Stem Cells: Heath Care's Panacea or Pariah?
This article was originally published in Start Up
The field of stem cells is still plagued by issues of ethics, efficacy, and economics.
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Current cellular models for drug discovery can be notoriously unreliable, both for their predictive power and their sustainability. Cells derived from human progenitor stem cells can provide homogeneity over countless experiments, but working with them remains a complex scientific art. By industrializing production of stem cell-derived cell model systems, CellDesign Inc. intends to capture a chunk of the existing $1.5 billion market for cellular model systems and grow it through sales of easy-to-use kits for deriving everything from human fat cells to Alzheimer's disease-ridden neurons.
California Stem Cell Inc.'s founder, Hans S. Keirstead, PhD, is well known in stem cell circles as the developer of processes that can produce extremely pure cell lines from human embryonic stem cells. As such, the start-up is uniquely situated. Not only does it produce over 95% pure populations of several cell types for use in research, but the firm also has proprietary reagents it sells to pharma and biotech firms. And it is building its own therapeutic pipeline: CSC is poised to file an IND for an hESC-derived therapy to treat type 1 infantile spinal muscular atrophy, the largest genetic killer of children under the age of two.
Kleiner Perkins, with two new high-profile partners, Beth Seidenberg and Dana Mead, is betting on applied genomics and personalized medicine, making major investments in molecular diagnostics, stem cell therapies, and drug-device convergence.