Stem Cells--A Proliferating Ambition
This article was originally published in Start Up
Stem cells have applications in organ and tissue repair, gene therapy, drug discovery, and bioartificial organs. Companies are trying to find, grow, and control human embryonic stem cells—totipotent progenitor cells that can give rise to all the tissues in the human body. Investors are intrigued by the opportunity--after all, Sandoz bought 60% of SyStemix at a big premium--but are unnerved by the early-stage of stem cell science, and the all-or-nothing races for patents.
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Recent clinical developments in the medical device industry, including developments in Artificial Limbs, Tissue-Engineered Therapy for ACL Tears, using Genes to Identify Early Atherosclerosis, and Stem Cell News.
New technologies enable the rapid processing of genetic information, but since gene data isn't associated with specific diseases and diseased tissues, in and of itself it isn't clinically useful. A new breed of start-ups aims to provide both the phenotypic and genotypic sides of the equation by creating databases of patients and patient samples. Still unclear is how much drug firms will pay for disease-associated gene data; genetics firms are taking various approaches to monetizing their databases, from focusing initially on high-value diagnostics to creating true target-discovery businesses, to selling their data along with associated software and services. There are also ethical issues to hammer out. The new companies must take care to protect patients' rights. They must consider the need for explicit consent to use the information collected from patients, especially when they are participating in research whose purpose is as yet undefined.
Despite a history of failed products, start-up companies are looking to reinvent how data from clinical trials is collected and managed. Firms are trying to replace the point solutions of the past with broad software offerings that can take clients from "site to submission."