For more than a decade, Geron has been a pillar of human embryonic stem cell research. They were the first to embark on embryonic stem cell trials, with a treatment for patients with spinal cord injury last year. They also have the distinction of having funded the research that isolated the first human embryonic stem cells, way back in 1998. But the company has just announced that they will be shuttering the stem cell portion of their operation.
Their spinal cord trial to assess whether a low dose of cells in a newly injured spine is safe, which had enrolled four patients, had been progressing as expected, so it’s not that they’ve lost faith in the science. It’s all about the money: Geron has two cancer drugs in clinical trials, and according to their announcement, this was the only way to continue supporting that research without having to raise more funds. They’ll be laying off 38% of their employees as a result of the decision. The four patients will continue to be monitored.
What’s the News: As a European court looks poised to ban the patenting of technologies using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), a group of prominent scientists has issued a warning: regenerative medicine is never going to leave the lab if no one can make money on it.