscle of monkeys using heart cells created from human embryonic stem cells.

“Our therapeutic has a unique mechanism of action that remuscularizes the damaged heart,” Murry said, “and that’s why we expect profoundly better efficacy than has been demonstrated for several other cell therapies in heart failure.

“This research may help to prevent congestive heart failure after heart attack, and significantly increase the quality of life and life span for patients.”

The investment will help the scientists, over the next five years, to complete a Phase 1 clinical trial of human cardiomyocytes for treatment of heart muscle damage after a heart attack.

“We are deeply grateful to foundation for this $10 million commitment,” said Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of UW’s School of Medicine. “This is critical funding that will bring the program closer to realizing its scientific goals – and beyond these goals, we’re committed to bring this therapy to patients.”

The program has focused on recruiting professional scientists who can perform at a high level immediately and who have experience bringing products to market and managing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s protocols for investigational drugs and devices.

Patients who wish to be added to Dr. Murry’s contact list should contact Kristen Meredith, assistant director of the Heart Regeneration Program. Email meredk@uw.edu.

Additional media coverage:

KUOW’s Ruby DeLuna interviews Chuck Murry

Puget Sound Business Journal

Seattle Times