Friday, March 07, 2014

Craig Venter's "Road to the Cure" Stem Cell Venture

Craig Venter aboard his research yacht in 2004.
Sidney Morning Herald/Dallas Kilponen photo
Craig Venter, the international genomics superstar, is staking out a claim on stem cell turf.

The move comes with the formation of Human Longevity, Inc.(HLI), Venter's new company in the La Jolla, Ca., area.

Venter kicked off the enterprise this week with the announcement that it had $70 million in backing. The company press release said the firm is a “a genomics and cell therapy–based diagnostic and therapeutic company focused on extending the healthy, high performance human life span.''

Most of the news coverage concentrated on genomics. But the firm's press release also said,
“The company will be embarking on an ambitious multi-pronged effort utilizing stem cell therapy advances to enhance and improve the healthy life span. HLI's work is premised on the theory that as the human body ages many biological changes occur, including substantial changes and degradation to the genome of the differentiated, specialized cells found in all body tissues. There is also a depletion and degradation of healthy regenerative stem cell populations in the body over time. HLI will monitor the genomic changes which occur during stem cell differentiation, normal aging, and in association with the onset of disease.
"'The global market for healthy human longevity is enormous with total healthcare expenditures in those 65 and older running well over $7 trillion,' said Dr. (Bob) Hariri. 'We believe that HLI's unique science and technology, along with our business leadership, will positively impact the healthcare market with novel diagnostics and therapeutics.'"

Bob Hariri
HLI photo
Hariri. the former CEO of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, is vice chairman and co-founder of the new firm, which is located on a street called “Road to the Cure.”

Writing on Biopolitical Times, Pete Shanks of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley picked up part of the conference call earlier this week announcing the company. Shanks said, .
"Asked on this conference call if HLI would be in touch with the new Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center (at UC San Diego), Venter blandly noted that Larry Goldstein, who heads the center, is on the HLI advisory board. (Peter) Diamandis added:
'Stay tuned for more announcements on the stem cell side.'"

Diamandis is a co-founder of the firm and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. The Sanford stem cell center was funded with $100 million last fall from billionaire Denny Sanford. Goldstein has received $21 million in funding from the California stem cell agency. Three other representatives from UC San Diego are on the HLI scientific advisory board including David Brenner, a longtime member of the governing board of the California stem cell agency.

Venter was a featured speaker at a California stem cell agency governing board meeting in 2012. The J. Craig Venter Institute is a partner in the $40 million genomics stem cell award made by the agency to a team led by Stanford in January during a controversial award process.

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