San Diego Business Journal

A professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute landed a $4.96 million grant to advance a preclinical program for oxygen-deprived newborns at risk of neurological disorders.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded the funding to Evan Y. Snyder, who achieved a landmark in 1998 by isolating human neural stem cells. He thought this could help oxygen and blood-flow deprivation during birth, which can cause disorders like cerebral palsy.

Fast forward, with the $4.96 million in funding Snyder and team plan to introduce these cells into animal models, in hopes of determining the best dose, location and timing to rescue at-risk brain cells. The project is expected to last 2.5 years, and if all goes well, they’ll request U.S. Food and Drug Administration permission to begin human clinical trials – specifically a phase 1b/2a trial.

“We hope to protect a subset of newborns from developing more serious neurological conditions by focusing on the brain cells that are simply stunned, not destroyed, from the insult—and hence potentially salvageable,” Snyder said in a statement. “If we augment the injured area with neural stem cells, we may be able to restore some balance to the injured region.”

Of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., two to four experience hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, with potential causes like umbilical cord compression, according to the institute. About 10% to 20% of these infants develop cerebral palsy, epilepsy, an intellectual disability or another neurological disorder.

Treatment includes therapeutics hypothermia, breathing assistant and life support.

“We are one step closer to a future where we may be able to protect some newborns from an unanticipated birth injury—and help parents give their children the best possible start in the world,” Snyder said.