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Geron Gives Up on Stem Cells

Biotech company Geron, long known for its pioneering research on stem cells, has announced that it will no longer conduct such research, reports New Scientist's Andy Coghlan. Geron's stem cell program was the largest in the world, and currently runs trials to treat various disorders and diseases with stem cell therapies, including one to treat people with spinal injuries, Coghlan says. The company cited financial reasons for its decision, but added that its choice was not based on the viability of stem cells as therapeutic tools. "The company had to choose between stem cells and cancer, and saw cancer as the better bet," Coghlan says.

University of Wisconsin researcher James Thomson — who in 1998 published a paper on human embryonic stem cells research with funding from Geron — tells Forbes' Matthew Herper that the company's decision "reflects how genuinely difficult it is to build a business around embryonic stem cell-based transplantation therapies." In addition, spinal cord injuries are particularly tough to treat, he says. However, Thomson adds, Geron researchers "are to be commended for blazing a trail that others can follow in getting the first clinical trial approved by the FDA, as such approvals should be easier in the future." Thomson has long said that the value of stem cells lies in their potential to help researchers develop better therapies, but not necessarily as therapies themselves, Forbes adds.