Jon Rowley is a senior manager at Aastrom Biosciences with a long experience in the not too old Regenerative Medicine field. I am pleased to introduce here his new blog The Regeneration Station as one of the first biotech – regmed blog written by an industrial expert who will share with us his insights on stem cells therapies, biomaterial-based devices, tissue engineered products and … biotech stock options i.e. all the things that are shaping the face of a young industry. According to Jon: Early adopter companies form and often fail, but they do succeed in removing some risk from the technology. As risk decreases, large companies try to figure out how to play in the new technology sandbox that is littered with small companies. Today, even Baxter is running a cell therapy clinical trial for cardiac regeneration, PerkinElmer is buying up cord blood banks, Celgene is dabbling in placenta-derived cells, and Teva Pharmaceuticals has an autologous MSC long bone trail underway.
There is another thing why more academic science bloggers should read Regeneration Station. Jon will definitely show us the “time and money” gap between science and the translation of it: “I do not want to undermine the importance of the great work that was done in generating pluripotent stem cells from adult skin cells, but the only thing I think about when hearing this news is TIME and MONEY. I know I will be fielding questions from my friends and relatives over Thanksgiving weekend on whether or not Aastrom (my employer) is doing this type of work or if we have to change our business model. I will have to explain that this type of research is at such an early stage, that it will not be impacting what is going on in Biotech for 20 years, if not more. It is challenging enough to manufacture and distribute an autologous cell product based on the expansion of a patient’s bone marrow. I cannot imagine trying to develop and implement a process where every patient needs their cells to be genetically modified with multiple genes prior to expansion, and then there is the potential need to differentiate the cells or engineer them into vascularized tissues – it is enough to give a process engineer a migraine. Not only is something like this difficult to scale, but the in-process quality control testing would be so expensive and time consuming that the only companies making any money would be the supply companies, such as Invitrogen.”