Geron Opens a New Era for Stem Cell Research

Jan.27.09 | About: Geron Corporation (GERN)

Stem cell research has been a controversial subject for quite some time. And it’s been no secret that the Bush administration wasn’t a big fan. But just days after President Obama’s inauguration, a huge breakthrough has already been made in the administrative logjam.

Obama officially relaxed the restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research, which has sent shares of this biopharmaceutical company soaring.

Geron Corp. (Nasdaq: GERN), based in the United States, is the premiere developer of biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of certain cancers, as well as degenerative diseases such as spinal cord injury and diabetes.

Already a global leader in the development of embryonic stem cell-based therapies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved Geron to start the first clinical trial on humans with spinal cord injuries using its GRNOPC1.

“The company gained federal permission this week to inject eight to 10 patients with cells derived from embryonic cells,” said the president and CEO of Geron Corp., Dr. Thomas Okarma.

Geron is the first and only company to get such clearance - giving them a clear lead in the biopharmaceuticals field. And this lead is demonstrated in their stock price. Upon the release of this news on Friday, shares promptly jumped nearly 36%.

“This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics - one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells,” said Okarma.

Geron To Begin Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

Geron’s most advanced human embryonic stem cell (hESCs) product is the GRNOPC1, which is designed specifically for the treatment of spinal cord injury. In previous stem cell trials, animals with injuries showed improved motor ability and use of previously paralyzed legs. It also caused damaged cells to repair themselves, regenerating healthy tissue.

The clinical trials on humans will take place in four to seven medical centers beginning this summer. The hope is to improve mobility so that the patients can participate in physical therapy, improving their mobility and quality of life.

Geron has other hESC-based products coming down the pipeline as well. The need for such therapies, and the real impact on the lives of millions, is why this new era of stem cell research is so exciting and promising.

The newfound government stem cell push, coupled with Geron’s exclusive rights to several cell types, gives this company a lot of potential. And if that potential is anything like what we’ve already seen, investors should be very happy.