|L-R: David Brindley, Jim O’Neill, Michael West, Neil Littman, Bernard Siegel|
So, I opted for the investment panel, instead of the clinical tracks of Alzheimers and Cardiovascular Disease. Moderated by David Brindley, panelists take turns presenting their perspective, and we start off with Neil Littman from CIRM (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine).
The audience also learned that CIRM also offers a Strategic Partnership Award, which provides 10M in funding. There’s a catch, though; it requires matching funds. Another initiative is the Alpha Stem Cell Clinic, which will partner with established academic centers to develop stem cell clinical trials centers in California. One of the challenges, is developing collaborative partnerships, though one of their greatest successes is putting California at the forefront of stem cell research, and training new scientists in the area of stem cell research.
Jim O’Neill is a partner at Mithril Capital Management, which invests in transformative and durable technologies. With a background in as a Regulator at DHHS, he quickly realized that too much regulation is counterproductive. Jim talks about Breakout Labs, which funds emerging technology start ups. He states Mithril wants to right “backwards industries,” those which desperately need to be examined and changed to become more efficient. One example he uses is health care, which I can certainly attest to, having worked and consulted in the field for over 20 years.
Michael West, CEO of Biotime takes the stage, and mentions what we all intrinsically know-we have never seen what we have today; the power to change disease and health. We have deep insights in the disorder of aging, and know we can make targeted genetic changes, but our challenge is funding. FDA approval process is a huge amount of work. Biotime works to commercialize technologies that center on pluripotent stem cells, which are capable of becoming all of the cell types in the human body. Some of their product offerings include progenitor cells, hydrogel kits, cell lines and small molecules.
Lastly, Bernard Siegel, Executive Director of Genetics Policy Institute, talks to us about the underpinning of the field of stem cells, and states the way for the general public to embrace this technology is if we frame what we are doing in a way the public understands and appreciates. For example, one can read the sports page, and learn about the use of stem cells in athletes. The more mainstream the topic of eradicating disease and extending health becomes, we anticipate enhanced acceptance by the general public.