The Niche

Stem-cell business round-up

Here’s a collection of some stem-cell business news in March.

Two companies selling stem cell products for laboratory research have announced a deal. According to Fox Business, Stemgent is going to start marketing CellDesign’s kits to differentiate adipocytes.

Just a couple weeks ago, Stemgent announced that it had received $14 million in venture capital from firms including HealthCare Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures. Stemgent sells a range of products for growing and differentiating pluripotent stem cells, particularly small molecules that influence cells’ fates. Also recently, CellDesign announced that it was selling two lines of adipocyte stem cells.

Meanwhile, Invitrogen has launched a product to push DNA and RNA into a wide variety of mammalian cells. (The fact that they mention stem cells in the title of the announcement gives an indication of where they think their market is and where it will be growing, I think.)

The UK’s Epistem has signed a deal with Novartis to use epithelial stem cells to find drug targets. It’s $4 million upfront, with up to $45 million in potential milestone payments. How does this compare with other deals? I tried looking up a few. Some announce milestones, such as Cellartis with Novo Nordisk. Other deals, like Novocell with Pfizer and Roche with Cellular Dynamics International, don’t mention. I’m sure somebody has thought of this more deeply than I have, but it doesn’t seem to correlate (as I would have guessed) with whether the cells are used as therapies or as screening tools. Please comment.

A lot of people in the business realm expect a spate of mergers between stem cell companies. We saw Jamie Thomson’s companies come together in November. Cellular Dynamics International, Stem Cell Products Inc. and iPS Cells Inc are all one in CDI.

I seem to have been the only person in the world surprised that cell-therapy company StemCells, Inc merged with Austin Smith’s reagents company Stem Cell Sciences. I figured each could find a more-similar company to merge with, but the goal, it seems, is diversity. StemCells is in California and is testing fetal neural stem cells in children’s neurodegenerative diseases. Stem Cell Sciences is in the UK, has reagents that keep stem cells from differentiating, and also has intellectual property on rat embryonic stem cells.


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