Advanced Cell Technology Betting Future on Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy for Eye Disease
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ACT has reduced its operations to stay in business, closing labs in Alameda, CA, and Charlestown, MA, last year, Caldwell said. The firm is now operating with 14 full-time workers, with additional support from research partners and consultants. It also decided to save money by delaying its mid-stage clinical trial for a therapy in which adult stem cells—and not stem cells from embryos—are used to treat heart disease.
While the firm’s near-term success hinges on the success of its embryonic stem cell therapies, the firm is also participating in the hot field of using adult cells to make stem cells, Caldwell said. (This is not to be confused with treating people with adult stem cells, which has been done for years to treat cancer patients.) Technology that induces adult cells into a stem cell-like, or pluripotent, state has captured a lot of attention because it doesn’t require the use of embryos. Investors are swooning over companies like San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics, which is developing therapies based on such advances in stem cell research, while ACT and other earlier developers of stem cell therapies have struggled to fund their R&D efforts.
Caldwell said it’s important to proceed with the development of embryonic stem cell-based therapies because they are closer to being able to provide benefits to patients, while it will take many more years for approaches based on induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells to catch up. “The IPS technology is still as science project,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that ACT is able to harvest human embryonic stem cells from without damaging embryos, using the same methods that are employed to test embryos for genetic disorders before babies are born.
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