Thursday, January 18, 2007

Surfing the Wave of Good Stem Cell Vibrations

The House vote on federal embryonic stem cell research has created a fresh wave of good feeling for the stem cell industry, and at least one California firm is moving quickly to capture its momentum.

Advanced Cell Technology of Alameda issued two news releases this week, specifically citing the current political climate. One announced a national conference call Friday for investors during which ACT executives will promote their company and point of view.

The company also announced that it had received a "momentous" $204,439 NIH research grant in conjunction with a project involving one of the company's academic partners, the Burnham Institute in the San Diego area.

The news release quoted William M. Caldwell, chairman and CEO of ACT, as saying:
"This grant is momentous in part because it reflects the changing political climate and the federal government’s move toward considerably greater support for research into embryonic stem cell science. Increases in federal funding can trigger very significant growth in our industry, and grants such as these help companies like Advanced Cell deliver stem cell-based therapies to the bedside."
The release also quoted Mark Mercola, professor in stem cells and regeneration at Burnham, as saying:
"There are considerable opportunities in the field of regenerative medicine to use embryonic stem cells to develop therapeutic products to treat diseases where healthy cells may be used to replace those lost to injury or disease. This grant will allow us to build on our collaboration with Advanced Cell to use phage display as a tool to discover novel molecules for directing stem cells to form useful cell types and tissues."
It is fair to say that the releases are as much – if not more – about creating a "good story" for investors about ACT than the science. Nothing wrong with that. That's the way business works. The maneuver is not much different than what the governor of California did last summer when he announced his $150 million CIRM bailout in the wake of the president's veto. It certainly behooves the industry to piggyback on the positive vibrations out of Washington, even if the federal government's position on ESC research remains unchanged.

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