Updated on 11 May 2012
Dr Silviu Itescu, CEO & MD - Mesoblast
A Quinquagenarian from Australia, Dr Silviu Itescu, is based out of the US and has been traveling tirelessly between New York and Melbourne with the sole objective of rapid development and commercialization of therapies to treat patients with bone and joint diseases.
Melbourne-based Mesoblast and its subsidiary Angioblast, based in New York, have been working on commercializing adult stem cell-based products for large clinical indications with unmet clinical needs that present long-term sustainable market opportunities. The products manufactured by the company are used for the treatment of cardiovascular and neurological conditions, diabetes, eye diseases, bone marrow regeneration, bone fractures, cartilage degeneration and musculoskeletal conditions.
BioSpectrum recognized his efforts and awarded him with the BioSpectrum Asia Pacific Bioscience Industry Person of the Year Award for 2011.
Dr Itescu, who was born in Romania, studied in Australia from the age of seven until he completed his masters in medicine at the University of Melbourne. Following this, he relocated to the US for nearly 20 years with the desire to broaden his knowledge base and also to expose himself to different cultures and complementary expertise. Commenting on this, Dr Itescu says, "I was intrigued by biology and I had a strong desire to make a substantial contribution and to help those in need. During the course of my training, I kept asking fundamental questions about science and biology as a tool for developing new therapies."
While working as the head of Transplantation Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center, US, Dr Itescu specialized in the field of immunosuppressant to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs. He was the first person who proved that certain adult stem cells from bone marrow could be used to repair damaged hearts by creating new small capillary vascular networks. "My area of clinical focus was cardiovascular medicine and the major unmet needs in patients with advanced heart failure and the lack of alternatives available to them. My extensive work in cardiac transplantation only served to further underline the lack of sufficient meaningful therapies," says Dr Itescu.
Dr Itescu established Angioblast Systems in 2001 with a focus on development and commercialization of novel therapeutic products for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and vascular disorders. Driven by the fascination towards stem cell research, Dr Itescu began to look for more effective ways of restoring damaged tissue, particularly the heart. His global search led him to South Australia's Hanson Institute where scientists had identified adult stem cells with the potential to regenerate heart tissue and to form new blood vesse ls to improve the heart's blood supply. The same cells were also able to replace bone at the site of fractures and form blood vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the new bone.
Dr Itescu acquired worldwide license in 2004 to commercialize orthopedic applications of proprietary adult stem cell technology that was developed by scientists at South Australia's Hanson Institute and Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science and formed a company called Mesoblast by raising funds through IPO at Australian Securities Exchange. Mesoblast has been aiming to generate a series of high margin, off-the-shelf adult stem cell products that are obtained from a single donor, commercially expanded and frozen, and subsequently used in potentially thousands of unrelated or allogeneic recipients at the time and place of need.