Leader in Embryonic Cell Research Abandons Ten-Year Project

By:  Dave Bohon
11/21/2011
       
Leader in Embryonic Cell Research Abandons Ten-Year Project

Citing the uncertain economy and the scarcity of needed capital, the company that launched the first government funded embryonic stem-cell trials announced that it is halting further stem-cell research and will lay off nearly 40 percent of its staff. The California-based Geron Corp., which began the first FDA-approved stem-cell trials in 2010, said that it would shift its focus to cancer research.

Explaining what he insisted was purely a financial decision, Geron Chief Executive John Scarlett told the Wall Street Journal that the “time frame for meaningful value inflection [for stem-cell programs] would occur substantially further in the future than for our oncology products.” Suspension of Geron’s research, which involved patients with spinal cord injuries, still leaves at least two other companies invested in the controversial project.

Pro-life activists have been vocal in their opposition to the research because it requires the destruction of human embryos. While it has received the lion’s share of attention from the scientific community and the media, embryonic stem-cell therapy “has yet to produce any treatments or cures,” reported Baptist Press News. “By contrast, pro-lifers say, research using non-embryonic forms of stem cells — such as adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells — has been far more promising. Adult stem cells — found throughout the body — have produced 73 medical treatments, according to a tally by the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. In induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers reprogram adult skin cells into stem cells that have virtually the identical properties of embryonic ones.”

Citing the uncertain economy and the scarcity of needed capital, the company that launched the first government funded embryonic stem-cell trials announced that it is halting further stem-cell research and will lay off nearly 40 percent of its staff. The California-based Geron Corp., which began the first FDA-approved stem-cell trials in 2010, said that it would shift its focus to cancer research.

Explaining what he insisted was purely a financial decision, Geron Chief Executive John Scarlett told the Wall Street Journal that the “time frame for meaningful value inflection [for stem-cell programs] would occur substantially further in the future than for our oncology products.” Suspension of Geron’s research, which involved patients with spinal cord injuries, still leaves at least two other companies invested in the controversial project.

Pro-life activists have been vocal in their opposition to the research because it requires the destruction of human embryos. While it has received the lion’s share of attention from the scientific community and the media, embryonic stem-cell therapy “has yet to produce any treatments or cures,” reported Baptist Press News. “By contrast, pro-lifers say, research using non-embryonic forms of stem cells — such as adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells — has been far more promising. Adult stem cells — found throughout the body — have produced 73 medical treatments, according to a tally by the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. In induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers reprogram adult skin cells into stem cells that have virtually the identical properties of embryonic ones.”

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