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Biotech bailing on stem cells?

The announcement last week of Advanced Cell Technology's imminent closure is evidence that embryonic stem cell technology may be linkurl:too nascent;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54544/ for fruitful biotech innovation, according to some industry analysts. For the past 10 years Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has been a spotlight company for linkurl:endeavors;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/24363/ in embryonic stem cell research and cloning. But in a Securities and Exchange

By | July 23, 2008

The announcement last week of Advanced Cell Technology's imminent closure is evidence that embryonic stem cell technology may be linkurl:too nascent;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54544/ for fruitful biotech innovation, according to some industry analysts. For the past 10 years Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has been a spotlight company for linkurl:endeavors;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/24363/ in embryonic stem cell research and cloning. But in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last Tuesday (July 15), the company said it was out of money and would likely be closing shop by the end of this month. So what happened? Investment in embryonic stem cell research was at its peak when states including linkurl:California;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53199/ and linkurl:Massachusetts;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53359/ pointedly secured billions of dollars for the research, Stephen Dunn, director of research at Dawson James, told The Scientist. In response to such governmental enthusiasm, investors put money into stem cell companies such as ACT, Osiris, and Bioheart. But with almost no therapeutic advances to show for the cash, the hype has died down. Recent advances in adult stem cells, Dunn added, such as last year's linkurl:reprogramming studies,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53873/ have redirected investor focus. "We've had advances in adult stem cells and [FDA] approvals. Where do you think Wall Street money is going to go?" Dunn asked. One company's troubles don't necessarily spell the end of embryonic stem cell research in biotech, Ren Benjamin, senior biotech analyst at Rodman and Renshaw, told The Scientist. "The reality of the situation is not that [embryonic stem cell] therapies don't work or have potential, but rather there is a relatively long road ahead of us to prove and develop these therapeutics." And companies will have to work harder to secure funding whenever they can, not just when they need it, he added. But Dunn believes that ACT's recent trouble is not a sign of things to come, but rather a symptom of a current dearth of funding for this type of research. "The science is good," he said. But "there are a lot of hurdles to making a commercial success out of a company" focusing on embryonic stem cells. "They are still in the basic science stage. In reality, from a commercialization standpoint, they are far behind other companies." ACT declined to comment on the current state of its research programs, but a statement from company CEO William Caldwell sent to The Scientist said: "Yes the company is suffering severely under the prolonged and worsening capital markets. So are GM and other auto manufacturers, most major retailers, airlines, oil services industry and almost all micro cap and emerging growth biotech firms. We are hunkering down to survive an environment which we believe is only going to get worse." "We are killing ourselves to secure funding" to stay in business, a spokesperson for ACT told The Scientist. Correction: In the original version of this article the company name Bioheart was misspelled. The Scientist has corrected the spelling and regrets the error.
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Comments

Avatar of: Robert Von Borstel

Robert Von Borstel

Posts: 10

July 23, 2008

This next paragraph was submitted on 22 July 2008 for another article to explain why BASIC research is essential. It explains why Stem Cell Research must be paid for by Granting Agencies. Investors are too fickle to keep paying and paying for research to be ready for human medical practice -- 20 years down the road.\n\nBy and large, significant scientific discoveries are seldom immediately seen to be useful for pharmaceutical companies to sell. There is about a 20-year gap from significant discovery to the engineering or fiddling required to make a salable product.
Avatar of: Stephen Kann

Stephen Kann

Posts: 1

July 23, 2008

You implied in this blog that Bioheart (misspelled in the blog) is an embrionic stem cell company. It is not. Bioheart uses exclusively autologous adult skeletal muscle stems cells derived from muscle tissue from the thigh to culture its therapeutic doses of myoblasts.\n\nAlso, contrary to the blog, in which you cite "no therapeutic advances," Bioheart has, in fact, reported its final one-year data on its Phase I/II clinical trials, which included 350 human enrollees, 237 of which received Bioheart's MyoCell treatment, and 84% of whom experienced improved heart function. Phase II/III trials have begun at 23 leading heart centers around the world. \n\nThanks for the opportunity to comment.

July 23, 2008

Thank you, Stephen, for catching the spelling error-- we can always count on our readers' sharp eyes! The blog has been updated.\n\n\nAndrea Gawrylewski\nAssociate Editor\nThe Scientist
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

July 24, 2008

When the issue of cardiac repair via stem cells is discussed, although early safety and limited efficacy trials have been accomplished by Bioheart, Genzyme and many academic groups, neither the final cell type e.g. autologous myoblast (mixed population including other cells), mesenchymal stem cells, endothelial precursor cells, etc. have been identified. Problems of cell retention, delivery and evidence of engraftment have not been well documented. It is naive to think that stem sell delivery in the manner in which we envision today is capable of repairing alarge anterior wall infarct. Issues of compliance and electrical coupling will need to be addressed. A true lack of translation from acute preclinical models to the clinic has shown us that the ability to define and maintain a series of components that may reflect improvements in cardiac function remains a significant challenge.

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