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The recent lifting of the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research has spurred many to ask, “Who stands to benefit?” In the process of attempting to answer this question, I came across several companies—some low profile—pursuing fascinating, and in some cases promising, embryonic stem cell projects:

Advanced Cell Technology (ACTC.PK) [MC: 8M] harnesses a technique for generating hES cells from an 8-cell embryo without impacting the embryo’s development potential. Advanced Cell’s hES program is currently in preclinical stages. Other programs include a myoblast (adult stem cell) program which is expected to begin a phase 2 heart failure trial shortly. The firm is also engaged in preclinical research to generate cell therapies for treatment of eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

International Stem Cell Corporation (OTCQB:ISCO) [MC: 17M] is focusing on production of stem cell lines with similar development potential as hES Cells, but aren’t derived from viable embryos. ISCO produces stem cells through parthenogenic embryos, which are non-viable embryos from an egg that was stimulated to divide without fertilization. These parthenogenic stem cell lines may facilitate matching to patients to avoid immune system rejection of transplanted cells. ISCO is pursuing cell therapy research targeted toward retinal diseases, liver disease, and diabetes.

Proteonomix, Inc. (OTCPK:PROT) [MC: 9M] is developing methods to culture human embryonic stem (hES) cells using umbilical cord blood (UCB) feeder cells in place of current methods requiring animal cells, reducing the chance of pathogen transmission. The company plans to license this culture technology and is aiming revolutionize hES cell culture protocol. In addition, Proteonomix is preparing to commence operations in late 2009 of Proteonomix Cord Blood Bank to store UCB stem cells. PROT’s Proteoderm Inc. subsidiary markets high-tech prescription anti-aging cosmetics.

French firm Vivalis SA (Euronext VLS) [MC: 81M] licenses its EBx non-human embryonic stem cell technology and cell lines to vaccine and therapeutic antibody manufacturers. Vivalis asserts its cell lines have unique biological properties making for superior, more efficient for vaccine manufacturing versus traditional methods. Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) are a few of the larger companies that have signed Vivalis license agreements.

Disclosure: no positions

Source: Four Promising Embyronic Stem Cell Stocks