Weekly reads: Conception Bio & IVG, MYC, Stanford Prez resigns

The Bay Area biotech Conception Bio has an intriguing name. What does “conception” mean here?

Scientists can make many things from stem cells. For example, lately I’ve written a lot about stem cell-based human embryo models. Another intriguing area is called in vitro gametogenesis or IVG, where Conception Bio is a leader. IVG means making gametes from stem cells. Using human stem cells, those sperm or eggs could then be used either for research or to aid infertile people to have babies.

A new interesting piece on Conception from NPR science reporter Rob Stein caught my eye.

in vitro gametogenesis, IVG
Diagram of the key steps of in vitro gametogenesis or IVG. Knoepfler image.

Conception Bio & IVG

Here’s the article. Startup aims to make lab-grown human eggs, transforming options for creating families, NPR. I’ve written before about Conception Bio, related to a National Academies Meeting on IVG. This area of science is moving forward quickly with the ultimate goal being use by people.

While I can definitely see potential positives of IVG, I have two main concerns. The first one relates to safety. Another issue is the possibility that IVG could be misused such as to make gene-edited people. As to the former, how would we know IVG is safe before we try it in people? Large-animal models?

Admittedly, some folks raised safety concerns about IVF in the early days, but I see IVG as far riskier. For example, there is a strong likelihood of epigenetic inaccuracies during IVG to make gametes.

My impression is that Conception Bio is taking this all appropriately seriously. The main goal now is producing human eggs. From their website:

“Our current focus is to create a proof of concept human egg, and develop rigorous process optimization and quality control measures to ensure that the eggs are healthy.

We do not take the development of this technology lightly. Our hope is that it will one day be used to bring healthy kids into the world, so we must hold ourselves to very high safety and ethical standards. Our plan will be to work closely with scientific, regulatory and ethical experts to ensure this technology develops safely and responsibly.”

Conception Bio, IVG
Conception Bio leadership. “Conception Chief Scientific Officer Pablo Hurtado (from left), Chief Operating Officer Bianka Seres and CEO Matt Krisiloff are working on technology that could create human eggs from blood cells.” NPR photo.

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