Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stem Cell Firms Not Bargaining on IP From Strong Position

Venture capitalists are like cloned sheep. That is one basic reason that embryonic stem cell research is not being funded.

Or so it seems, based on an article by Terri Somers in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Her piece illustrated the weakness of the position of businesses now trying to influence the formulation of intellectual property policies by the California stem cell agency.

Last month, some executives told the agency that it should not expect businesses to come crawling for grants unless the royalty provisions were appropriate – meaning generous. That position belies the reality that venture capitalists and other funding sources, including the federal government, are shying away from stem cell enterprises.

Somers pointed out that out of $5.9 billion invested by venture capital firms in biotech and medical devices last year, only $120 million went to stem cell research, according to Fred Schwartzer, managing director of venture capital firm Charter Life Sciences in Palo Alto, Ca. The federal government provides only about $30 million annually for stem cell research.

Compare that to the $300 million a year that is expected to be pumped out by CIRM. That would make the agency the single largest source of stem cell research funding in the world, unless something changes in the next year or two.

If California stem cell firms take their petri dishes and go home (to borrow a phrase), shunning CIRM's beneficience, they are only likely to damage themselves. And, compared to the meddlesome and harsh demands of some VC firms, CIRM could appear to be a kindly, generous old uncle.

It may be some time before the private investment climate changes for stem cell research, according to Schwartzer. Somers said,
"Once there are some 'big IPOs and big acquisitions' of companies based on stem cell research, (Schwartzer) believes the private investment climate will change.

"'VC are like cloned sheep . . . they will follow,' he said."
Somers' article was based on discussions at the annual BIO convention in Chicago. She also quoted executives with Invitrogen, Stem Cell Sciences and Stem Cell Therapeutics. The piece is worth reading to gain a fuller view of investor thinking about the stem cell business. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Also of relevance is the quote of Jeanne Loring that appears in the MIT Technology Review on April 24.