Last Friday, the BBC reported that U.S. regulators have cleared the way for the world’s first study on human embryonic stem cell therapy.
After months of consideration, the FDA gave the go-ahead for the test. The approval of the 21,000 page application came days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Although the FDA’s decision is independent of White House Control, many are expecting Obama to adopt a more pragmatic and science-oriented approach to stem cell research than his predecessor.
Embryonic stem cells are unspecialized cells capable of turning into a wide variety of other cells. They are collected by cloning embryos in a laboratory, but the embryo is destroyed in the process. They were a hotly contended issue throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, with a ban on public research funding.
Here are a few buzz stocks specializing in stem cell research:
1. Stem Cells, Inc. (Nasdaq: STEM)- The Palo Alto-based company just received FDA approval to begin a clinical trial of a product candidate to treat Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD), a fatal brain disorder that affects young children. The company has a pro forma cash balance of about $40 million, counting the $20 million equity financing it just closed.
2. Geron Corp. (Nasdaq: GERN) – The company whose 21,000 page application was approved by the FDA. Geron plans to begin testing a treatment using embryonic stem cells that could fix major spinal cord injuries in people. Although the initial study is small, and will mainly focus on safety, the development process is expected to set the tone for this kind of research, how the FDA looks at it, and the pricing of any drugs that may result from it.
3. International Stem Cell Corp (OTCBB: ISCO)- The company just received the second $1 million tranche under a $5 million financing. ISCO’s “Parthenogenesis” technology results in the creation of cell lines that may allow cells from a single donor to be immune-matched to hundreds of millions of people. This could potentially reduce a lot of the dangers associated with immune rejection–a big problem with using embryonic stem cells.
Here’s a cool video explaining why the FDA approval is so significant: