Two news items regarding medical/pharmaceutical research caught my attention today. Both involve stem cells.

The first item was about research results revealed at the American Heart Association’s annual conference. US researchers found stem cell therapy in humans has been “surprisingly successful in replacing damaged muscle and getting the heart to pump better” (see “Stem cells give new hope to heart attack survivors“).

This is indeed “promising news for people at risk of heart failure” and is squarely focused on unmet patient need.

The other news item was about Geron, the “pioneering” stem cell therapy biotech company, that decided to withdraw entirely from the field and to dismiss nearly two-fifths of its employees (see “Geron withdraws from stem cell research“). The reason? According to the company’s CEO, “By narrowing our focus to the oncology therapeutic area, we anticipate having sufficient financial resources to reach these important near-term value inflection points for shareholders without the necessity of raising additional capital” (my emphasis).

near-term value inflection points for shareholders

I guess Geron’s CEO could be using shareholder value as an excuse instead of revealing a basic research failure despite good intentions to meet patient needs. Stem cell research must be difficult and payoff too long term. It’s probably much better to focus on cancer-drug research. That’s a proven cash cow that every pharma company seems to be chasing these days. Yet I don’t expect many cures, just treatments that keep the cow on greener pastures.