Not all investment in regenerative medicine has come from traditional private sources or venture capital firms. Last year Google Ventures announced that it was planning to invest in regenerative medicine. While traditional venture capitalists remain hesitant to back stem cell technologies in any significant way, Google’s move indicates that strategic investors finally have regenerative medicine in their sights.
In addition, many large pharmaceutical companies are developing internal and external regenerative medicine programs, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline.
Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and Roslin Cells recently agreed to collaborate to establish a bank of GMP-grade hESC lines using ACT’s single-ceblastomere technique for deriving embryonic stem cells without damage to the embryo. The collaboration intends for the hESC lines to be created and stored using protocols that meet the regulatory standards of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and U.S. FDA.
Roslin Cells, which is an offshoot of the Roslin Institute, will be responsible for maintaining the banked hESC lines, which will be made available for both research and commercial purposes. In addition, ACT and Roslin Cells will provide a commercialization license so that third parties will have a predictable path for commercialization of products made using the hESC lines.
According to International Stem Cell (ISCO), it has made significant progress toward creating the first bank of immune-matched human parthenogenetic stem cells (hpSCs). Parthenogenetic stem cells are a unique type of stem cell that are created from unfertilized eggs (oocytes). They have been shown to be pluripotent, i.e., they have the capacity to become almost any cell type in the body, yet they avoid ethical issues associated with use or destruction of viable human embryos.
Unlike other pluripotent stem cell types, such as embryonic stem cells for example, they can be created in a genetically homozygous form. In such a form, homozygous hpSCs can be immunologically matched to millions of individuals. This makes possible, for the first time, the establishment of a bank (UniStemCell™) containing stem cell lines that are immune matched to a large patient population. Cell lines from the UniStemCell bank will be made available to government, academic, and corporate researchers worldwide.
Currently, there are only a limited number of companies that are true stem cell players. However, if the April decision holds and government funding increases allowing private research to thrive, there will be breakthroughs in all areas of stem cell research including hESCs, adult stem cells, parthenogenesis, and iPSCs, and the industry could grow exponentially over the next decade.
At present, there are a number of companies involved in regenerative medicine—some of which have been around for years. Such companies include Aastrom Biosciences, developing cell products for the regeneration or repair of human tissues; Advanced Cell Technology; Geron, which has received approveal for clinical trials with hESCs; Invitrogen, which sells products and services that support research; MultiCell Technologies, which is focused on MS-related chronic fatigue, infectious disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease; StemCells, which is developing adult stem cell therapeutics for treating damage to the CNS, liver, and pancreas; ViaCell, which sells ViaCord, a product that is used to preserve a baby’s umbilical cord blood; and ViaCyte, which is dedicated to creating and commercializing cell therapies to treat diabetes.
The outlook for the future of regenerative medicine is clearer today than ever. Companies are poised to replenish their technology pipelines with nascent and developing stem cell science from leading research institutes and universities, now that some of the political and legal risk has been reduced.