The Kick-off Ceremony of the National Key R&D Program Project entitled “Study of Technical Systems for Monitoring and Assessing the Treatment of Graft Versus Host Disease and Some Other Important Diseases with Mesenchymal Stem Cells”, which was organised by the University of Macau (UM) Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and co-organised by Zhuhai Hengqin Imstein Biotechnology Co. and Zhuhai UM Science & Technology Research Institute (ZUMRI), was held in Hengqin to launch Macao’s first national key project under the joint witness of various scholars and industrial representatives.

The kick-off ceremony, which was also a high-end seminar and industrial meeting of stem cell research, further strengthened academic exchange and cooperation among experts and scholars on the research and development of key stem cell technologies. It also provided a strong support for the scientific and technological innovation of biomedical and health industries in the cooperation area, and assisted in constructing “healthy China” and “a community of common health for mankind”.

According to Ren-He XU, the chief scientist of the project and Associate Dean (research) of FHS, the project aims to develop new technologies, tools, standards, and methods such as quality control and quality evaluation of stem cells and related regenerative medicine products, non-clinical research evaluation, clinical benefit-risk evaluation, and post-marketing research based on the current scientific and technological level of stem cells and regenerative medicine in China. The ultimate goal of the project is to form a regulatory and evaluation technical system conducive to long-term healthy development.

The whole research project focuses on drug-resistant acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) and the common type of knee osteoarthritis (KOA) to be treated with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from two different sources, i.e., differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells (T-MSCs) and isolated from human bone marrow (BM-MSCs) via donation. The research team will study the mechanisms of MSC treatment of the two diseases and establish a system to monitor and assess the cell quality. They will also establish a non-clinical technical system to assess the pharmacodynamics and safety of MSCs in the treatment of the diseases. The project also demonstrates a standardized regime for MSC treatment of aGVHD and KAO patients to standardize the clinical study.

During the event, Wei GE, Vice Rector (Research) of UM, said that the launch of the first national key project in Macao would accelerate the development of emerging industries such as biomedicine and promote the standardisation and industrialisation of stem cell technology, adding that the project marks a new stage in scientific research in the Guangdong-Macao In-depth Cooperation Zone in Hengqin. Upon the completion of this project, supervision and evaluation systems will be formed for the long-term and successful healthy development of the stem cell industry in China, enhancing the clinical research level and the international competitiveness of the Cooperation Zone or even all the other parts of China in the field of stem cell therapy.

Zhenxing YU, Head of China National Center for Biotechnology Development of Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), indicated that MOST has been vigorously promoting cooperation between mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao in recent years. Using stem cells to treat major diseases is an emerging direction lately. This project provides important support for solving regulatory and evaluation difficulties on stem cell therapy. He hoped that the successful implementation of this project would promote the progress of national basic research and make significant contributions to industrialisation of research findings.

Kun SU, Deputy Director of the Executive Committee of the Cooperation Zone, stated that this project is Macao’s first national key project, which is a high-level technological achievement with significant impact under the cooperation between Guangdong and Macao. Under the launch of the project, Cooperation Zone will advance in pursuit of new heights in the development of new drugs in stem cell therapy, seize new opportunities for cutting-edge drug development, build an innovative benchmark cluster for biomedicine development, and achieve the surge of the biomedicine industry.

Guilin YE, member of the Administrative Committee of the Science and Technology Development Fund, Macao SAR, stated that stem cell research and organ repair are the areas of extremely high research value and technical prospects. Achieving high added value through high technology is in line with Macao SAR Government’s goals in developing the health industry and achieving moderate industrial diversification.

The approval of this project as a national key special project indicates that Macao’s research level and efforts in stem cells have been recognized nationally. The successful implementation of this project will help the standardization and normalization of stem cell drugs in China, strengthen technological cooperation and industrial development between Macao and mainland, and promote the development and progress of Macao in biomedicine.

(Source: Zhuhai UM Science & Technology Research Institute)

Wei GE

Zhenxing YU

Kun SU

Guilin YE

The Kick-off Ceremony of the National Key R&D Program Project