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Stem Cell Technologies: Entering the Next Generation of Cellular Therapies

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

With use of embryonic stem cells problematic because of ethical and technical issues, the competitive landscape in cell therapy is being shaped by the adult stem cell opportunity. The firms profiled in this issue are taking a variety of approaches. NeuroNova has shown that neural stem cells transplanted into mouse blastocysts could differentiate into heart, liver, and intestinal cells, and is using its stem cells as a drug discovery tool to identify a broader range of factors affecting cell differentiation in the brain it can potentially turn into drugs. Stem Cell Pharmaceuticals wants to build a franchise around TGF-alpha, which causes adult stem cells to proliferate, induces migration of new cells, and allows their subsequent differentiation into fully functional tissue. StemCo Biomedical has developed a way to measure intracellular activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme highly expressed in stem cells, as a marker for isolating the cells and separating them out. StemSource Inc. has created a stem cell bank for individuals to store their own stem cells, which the company isolates from adipose (fat) tissue, for future use.

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CellDesign Inc.

Current cellular models for drug discovery can be notoriously unreliable, both for their predictive power and their sustainability. Cells derived from human progenitor stem cells can provide homogeneity over countless experiments, but working with them remains a complex scientific art. By industrializing production of stem cell-derived cell model systems, CellDesign Inc. intends to capture a chunk of the existing $1.5 billion market for cellular model systems and grow it through sales of easy-to-use kits for deriving everything from human fat cells to Alzheimer's disease-ridden neurons.

Fate Therapeutics Inc.

While some stem cell companies strive to develop neatly packaged products for specific medical niches, and some aim to supply research tools others will use, Fate Therapeutics is planning to do all that and more. The La Jolla, CA-based start-up founded in November 2007 has recruited an all-star team of scientists, clinicians, executives, and investors who together are pursuing the ultimate prize-the ability to restore health to diseased or damaged cells, and to find new therapeutics for many kinds of conditions that currently have limited or no treatment options.

Clinical Update (03/2007)

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.

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