October 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Bad Batch podcast is must listen for stem cell community

Bad Batch Podcast
Bad Batch Podcast, click here to listen.

I’m relatively new to podcasts, but am enjoying a new stem cell-focused one called Bad Batch by medical journalist Laura Beil, which I’ve been listening to in the car as I commute. I just finished episode three. I’m curious to hear how the next few episodes of the story unfold.

I talked and emailed with Beil as she worked on this project. Her rigorous approach impressed me and she clearly did her homework on it.

Bad Batch comes from podcast network Wondery. It is focused on a company called Liveyon that will be familiar to readers of The Niche.

In the way of brief background, Liveyon is a controversial firm selling purported birth-related stem cell products including previously from a supplier called Genetech (no, not Genentech). It’s unclear whether their products consistently have real, living stem cells in them in any significant numbers.

I have some serious concerns about the leadership of Liveyon (just Google their names), and in my opinion the corporate focus has seemed more about making quick profits than helping patients with a rigorously proven medical product.

Liveyon and its leader, John Kosolcharoen have run into a slew of problems just in the past year. Most seriously, more than a dozen patients ended up terribly ill and hospitalized after receiving injections of a Liveyon product that somehow was contaminated with a variety of bacteria including E. coli prior to injection. It was remarkably fortunate that no one died.

Liveyon has tried to regenerate itself after this disaster. I’m not really sure where it stands today. Four months ago I wrote about a serious FDA inspection report of the company. 

Who knows if the FDA will do anything further?  The story here goes well beyond one bad batch of a stem cell product to a troubling stem cell supply industry. There are other birth-related stem cell suppliers out there that raise concerns as well.

Bad Batch digs into the intriguing and alarming backstory behind this mess.  We get to know the cast of characters involved including Kosolcharoen, an upset anonymous investor from his past, his mother, Alan Gaveck (another leader at Liveyon), and more.

Importantly, we also get to know the patients who were harmed and their families.

I recommend giving it a listen. Beil has a wonderful way of weaving a story and a perfect podcast voice.

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