Bad news as Geron to quit hESC SCI trial for financial reasons

Reportedly, Geron has decided to only focus on cancer research and for financial reasons has shut down its hESC trial for spinal cord injury.Geron, stem cell treatments

This is a very sad day for stem cell science. (Update in 2020: the firm still exists, but is working in different areas. The stock has struggled.)

No more spinal cord injury patients will be treated in the Geron former clinical trial.

This leaves Advanced Cell Technology as the only biotech conducting active clinical trials on hESC-based products. One has to wonder and worry about financial pressure on them as well.

Are stem cell-based clinical trials too expensive to make it all the way to the clinic?

What happens to the relationship between Geron and CIRM, which was going to give Geron substantial financial support?

Another 2020 update: the reincarnation of this trial by Asterias still continues, albeit somewhat slowly.

6 thoughts on “Bad news as Geron to quit hESC SCI trial for financial reasons”

  1. I was very disappointed to hear about this through the CIRM email list today. This highlights my major concern for the future of stem cell medicine. The fact is, is that advancing stem cell therapies of any source whether it be embryonic or adult to cure disease and/or injury unfortunately does not fit the business model of big pharma and bio-tech companies. In order to invest money into a particular area or project the company needs to be able to see a return on their investment. The underlying question is; what financial value do stem cell cures have for the company? One major factor that the industrial world base their decisions on is whether future consumers will be repeat consumers. Repeat consumers = long term steady financial gains = happy big pharma CEO. Unfortunately and also fortunately (depending on the way you look at it) this does not align with the goal of many stem cell researchers (me included) of using stem cells as a potential to cure diseases and rehabilitate injuries. In simple terms, you go into the hospital once get your treatment and you don’t need to continuously refill prescriptions or other expensive treatments to make your injury or illness manageable. You are cured in the most ideal situation or your side affects and dependency on prescription mediciation is lowered – less ideal but still worthwhile to pursue.

    At the world stem cell summit this past Oct a politician highlighted pharma’s lack of financial support in this area and proposed federally funded grants to be awarded to big pharma companies when they produce a cost saving medicine ie stem cell cures. I think this or some other type of program/grant that would motivate big pharma to get more involved in the clinical trials of stem cell therapies is greatly needed. If major changes aren’t made we won’t see many of the stem cell findings discovered in laboratories being transferred to clinical trials and in turn to bedside treatment.

    1. Agnes you’re 100 % correct and is why the advancements will probably occur in another country that has a more socialized healthcare system. When you start to realize how much Gern spent just to get around regulatory hurdles and delays, it’s evident that the only way for true medical advancements to reach the patient is an overhaul of the current politicized and incorporated healthcare system.
      Every diabetic, heart patient, stroke victim, cancer patient, or paralyzed individual is viewed as an annuity either to a drug company or a medical equipment supplier. The pharmaceutical industry’s motto should be “we have a drug for everything and a cure for nothing”. Thanks again for your insights.

  2. They have spent a huge amount just to get this far. One thinks that adding more patients would not cost that much more. However, this is not the way their management is necessarily thinking. It could be that they are starting to run low on cash and need to get into something that will bring more rapid returns in order to keep their ship afloat. Some years ago, I was involved in development of a novel anticancer drug that was dropped near the end of phase I because of “managerial considerations”. It had done well in the trial and dropping it resulted in several letters to the editors of journals from upset clinical researchers running the trials. On the other hand, we all worry if there were something serious that led to the decision by Geron.

  3. Are stem cell-based clinical trials too expensive to make it all the way to the clinic?

    No…if trillions of dollars was spent via the government to save the bondholders and shareholders of the banks then I don’t see how you can put forth that argument when it comes to getting people out of wheelchairs. Seems to me they must be pretty close to a break through, its just that someone did not want them to get to the other side. The Pontiff must feel his prayers were answered.

    Wasn’t gern promising to up the concentration of cells into the patients currently in the trials? What does this mean to them? Is all hope lost? What a disgrace!

  4. I just read it, and headed here hoping for more news on it 🙁

    I wonder if it’s related to the Europe court decision.

    I’m reading the official press release as I type. It’s here:

    A glimmer of hope: apparently they don’t intend to mothball the project, but to transfer it to a partner company.

    “Geron Corporation (Nasdaq: GERN) today announced that, effective immediately, the Company will focus on its first-in-class oncology programs. As a consequence, the Company will discontinue further development of its stem cell programs and is seeking partners for these novel assets.”

    ” We believe that our leadership role in the field and the quality of our stem cell assets-which are widely recognized as being among the most innovative, comprehensive and advanced cell therapy programs in the world-will be an important point of differentiation in our discussions to partner these assets.” – Dr Scarlett

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