I’ve been following 24 stem cell stocks for a few years. I haven’t invested in them or any others recently, but rather just find them interesting.
How are these doing in 2023? Mostly not great. In some cases, it is downright disastrous.
Let’s take a quick look at four stocks very much in the news over the last few years that have dropped a lot or even tanked in the past year.
One lesson here is that their ventures into the COVID arena were probably distractions and unwise overall. While some of them experienced a big temporary COVID bump in stock price at the worst of the pandemic, in the long run those efforts may have siphoned off crucial resources and focus. Admittedly, there was some logic for the world to be exploring many options for COVID when things were at their worst, but the rationales for MSC-like or marrow cell approaches were not the strongest.
A tale of 4 stem cell stocks
Celularity is focused on placenta cell-derived product development.
I believe the company has engaged in some hype over the years. For example, see: Just one word placentas: Can Celularity live up to hype? However, they have some interesting products including NK cells for cancer, which have some potential. I hope they are ultimately successful on the NK effort.
As a side note, I recently raised concerns about Hariri’s venture with Peter Diamandis and Tony Robbins in the anti-aging firm Fountain Life.
Celularity stock is down more than 90% in the past 12 months.
Athersys’s MultiStem bone marrow product is sometimes mixed up with MSCs, but the firm describes it this way, “MultiStem clinical product is developed from a special class of stem cells called Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells”. I think of them as cousins of MSCs.
MultiStem is in trials for ARDS, trauma, and stroke. So far the data from trials have not been super encouraging.
Athersys is another firm that jumped into the COVID space during the heart of the pandemic.
The stock is down 77% in the past year and more than 99% over the past five years. Its future is unclear.
Mesoblast is an Australian, MSC-focused biotech. Unlike the other biotechs in today’s post, they have an approved cellular therapy even if that approval came outside the U.S. So that distinguishes them from many others.
Their remestemcel-L product appears to provide some benefit for pediatric GvHD.
They’ve been dancing with the FDA for a long time about getting approval in the U.S. Most recently the FDA asked for a new trial for remestemcel-L, which was bad news.
The stock is down more than 50% in the past year. It’s down more than 80% in the past 5 years.
Still, I think there could be something positive there for specific cases of GvHD. Is that alone a tenable target for a biotech? They’ve also been exploring other diseases.
BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics
BrainStorm has been trialing its product Nurown for ALS. The trial results have generally been discouraging. However, the firm argues that in subgroups of ALS patients there may be a meaningful benefit.
An FDA advisory panel recently voted against Nurown moving forward.
The stock is down more than 95% in the past 12 months.
Lessons looking ahead
What does this tetrad of bad news tell us about stem cell stocks and biotechs more generally? One thing we already knew — this is an extremely risky sector. Cell therapy development may be more challenging than pharmaceutical drug development.
It’s also super risky to have a cell therapy product in search of a disease to treat with it, which has happened in some cases in the cell therapy space.
There are other cell therapy and regenerative medicine stocks are doing much better. I’m going to do a follow-up post on at least four of those that have brighter prospects.
Note that this post is not investing advice.