Aspen Neuroscience Launches First Patient Screening Study for Planned Clinical Trial of Personalized Cell Replacement in Parkinson’s Disease


Aspen Neuroscience, Inc., a private biotechnology company developing induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cell therapies, including the first autologous neuron replacement for Parkinson’s disease (PD), announced that this month it will launch the first patient screening study of its kind, working with multiple clinical screening sites in the U.S.

The company’s Trial-Ready Cohort Study is a preliminary step to filing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the US Food & Drug Administration for ANPD001, its first therapeutic development candidate for potential treatment of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD). The Trial-Ready Cohort Study will provide information to and screen potential patient candidates for the company’s planned Phase 1/2A first-in-patient clinical trial of ANPD001. The company will announce multiple U.S. screening sites throughout the spring.

“This is an historic moment for patients and for the Aspen Neuroscience team, as we open our first screening study to expedite our investigation of iPSC-derived cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s disease,” said Damien McDevitt, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer.  “We are excited and very humbled to begin this next phase during Parkinson’s Awareness Month. This is a significant step forward for the patient community, for health care providers and the neuroscience field.”

PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting around one million Americans and more than ten million people worldwide. Even with the current standard of care therapy, patients can eventually develop debilitating motor complications due to loss of dopamine neurons in the brain; approximately 50% are lost even before diagnosis.

Aspen Neuroscience is the leading company developing a personalized cell replacement that can eliminate the need for immunosuppressive therapy. The approach utilizes a patient’s own skin cell-derived iPSCs to produce replacement dopamine neurons for transplantation back into the same patient. Developed from a simple skin biopsy, each patient’s cells will be evaluated for potential effectiveness using proprietary AI-based genomics tools, before being transplanted for clinical use.


Scientific Leader Xiaokui Zhang, Ph.D. Joins Aspen Neuroscience as Chief Scientific Officer


Aspen Neuroscience, Inc., a private biotechnology company developing the first autologous neuron replacement therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD), announced that Xiaokui Zhang, Ph.D., has joined the company as Chief Scientific Officer and as a member of the company’s executive team.

With 20 years of progressive biopharmaceutical industry experience in research, discovery and development to advance programs into early clinical development, Dr. Zhang will lead current scientific programs, as well as future platform and pipeline investments for the autologous iPSC platform company.

“As Aspen grows, we are excited to welcome Dr. Zhang,” said Damien McDevitt, Ph.D., Aspen Neuroscience president and chief executive officer. “Xiaokui’s expertise, which combines a deep background in stem cell research with strong regenerative medicine industry experience, will be important to Aspen as we develop on the solid foundation built by our incredible and expanding R&D team.”

“The next frontier in medicine is at the intersection of autologous, personalized medicine for every patient,” said Dr. Zhang. “The team that built the Aspen platform have accomplished feats that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago, including combining autologous stem cells and AI-based bioinformatics to develop personalized therapies for patients with unmet medical needs. I am honored and excited for this rare opportunity to lead the next stage of Aspen’s scientific vision.”

Dr. Zhang’s research in functional characterizations of JAK-STAT signaling pathways and placental progenitor cell differentiation resulted in numerous patents and publications in highly ranked journals including Science. She has also served as a mentor to early-stage professionals in the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy (ISCT) and is the honoree of New Jersey Liberty Science Center Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Award.

Before joining Aspen. Dr. Zhang served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Celularity Inc., overseeing discovery, candidate development, preclinical, translational, process development and CMC activities to develop placenta-derived allogeneic, off-the-shelf cell therapy product candidates for immuno-oncology and functional regeneration applications. Dr. Zhang has also held various positions of increasing scope and responsibility at Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, including Director of Discovery Research and Senior Director of Research & Development. Before Celgene, Dr. Zhang led a gene discovery team at Helicon Therapeutics and conducted target identification studies in cognitive disorders.

Dr. Zhang received her undergraduate degree in Physiology from Nanjing University, Jiangsu, China and her doctorate in Molecular Cell Biology from the Rockefeller UniversityNew York, New York, with further post-doctoral training in the Functional Genomics at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.