Cerus Corporation (NASDAQ:CERS), the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) and their Blood Transfusion Center (CTS), and the Transfusion Service of the Swiss Red Cross (Transfusion CRS Suisse or Blutspende SRK Schwietz) announced today their intent to collaborate on adapting the Cerus INTERCEPT Blood System for red cells to enable inactivation of pathogens in whole blood, specifically for the African region. While patients in developed countries receive platelet, plasma or red cell transfusions, in many African countries whole blood transfusions remain common, and require development of pathogen inactivation methods optimized for use in local blood bank facilities. The African blood supply is challenged by both transfusion-transmitted diseases and a shortage of available units for transfusion. Pathogen inactivation can provide protection from a broad range of transfusion-transmitted diseases without further restricting the scarce supply of blood donors. The collaboration is designed to draw on the distinctive strengths of each organization to seek the funding necessary to develop a whole blood PI system that can be evaluated in clinical use in Africa. “We believe pathogen inactivation is critical to blood safety everywhere, and we currently use the INTERCEPT system to treat all platelet units produced in Switzerland,” said Dr. Rudolf Schwabe, chief executive officer of the Transfusion CRS Suisse. “Africa’s blood supply is at risk from many transfusion-transmitted diseases that can be prevented by use of pathogen inactivation. We see a great need in ensuring the safety and availability of blood for those patients in Africa who need it most.” “In countries where whole blood transfusions are used to treat acute and chronic anemia as well as post-partum hemorrhage, the opportunity to reduce the risk of bloodborne diseases fits perfectly with the aim of our university hospital policy to develop international medical cooperation, training and humanitarian health actions to improve global health,” commented Dr. Soraya Amar-El Dusouqui, project director, CTS-HUG (University Hospitals of Geneva).
Blood safety and supply are of major health concern in Africa. Only an estimated 40 percent of the demand for transfusions is currently being supplied (Bloch et al, Transfusion Medicine Reviews, 2012 Apr;26:164-80). Obstetric hemorrhage, sickle cell disease and childhood anemia, HIV, malaria and traffic accidents are among the many indications requiring transfusion as a critical life-saving intervention.At the same time, local blood donors frequently have significant rates of well-known transfusion-transmitted agents like HIV, HTLV, hepatitis and bacteria, as well as infections endemic to the region including malaria, dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever. Unlike other blood safety techniques, pathogen inactivation is able to provide protection from a broad range of viruses, bacteria and parasites from a single added safety step. Cerus’ INTERCEPT systems for platelets and plasma are already used in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Middle East. The INTERCEPT red cell system is anticipated to begin phase III trials in Europe later this year. To treat whole blood in Africa, a treatment system must be designed to work within the limited infrastructure of local blood banks and hospitals, as well as effectively inactivating bloodborne pathogens. “We are honored to join HUG, CTS, and SRK in the pursuit of a pathogen inactivation system to improve blood safety in Africa where the technology can have a great impact in improving human health,“ said William ‘Obi’ Greenman, Cerus’ president and chief executive officer. "Pathogen inactivation is being increasingly used in Europe, CIS and the Middle East, and, like our collaborators in this project, we feel an obligation to bring this technology to regions like Africa where it has the potential to transform blood safety." ABOUT CERUS Cerus Corporation is a biomedical products company focused on commercializing the INTERCEPT Blood System to enhance blood safety. The INTERCEPT system is designed to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted diseases by inactivating a broad range of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and parasites that may be present in donated blood. The nucleic acid targeting mechanism of action enables INTERCEPT treatment to inactivate established transfusion threats, such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, West Nile virus and bacteria, and is designed to inactivate emerging pathogens such as influenza, malaria and dengue. Cerus currently markets and sells the INTERCEPT Blood System for both platelets and plasma in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East and selected countries in other regions around the world. The INTERCEPT red blood cell system is in clinical development. See http://www.cerus.com for more information. INTERCEPT and INTERCEPT Blood System are trademarks of Cerus Corporation.
This press release contains forward-looking statements. Any statements contained in this press release that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed to be forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements relating to the intended collaborative activities of the parties, the potential efficacy, development and clinical evaluation of an INTERCEPT system adapted for use with whole blood and the anticipated timing of initiating Phase III INTERCEPT red blood cell studies in Europe. These forward-looking statements are based upon Cerus’ current expectations. Actual results could differ materially from these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, including, without limitation, risks associated with development and clinical evaluation of the INTERCEPT system for whole blood and for red blood cells, the risk that available funding may not be available to support whole blood-related activities under the proposed collaboration, risks associated with dependence on third-party potential collaborators to support whole blood-related development activities and other risks detailed in the Cerus' filings with, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including in Cerus' annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011, filed with the SEC on March 5, 2012. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. Cerus does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, future events, changed assumptions or otherwise.