Stem CellsThu Nov 17, 2011 - 12:18 pm EST
Leading biotech company ditches embryo research: says not financially viable
MENLO PARK, California, November (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the leading U.S. biotech companies involved in embryonic stem cell research has announced that it will cease doing experiments using living human embryos, citing loss of interest from investors.
Since 1990 the California-based Geron corporation has led the industry doing research using stem cells developed from embryos, particularly for developing anti-cancer therapies and spinal cord research.
Recently, however, industry investment has shifted away from embryonic to adult or somatic cell research in which the patient’s own tissue is used. The company announced on November 14 that effective immediately it would focus on oncology programs and discontinue further development of its stem cell programs.
Geron’s Chief Executive Officer, John A. Scarlett, M.D. cited “capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions,” for the move.
“By narrowing our focus to the oncology therapeutic area, we anticipate having sufficient financial resources to reach these important near-term value inflection points for shareholders without the necessity of raising additional capital. This would not be possible if we continue to fund the stem cell programs at the current levels,” Dr. Scarlett said.
On November 3, Geron announced its third-quarter 2011 financial results, reporting a net loss of $19.5 million, compared to $18.3 million, for the comparable 2010 period. The company cited increases in research and development expenses for its oncology trials.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of Ireland’s Life Institute told LifeSiteNews.com that the case against embryonic stem research was considerably strengthened by the news of Geron’s departure from the field.
“The evidence is now incontrovertible: embryonic stem cell research destroys human life and offers no cures.”
In Europe, she said, investors have lost hundreds of millions of Euros “in sponsoring unethical research on human life, while all the results have been in somatic cell research.
Uí Bhriain called it “hugely significant” that Geron had obtained the first approval under the Obama Presidency from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct the first trial in patients of human embryonic stem cells.
Geron’s announcement comes just days after the Lancet reported that adult stem cells taken from a patient’s own heart have been successfully used to repair damaged heart tissue, while an Australian research company, Mesoblast Ltd, also showed that the risk of recurring heart failure was reduced by up to 80 per cent using adult stem cell therapies.
Uí Bhriain added, “It’s clear that science and investors are abandoning embryonic stem cell research because ethical research is helping to treat patients right now.”
The Life Institute have been working towards a ban on embryonic stem cell research in Ireland and Uí Bhriain said the Geron announcement would “certainly strengthen the pro-life case for such a ban.”