Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute and USF Health team up for groundbreaking study of new gene therapy for heart failure

The first of its kind, an investigational drug, may enhance the body’s stem cell response at the site of cardiovascular injury  

TAMPA, Florida (Feb. 20, 2013) – Cardiovascular disease specialists at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute and Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute affiliated with the University of South Florida announced today they have enrolled their first two patients into the clinical trial of a novel gene therapy for the treatment of heart failure after ischemic injury.  The therapy may promote regeneration of  heart tissue by encouraging the body to deploy more stem cells to the injury site in patients who are suffering from heart failure.

Dr. Charles Lambert, Medical Director of Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute and Dr. Leslie Miller, Director of the USF Heart Institute, are leading the way for the randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which spans 10 sites across the United States. The study, called the STOP-HF, will enroll 90 patients nationwide.

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Dr. Leslie Miller, director of the USF Heart Institute, confirms the exact location of the catheter tip as an injection map is drawn precisely detailing gene therapy delivery sites in the heart.

Heart failure (HF) happens when the muscles of the heart becomes weakened and cannot pump blood sufficiently throughout the body.  The injury is most often caused by inadequate blood flow to the heart resulting from chronic or acute cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.   Considerable scientific evidence has emerged over the past decade demonstrating the high therapeutic potential of stem cell-based regenerative medicine for a host of diseases.  Heart failure is a leading cause of death, disability and hospitalization.

Dr. Charles Lambert is performing the gene therapy by direct injection into the heart using an investigational system in the catheterization laboratories at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute.

“Pepin Heart and Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute and USF are exploring and conducting leading-edge research to develop break-through treatments long before they are even available in other facilities,” said Dr. Lambert.  ”Stem cells have the unique ability to develop into many different cell types, and in many tissues they serve as an internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells. This trial is unique in that it uses gene therapy to turn on a process leading to cell regeneration rather than simply administering stem cells directly.”

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Dr. Miller (right), national principal investigator for the STOP-HF trial, is collaborating with Dr. Charles Lambert, medical director of Pepin Heart Institute Florida Hospital, on the local gene therapy study. This is the first of several regenerative medicine trials that will team USF Health and Florida Hospital.

The Pepin Heart Institute has a history of cardiovascular stem cell research as part of the NIH sponsored Cardiac Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN) as well as other active cell therapy trials.  Locally, the STOP-HF trial is the first of several regenerative medicine clinical trials teaming the USF Heart Institute with Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute, which is adjacent to the USF Health campus.

“This is the beginning of a new era in cardiovascular therapies,” said Dr. Leslie Miller, national principal investigator for the trial and professor of cardiovascular sciences at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Targeted gene and cell therapies delivered directly into the heart hold promise for helping to regenerate tissue, reduce injury and restore heart function.  USF Health, working with our partners, will find new ways to diagnose and treat patients, with the aim of reducing and ultimately harnessing the global impact of heart disease.”

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Dr. Lambert injects one of multiple doses of medication containing the gene into a catheter inserted into the heart wall. With the assistance of contrast imaging, the gene therapy is carefully targeted to sites in the heart tissue with the potential for rejuvenation.

The trial, sponsored by Juventas Therapeutics,  a double-blinded Phase II study evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the drug JVS-100 in patients with ischemic heart failure.  JVS-100 is the name of the gene therapy that directs the heart muscle to produce Stromal cell-Derived Factor 1 (SDF-1), a protein that has been shown to repair damaged tissue in the body through the recruitment of circulating stem cells to the site of injury, prevention of ongoing cell death and restoration of blood flow.

Earlier this year, Juventas reported results from its Phase I study in Class III ischemic heart failure patients.  In addition to meeting the primary safety endpoint, patients in the study who received the drug demonstrated clinically significant improvements in exercise levels at the 12-month mark.   Other prominent institutions participating in the trial include Columbia University Medical Center, the University of Utah, the Lindner Center for Research at the Christ Hospital, and the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.

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Dr. Lambert, foreground, and Dr. Miller, back, watch the monitor displaying images of the patient’s heart.

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Jadie Heberlein, clinical research nurse coordinator for the USF Heart Institute, monitors the gene therapy injections of patients enrolled in the STOP-HF case from the cardiac catheter laboratory control room at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute.

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Photos by Daniel W. Baker, Florida Hospital Tampa

About Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute and Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute

Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute is a free-standing cardiovascular institute providing comprehensive cardiovascular care with over 76,000 angioplasty procedures and 11,000 open-heart surgeries in the Tampa Bay region.  Leading the way with the first accredited chest pain emergency room in Tampa Bay, the institute is among an elite few in the state of Florida chosen to perform the ground breaking Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure. It is also a HeartCaring designated provider and a Larry King Cardiac Foundation Hospital. Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute and the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute, affiliated with the University of South Florida (USF), are exploring and conducting leading-edge research to develop break-through treatments long before they are available in most other hospitals. To learn more, visit www.FHPepin.org

About USF Health

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu

About Juventas Therapeutics

Juventas Therapeutics, headquartered in Cleveland, OH, is a privately held clinical-stage biotechnology company developing a pipeline of regenerative therapies to treat life–threatening diseases. Founded in 2007 with an exclusive license from Cleveland Clinic, Juventas has transitioned its therapeutic platform from concept to initiation of mid-stage clinical trials for treatment of heart failure and critical limb ischemia. Investors include New Science Ventures, Takeda Ventures, Triathlon Medical Venture Partners, Venture Investors, Early Stage Partners, Fletcher Spaght Ventures, Reservoir Venture Partners, Glengary, The Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, Tri-State Growth Fund, North Coast Angel Fund, X Gen Ltd., JumpStart Inc., and Blue Chip Venture Co. The company has received non-dilutive grant support through the Ohio Third Frontier-funded Cleveland Clinic Ohio BioValidation Fund, Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center and Center for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.

Media contacts:  
Jennifer McVan, Media Relations Manager
Florida Hospital, Tampa Bay Division
(813) 615-7395 (direct)  or (813) 373-9505 (cell)
Jennifer.Mcvan@ahss.org

Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
University of South Florida
(813) 974-3303 or abaier@health.usf.edu