Monday, January 07, 2013

BioTime Buys Geron's Stem Cell Assets, Including hESC Clinical Trial

Geron Corp., which pioneered the first clinical trial of an hESC therapy, today sold its stem cell business to another San Francisco Bay Area firm whose two top executives were once CEOs at Geron.

Michael West
BioTime photo
The total value of the complex deal was not clear from the public statements released by Geron and the acquiring firm, BioTime, Inc., of Alameda, but an unidentified outside investor is adding $10 million to transaction.

In a telephone interview this evening, Michael West, CEO of BioTime, said that as a result of the deal his firm will hold 600 patents and patent applications involving stem cells. He said the aggregation should help in attracting financial interest in the firm and its efforts.

West founded Geron in 1990. BioTime Acquistion Corp., the BioTime subsidiary that is picking up the Geron assets, is headed by Tom Okarma, who was Geron's CEO from 1999 to 2011.

After Okarma left the firm in 2011, Geron abruptly jettisoned its stem cell business along with the clinical trial. Geron has been looking since then for a buyer for the assets.

Tom Okarma
Geron photo
Only a few months prior to the Geron decision in 2011, the California stem cell agency had signed a $25 million loan agreement with Geron to support the clinical trial. The company paid back with interest the amount of the loan that it had received.

Information from the two companies did not specify whether BioTime will begin seeking additional participants in the clinical trial. Nor did BioTime indicate whether it would seek additional funding from the state stem cell agency.

However, West said during the telephone interview that he has an “open mind” about working with CIRM. Last year, agency officials indicated an interest in continuing to support the clinical trial. West said BioTime had already hired some employees that were laid off by Geron, including its patent attorney. He said that he hoped to reassemble at least part of Geron's now scattered stem cell team.

According to the Geron press release, when the deal is officially concluded in September, “it is anticipated that Geron stockholders would own approximately 21% of BAC, BioTime would own approximately 72%, and a private investor would own approximately 7% after an additional $5 million investment in BAC.”

For its new operations, BioTime has leased space in Menlo Park that Geron once used for its stem cell business.

Both firms are publicy traded. BioTime's stock price closed at $3.45 today and had a 52-week high of $6.35 and a low of $2.67. Geron closed at $1.60 and had a 52-week high of $2.99 and a low of 91 cents.

Here is a link to an article in the San Francisco Business Times about the deal. Here are links to the BioTime press release, a BioTime FAQ and the Geron press release.
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