Athersys licenses stem cell technology in deal worth up to $40M

Athersys Inc. (NASDAQ: ATHX) has licensed its stem cell technology to a Florida firm that makes orthopedic implants in a deal that could be worth more than $40 million.

RTI Biologics Inc. plans to develop and commercialize implants based on Athersys’ Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cell (MAPC) technology, according to a statement from the companies. MAPC refers to a type of stem cells that can be differentiated into other types of cells.

“After significant research into stem cells and the evaluation of multiple technologies, we have determined that the MAPC technology offers the greatest potential to create high quality, innovative implants for our surgeons and their patients,” said Brian Hutchinson, RTI’s chief executive.

The deal could be worth up to $40.5 million to Athersys. The terms of the agreement call for Athersys to receive a $3 million license fee and up to $37.5 million in payments that are contingent upon RTI hitting unspecified development and revenue milestones.


RTI hopes to begin selling implants developed from the Athersys technology in the first half of 2012.

Athersys’ proprietary MultiStem product also is based on MAPC technology. MultiStem is an off-the-shelf stem cell treatment derived from the bone marrow of adults or other non-embryonic sources. The cells have a drug-like effect: They reduce inflammation, protect damaged tissue and form new blood vessels, and then are cleared from the body.

In addition to the cash, the deal with RTI extends the application of Athersys’ technology to a new field — orthopedics. Athersys’ MultiStem product is being investigated for use in the treatment of cardiovascular, central nervous system-related, inflammatory and immune system disorders.

News of the deal sent Athersys’ share price up about 2.5 percent to $3.02 in Monday morning trading.