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Medipost seeks to export stem cell arthritis drug

Medipost, a Korean biotech startup, is seeking to export its stem-cell based arthritis medicine Cartistem to other countries in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, company officials said Wednesday.

Cartistem is the world’s first approved allogeneic stem cell drug. It is designed to regenerate knee cartilage using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

The Korea Food & Drug Administration gave approval for commercial sales of the new product last week. Dong-A Pharmaceutical, the country’s largest drug manufacturer, will be in charge of Cartistem’s domestic sales and marketing.

Medipost has been seeking sales channels overseas over the past few years. It expects to seal deals in two to three countries as early as the first half of the year and generate revenue within this year, a company spokesperson said.

As for the Western European and North American markets, Medipost is currently negotiating a license agreement with two multinational giants. The Seoul-based company became the first foreign stem-cell drug maker last year to carry out second-phase trials in the U.S., with the final stage forecast to begin in 2015.

The firm estimates the domestic market for Cartistem will be up to 250 billion won ($222.2 million). More than 10 percent of the Korean population, or at least 5 million, are suffering from degenerative arthritis, industry figures show.

“Current treatments like cell therapy and joint replacement surgery have limitations on the size of lesions or the type of joint, and don’t work with degenerative diseases, but Cartistem has no concerns with any of those issues,” Medipost founder and chief executive Yang Yoon-sun told The Korea Herald last year.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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