Opportunity To Develop Nerve Agent Antidote At Scale From Human Umbilical Cord Cells

CC0 | Ribbon diagram of human butyrylcholinesterase. Source:  Fvasconcellos , no changes made.
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Aurora BioSolutions Inc. and Tissue Regeneration Therapeutics Inc. (TRT) have announced that they have discovered that human umbilical cord cells are a sustainable source of human butyrylcholinesterase (HuBChE), a bioscavenger that neutralizes organophosphate nerve toxins. Furthermore, the cells can be engineered to over-express this important enzyme. This work was recently published open-access in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions.

Aurora BioSolutions was founded in 2014 by Dr. Lorena Braid and is located in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. The company is developing mesenchymal stem/stromal cell (MSC)-based prophylactics and treatments that address capability gaps for military and civilian first responders.

Founded in 2004, based in Toronto, TRT is a biotechnology company that develops a patented Human Umbilical Cord PeriVascular Cell technology platform. The platform includes culture expanded cells (TXP) and engineered cells (eTXP).

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The research team at Aurora BioSolutions discovered that the MSCs derived from Wharton’s jelly of human umbilical cords of TRT naturally synthesize biologically active HuBChE. Additionally, they were able to show that the cells could be engineered to increase HuBChE yields. Aurora BioSolutions’ researchers completed the work under contract to the Casualty Management Section at Defence R&D Canada, Suffield Research Centre.

Currently, life-saving HuBChE treatment costs $20,000 USD/dose, with multiple doses required per day. HuBChE is normally found in human blood in microgram quantities and has proven to be a safe and effective antidote to nerve toxins when administered at thousand-fold higher milligram doses. To date attempts to manufacture the enzyme outside the human body have been commercially unsuccessful, resulting in only limited supplies derived from expired blood bank products being available.

Additional funding and strategic partners are now being sought to optimize and scale the system to generate clinically relevant doses of the antidote generated by TRT and Aurora BioSolutions.

“This discovery has life-saving implications.” … “TRT’s cell platform presents an important opportunity to manufacture not only natural HuBChE, but also functionally enhanced HuBChE variants using gene engineering strategies.” – Dr. Lorena Braid, Founder and Chief Scientist, Aurora BioSolutions

“While MSCs are being increasingly developed as cellular therapies for a wide range of indications in regenerative medicine, we know that MSCs sourced from different tissues have varying degrees of bioefficacy. Of particular importance, the Aurora BioSolutions team showed that MSCs derived from human bone marrow did not produce BChE, illustrating the unique advantage of umbilical cord derived cells for this application.” – Dr. John E. Davies, CEO of TRT


  1. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/human-umbilical-cord-cells-produce-antidote-to-deadly-nerve-agents-300840724.html
  2. https://www.aurorabiosolutions.com/company
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=38675754
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009279718314431