“The citizens of California have spoken. If my grandmother and I had the power to get the rest of the country to follow, we would.”
“To be clear, the earliest stem cell therapies are almost certainly years from distribution. But so much progress has been made at venerable research institutions that it now seems possible to honestly discuss the possibility of a new medical paradigm emerging within a generation. Working primarily with rodents in preclinical trials, MDs and Ph.D.s are making the paralyzed walk and the impotent virile. A stem cell therapy for two types of macular degeneration recently restored the vision of two women. Once they were blind. Now they see!
“Some experts assert that AMD could be eradicated within a decade. Other scientists are heralding a drug-free fix for HIV/AIDS. Various forms of cancer, Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and ALS have already been eradicated in mice. If such work translates to humans, it will represent the type of platform advancement that comes along in medicine only once in a lifetime or two. The effect on the economy would be substantial. Champions of stem cell research say it would be on the order of the Internet or even the transistor.”
“The obstacles along the road from lab rat to human patients are many, of course, but the biggest by far is money. With the dramatic events in the lab, you might think that a gold rush would be under way. That's far from true. Long time horizons, regulatory hurdles, huge R&D costs, public sentiment, and political headwinds have all scared financiers. Wall Street isn't interested in financing this particular dream. Most stem cell companies that have dared go public are trading down 90% or more from their IPOs. Sand Hill Road is AWOL. The National Venture Capital Association doesn't even have a category to track stem cell investments.”
“The $1.7 billion awarded so far has made one obvious mark on the state: a dozen gleaming research institutions. CIRM has proved adept at getting billionaires to donate funds to the cause.”
“Goodness, you're talking to the wrong guy. Our donation had nothing to do with business.”
“For close to two hours, Grove argues passionately about how the FDA is enabling predatory offshore industries by impeding progress and the many reasons financiers want no part of stem cells. "VCs aren't interested because it's a shitty business," he says. Big Pharma? Forget it. CIRM? "There are gleaming fucking buildings everywhere. That wasn't necessary." When I press him to be constructive, he wearily offers one possible solution. Rather than courting billionaires to put their names on buildings, we need a system of targeted philanthropy in which the 99% can sponsor the individual stem cell lines that matter to them.”
“It was clear during our talk that Grove wants an economic model for stem cell research and development to emerge, even if he's not willing to bet money on its happening. And that puts him in good company.”