Houston stem cell meeting lacks diversity & risks falling to groupthink

Next month there is going to be a new stem cell meeting taking place. The 1st Annual Houston Stem Cell Summit. The primary sponsor is Celltex.

I’d encourage everyone to go, but I’m not so sure it’d be worth it.Houston Stem Cell Summit

Why?

I’m always glad to see another stem cell meeting and this one is surely unique in the sense that it seems to be exclusively focused on the clinical and for-profit adult stem cell industry, but it seems too narrow in my opinion.

Too many like opinions.

A look at the list of top speakers (see column at right) as well as the full list here on the agenda, reads like a who’s who of the adult stem cell small clinic commercialization world.

Very insular. Very non-inclusive.

I find it fascinating that Dr. Chris Centeno of Regenerative Sciences Inc (RSI) is speaking along with many folks from Celltex as I didn’t think they were particularly chummy, but you can bet they share most of the same views on stem cells and a dislike for the FDA.

I’m glad to see Guv Rick Perry keynoting the meeting. As many of you know, I had a chance to meet with Perry in La Jolla earlier this year to discuss stem cell policy and the future of stem cells. Much of the credit for that meeting goes to Mike Thorsnes, a truly incredible patient advocate and photographic artist.

At the end of our La Jolla meeting that also included academic Jeanne Loring, Perry suggested we all come to his meeting in Houston in October to continue our discussion.

Perhaps I was naive, but no specific invitation has been forthcoming for me for the Houston Summit. Did it get lost in the mail?

I suspect this might have something to do with my outspoken blogging about my concerns about small clinic-based stem cell commercialization. We’ll see.

I suppose it is never too late, huh?

What concerns me the most about this meeting is that the folks I see listed as the big guns of this meeting are not generally known for a diversity of views on stem cells. It’s difficult to imagine much real debate or vigorous discussion about the pros and cons of the field.

The way it is now I’d be guessing it will be a lot of groupthink and preaching to the choir.

It’s also notable that the organizers have set up two “debates” on the second day of the meeting. Debates can be very useful exercises for digging deep into topics and exploring different opinions. However, I’m skeptical that they will actually happen here.

Why?

The 1st debate is “Rapidly Evolving Stem Cell therapies and business models require more flexible FDA and State regulatory frameworks” and  the second one is “Autologous Stem Cell Therapies are not drugs.”

Seriously, who in this crowd is going to debate against these statements? Interestingly, the debaters are not listed. Each debate is also only given 30 minutes total.

Celltex

it is also interesting that RNL Bio has zero apparent presence at this meeting.

If you recall RNL Bio is the longtime, integral partner of Celltex. In fact, RNL Bio has been running the Celltex lab in Sugarland, TX. Several of the speakers-to-be at the Houston Summit can also be seen earlier with Dr. Ra, founder of RNL Bio, at a ribbon cutting ceremony last year (see above). Perhaps RNL Bio being sued for stem cell fraud might have something to do with their absence?

The Houston Summit is a great opportunity to build bridges and truly advance the field, but I believe it needs more diversity to attain that admirable goal.

Maybe in year 2?

1 Comment


  1. The Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s overall aim is to use the power of stem cell biology to understand and ultimately treat selected diseases and conditions. Achieving this will require advances on many levels, from basic biology to patient delivery systems. The Harvard community, comprising the university, the medical school, and 11 hospitals and research institutions, is one of the largest concentrations of biomedical researchers in the world. Click here to watch a video introduction to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

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