Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Major Player Gives Up on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The mainstream media ( like in these stories at USA Today and ABC News) is disturbed that Geron Corporation, the biotechnology company who has been perhaps the major player in embryonic stem cell research in America, is dropping out of the game. Reporters seem bothered that such a minor concern as profitability is driving Geron away from what they (the reporters) insist remains a very promising field for medical progress.

But here's a quick reality check for these reporters -- in business, products and profits do matter. And when you have a lousy product, as embryonic stem cell research has proven to be, then there is little hope for profits. Of course, this picture is distorted substantially when government money is involved. For if you can depend on getting handouts, bailouts and other gifts from the U.S. Treasury, then the old-fashioned business model doesn't much matter. But for Geron, there wasn't enough government money to keep them wasting time in embryonic stem cell research.

Positive results just weren't happening.

Though one would have wished that morality was a part of Geron's decision (after all, ESCR kills tiny human beings), it seems that the scientific and economic realities were plain enough for the company to finally face the fact; namely, that embryonic stem cell research is a dead end field. And so, they're out.

Mailee Smith's comments about this story over at the Americans United for Life blog are particularly spot on.

USA Today is reporting today that Geron - the company that received the first government approval for human clinical trials using human embryo stem cells - is discontinuing “further stem cell work. This decision hardly comes as a surprise.  There simply is no money in research that yields no results.

Geron says that the decision came “after a strategic review of the costs… timelines and clinical, manufacturing and regulatory complexities associated with the company’s research and clinical-stage assets.”  Reportedly, Geron has been trying to find financial partners, “and people have said, ‘Show us later-stage results.’” Clearly, investors don’t want to put money into research that will not pay off.  There are no “later-stage results” showing any real-life positive uses of embryonic stem cells.

USA Today editorializes that Geron’s decision is “a move with stark implications for a field offering hope of future medications for conditions with inadequate or no current treatments.”

We can hope it is the bell toll for unethical and unproductive embryo stem cell research.  But it will not have a devastating impact on the field of “stem cell research” as a whole. As AUL has stated repeatedly, stem cells from human embryos have never successfully treated human patients.  On the other hand, treatments from adult stem cells (which do not result in the destruction of human life) have yielded treatments or cures for over 70 conditions.

Apparently, Geron’s investors (or potential investors) understand this basic fact.  Investing in a failed research strategy does not pay—either financially or medically.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration lacks this basic understanding, as it continues to push for government funding of embryo research to the detriment of research rendering true medical advances.