Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Nearly Three-Decade-Long Stem Cell Tale in California

Kris Boesen, patient in Asterias trial -- photo from CIRM
One could say that the latest news involving human embryonic stem cell research and the California stem cell agency stretches back nearly 27 years. 

It was then -- in 1990 -- that Geron, Inc., was incorporated by Michael West who began what eventually turned into a quest for a stem cell therapy for treatment of spinal cord injury.

Yesterday, the Golden State's stem cell research effort carried an item on its blog, The Stem Cellar, dealing with the latest chapter in that quest. The headline said,
"Full Steam Ahead: First Patient is Dosed in Expanded CIRM Spinal Cord Injury Trial"
In the piece, Karen Ring, website manager for the stem cell agency, celebrated the latest patient news concerning the trial which is backed by a Menlo Park, Ca., company called Asterias Biotherapeutics.  Ring said,  
"Inspiring stories like that of Kris Boesen, who was the first AIS-A patient to get 10 million cells in the Asterias trial and now has regained the use of his arms and legs, are the reason why CIRM exists and why we are working so hard to fund promising clinical trials. If we can develop even one stem cell therapy that gives patients back their life, then our efforts here at CIRM will be worthwhile."
Michael West, Biotime photo
The tale of  Michael West, his research and his companies is long and convoluted. The short version is that he is now co-CEO of Biotime, Inc., of Alameda, Ca., which spawned in 2012 Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc., of  Menlo Park, Ca. 

Geron is out of the business of human embryonic stem cell research. In 2011, it abandoned the nation's first-ever hESC trial for financial reasons. The effort was sold to Asterias in 2013. In 2014, the $3 billion California stem cell agency jumped in with $14.3 million for Asterias. 

 Asterias' stock closed at $4.56 yesterday. Its 52-week high stood at $5.75. Its 52-week low was $2.30. 


  1. It is unclear to me whether what is being used is embryonic stem cells or stem cells used from some other source. Could someone clear that up for me?

  2. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Mark, they are using cells differentiated from embryonic stem cells. This is the same technique that was started by Geron. Here are some links:


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