Geron Sells Embryonic Stem Cell Business

By Wesley J. Smith

Editor’s note. Wesley alludes to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. CIRM was established after voters in 2004 approved a state ballot initiative, Proposition 71, which funded embryonic stem cell/human cloning research using $3 billion in bonds (only $859 million remains). CIRM has come under tremendous criticism from outside authorities.

cell332I was right. Again. Last month, I predicted that Geron would sell its defunct embryonic stem cell business this year, and the one major Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) human trial would be on the road to resuming. (Yes, I know there are a few other tiny studies ongoing.) One month later, and it has happened. From the Nature Biotechnology story :

Geron’s stem cell assets were given a new lease in early January when former CEO Tom Okarma, now heading a subsidiary of BioTime of Alameda, California, signed a definitive agreement for the latter to take control of the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) program. At the same time, the US Supreme Court ended a recent battle over hESC research when it declined to hear Sherley vs. Sebelius, a case that challenged federal funding for hESCs. James Thomson, professor of cell and regenerative biology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and the first to derive an hESC cell line in 1998, says, “Now there will be a way for Geron’s work in this area to move forward,” adding, “after years of controversy there is finally a reasonable policy for stem cell research.”

I suspect that part of that “way forward” will be with my credit card using California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM] borrowed money. Voters, kill the voracious beast in 2014 before it borrows again!!!!

Oh, sorry. I got a bit carried away: CIRM bitterness aside, I think that stem cell science has substantially moved on, with adult and induced pluripotent stem cells now offering the more immediate hopes of developing safe and efficacious regenerative treatments. Time will tell.

But this was never really a science issue. It was and is a dispute over ethics. Whatever the outcome of Bio Time’s new ESCR efforts, that won’t change.

Editor’s note. This first appeared on Wesley’s great blog.