Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Possible Buyers for Geron's Stem Cell Business: BioTime, Pfizer, Celgene

The mainstream media is climbing all over the Geron story today with more analysis and a  discussion of firms that might snag the San Francisco area firm's orphan stem cell business.

Reporter Peter Loftus of the Wall Street Journal mentioned Pfizer, which is involved an hESC project with researcher Peter Coffey, who was lured from the UK this fall to UC Santa Barbara. Among the incentives was a $4.9 million grant from the California stem cell agency, which also financed Geron to the tune of $25 million.

Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press had this to say about buyers:
"Analysts say Geron's stem cell business could be acquired by Alameda, Calif.-based BioTime, a company founded by former Geron scientists. Other potential acquirers could include larger pharmaceutical companies like Celgene Corp., Pfizer Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals, which have dabbled in stem cells without making major investments."
BioTime's shares were up 7 percent today, closing at $4.52. Geron's shares were down as much as 28 percent and hit a five-year low. It closed at $1.71, down 22 percent.

The AP also wrote,
"Joseph Pantginis, an analyst with Roth Capital Partners, said it would have taken five to ten years before Geron's lead stem cell product reached the market.

"'This is still very much a fledgling space and some people would even consider stem cells to be a science experiment, so there's still a long way to go,' said Pantginis.

"University of Wisconsin professor Alta Charo said Geron's move 'may suggest that a different business model is needed, one with a longer timeline for return on investment.'"
Charo had close ties early on with the $3 billion California stem cell agency, which loaned $25 million to Geron just six months ago. The loan was part of an aggressive effort to produce clinical results that will help extend the agency's life beyond 2017, when funds are expected to run out. Currently CIRM is financed through California state bonds, which will need to be approved by voters again if CIRM is to continue.

Here are more excerpts from today's coverage.

Gretchen Vogel of Science magazine wrote,
"Some observers had reservations about the trial from the start, worrying that the animal results were not strong enough to justify a human trial. But many had been pulling for the company nonetheless. 'It's with a sense of loss that I see this news,' says Roger Pedersen of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was one of the researchers to receive funding from Geron in the mid-1990s to attempt to derive hES cells. He says the company may be reacting not only to the long timeline to bring cell therapies to the clinic, but also to a possible weakening of its intellectual property portfolio. The development of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to resemble embryonic ones, means that Geron's exclusive licenses may be worth less. 'Advances in the stem cell field are disruptive innovations that have the potential to supercede earlier innovations, hES cells being one of those. I don't know if Geron looks at it that way, but I do,' Pedersen says."
Ben Hirschler and Kate Kelland of Reuters reported:
"A decision by one of the biggest names in stem cell research to throw in the towel will not stop other pioneering work that could yet produce cures for blindness and help mend broken hearts.

Scientists were shocked by U.S. biotech company Geron Corp's decision on Monday to quit embryonic stem cell research -- a move it blamed on a lack of money and the complexities of getting regulatory approval....

"Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of ACT, is not giving up hope on the embryonic front but said Geron's exit put more pressure on his firm to succeed.

"'Of course, it's the second mouse that often gets the cheese,' he said."
Sarah Boseley of The Guardian in the UK wrote:
"The dream of Superman actor Christopher Reeve and others of paralysed people being able to walk again after injections of stem cells has receded, following the announcement by biotech company Geron in the US that it is to abandon the first-ever human trial of its kind."
Jef Akst of The Scientist magazine wrote:
"'It’s certainly going to have a very chilling effect,' said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, the only other company currently engaged in clinical trials involving hESCs. 'There’s a lot of exciting potential here in this field, and it would just be a real shame for this not to move ahead full steam.'...

"One thing working in the field’s favor is the fact that Geron helped pave the regulatory way for other stem cell therapies, said Sheng Ding, a stem cell biologist at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco. 'Geron’s past efforts had cleared out a FDA path for pluripotent stem cells,” he wrote in an email to The Scientist."
The Financial Times of London altered its original story by Andrew Jack without notifying its readers that the story was changed or why. The old version began.
"Geron, the pioneering stem cell therapy company, has dealt a powerful blow to one of the most hyped areas of medicinal research by withdrawing entirely from the field."
The new version, posted at least 12 hours later, begins:
"Geron, the Californian biotech company, is abandoning its pioneering embryonic stem cell work, after concluding that the costs and length of further development were too great."
Matthew Herper of Forbes published a comment from Jamie Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, whose hESC discoveries were financed in part by Geron. Thomson wrote,
"Geron’s decision to discontinue their stem cell work reflects how genuinely difficult it is to build a business around embryonic stem cell-based transplantation therapies. They also chose a particularly challenging target for the first therapeutic application. They are to be commended, however, for blazing a trail that others can follow in getting the first clinical trial approved by the FDA, as such approvals should be easier in the future."
Herper continued,
"Thomson initially shied away from the idea of building businesses around embryonic stem cells or their successors, induced pluripotent stem cells, which don’t involve destroying embryos. (He told me three years ago, 'I really believe personally that the value of these cells is not in transplantation,' and that '90% of the value of these cells will be in things that don’t make the front pages.') When Thomson did decide to become an entrepreneur, it was through a Madison, Wisconsin-based startup called Cellular Dynamics International, which uses the cells to create better ways of testing the safety and effectiveness of experimental drugs. Drug giants including Roche, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca have taken their own steps toward embracing stem-cell-based research. This field is slowly gaining steam just as the one Geron is abandoning its own attempts to heal the lame."
Brian Orelli on the MotleyFool investment web site wrote,
"Geron is giving up on stem cells. That's like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts without glazed treats, or Apple without Macintosh."
Adam Feuerstein on thestreet.com wrote:
"Geron's  decision to shut down its embryonic stem cell research programs is a blow to the controversial research field and a painful reminder that only dreamers and fools invest in embryonic stem cell stocks....But does anyone believe that Geron would jettison stem-cell research if the ongoing clinical trial in spinal cord injury were helping patient recover neurological or motor function?"
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1 comment:

  1. Carlson8:00 AM

    Four years later, this seems mighty prescient:

    http://online.barrons.com/public/article/SB117832288793792850-nAnSOoBiL_2gYXdVA5adu3RQYVI_20070512.html

    ReplyDelete