July 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 13)

Potential of Field Provides Range of Opportunities for Therapeutic and Tool Firms

Stem cells are the biological building blocks that form other cells in the body. Because of their universality and ability to replace or repair damaged tissue, the therapeutic benefits are thought to be limitless. This emerging market should provide plenty of opportunities for producers of unique equipment and services that facilitate development of stem cell treatments.

The stem cell market is divided into three segments—cell-based treatments, umbilical cord blood banking, and the use of stem cells to evaluate the safety of drugs developed by other methods. According to Eldib Engineering & Research, these segments, which had combined U.S. sales revenue of $303 million in 2008 will grow to $2.3 billion by 2012. This growth will continue and reach a projected $8.5 billion in 2016.

There are many companies that are active in the development of stem cell products, including Osiris Therapeutics, NuVasive, Aastrom Biosciences, BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, Genzyme, International Stem  Cell, MedCell Biosciences, Medistem, Opexa Therapeutics, Plureon, Revicor, and StemCyte, and a number of these firms are engaged in partnerships with pharma firms.

It is estimated that about 11,000 people have been treated with stem cell products in the last two years. However, the potential market is much larger, as it is thought that there are over 2.5 million individuals with diseases that could be treated with existing stem cell products. As new stem cell products become available to treat other diseases this number could grow into the tens of millions.

Many diseases are being treated by stem cell therapies or are near-term candidates for stem cell therapy treatment, including orthopedic problems, immunodeficiency, anemia, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancers such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Research to develop and/or improve treatments for these formidable diseases will be the major driver of this market. Expenditures, which are already quite large, are growing rapidly. In 2006, about $820 million was invested in stem cell research, this number is expected to reach $1.25 billion in 2012 and nearly $2 billion in 2015. It is anticipated that this commitment will result in a bevy of drug candidates and eventually lead to the commercialization of additional stem cell-based products.

Burgeoning R&D expenditures will create an attractive market for companies that supply cell cultures, reagents, laboratory equipment, testing instruments, and other research needs. Tool companies will also benefit from research funding from private and government sources.

Finally, companies that do not manufacture stem cells themselves or supply the research market, but instead, provide devices or materials to aid in their isolation and/or production, will also benefit as this industry grows. 

Estimated R&D expenditures

Harold Gross, a project manager for life sciences at Eldib Engineering Research, is the author of “Business Opportunities in Stem Cells,” a new report from Eldib. Web: www.eldib.com.

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