Geron’s Stem Cell Program Sold

The company, which launched the first ever clinical trial for a human embryonic stem cell therapy before shuttering its stem cell arm, has finally struck a deal with BioTime.

Oct 2, 2013
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, NISSIM BENVENISTYIn late 2011, the Geron Corp. announced that it would be discontinuing its stem cell research program, including an ongoing Phase 1 trial for a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) treatment for spinal cord injury. Nearly a year later, two former Geron CEOs expressed that their new company, the San Francisco-based BioTime, would be interested in purchasing Geron’s stem cell and regenerative medicine business.

Now, nearly another year later, the sale has gone through. The deal, announced yesterday (October 1), is “a complex stock-swapping and intellectual property deal, including a new subsidiary called Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc.,” reported the San Francisco Business Times, but in the end, BioTime has acquired all of Geron’s hESC assets and the rights to some of its stem cell lines.

New Asterias CEO Thomas Okarma, who was dismissed from his position as Geron president and CEO in February 2011, told the SF Business Times earlier this year that the deal was not simply “Geron reborn.” Rather, Asterias will use the lines it has acquired from Geron, which includes the one used for the Phase 1 hESC trial, to pursue numerous research paths, possibly including multiple sclerosis and stroke, among others. The deal also included a cancer cell line along with a cancer vaccine ready for Phase 2/3 trials; an orthopedics cell line that could have applications in cartilage regeneration; and hESC-derived cardiomyocytes, which may be explored in the context of heart failure and heart attack.

In exchange for these cell lines, Geron is set to receive some 6.5 million shares of Asterias, amounting to 21.4 percent stake in the subsidiary, along with undisclosed royalties in the case that the research is eventually commercialized, FierceBiotech reported.