In the early hope that stem cell therapy would be able to make the paralyzed walk, the blind see and cure diabetes have given way to a long list of failures which can be proven from the early stem cell champion Geron Corp abandoning this field in the year 2011. But two small companies, Athersys Inc and Mesoblast Ltd are on the verge of beginning final stage trials in hundreds of patients that they along with loyal investors say that could bring about a change in the course of devastating stroke and heart failure.
Both companies have overcome the major obstacles in the manufacturing of stem cell treatments on a large scale which are off-the-shelf products derived from bone marrow of a healthy donor and do not face the issues of immune system rejection. Athersys which is based in Cleveland, with a market value of about 200 million dollars, demonstrated evidence in a mid-stage trial that its therapy might have the ability to expand emergency treatment options for major strokes, up to 36 hours, compared with about four hours with current drugs which may potentially allow many more patients to avoid crippling disabilities.
Australia's Mesoblast which has a market value of about 500 million dollars is attempting to alter advanced heart failure which is a leading cause of hospitalizations, deaths and an enormous cost burden at the same time. They are among the farthest along in the industry of stem cell at a time when the investors of Wall Street have focused on potentially big payoffs from immune-system based cancer therapies and other rare disease treatments.
Perception of the field has also been hurt by unscrupulous actors who are selling unapproved and possibly unsterile cell therapies for everything from lung disease to cancer and ALS that resulted in the prompting of a US crackdown in the summer that passed. Tom Dobell who manages a fund for M & G Investment Management based in the United Kingdom that specializes in supporting promising companies during difficult periods said that the market tends to test these companies sometimes to the brink. He also mentioned that he is comfortable that the progress which is going on and it will be worth it. M & G is a long-time holder of Mesoblast, with about a 15 percent stake, and Athersys, with about a 4 percent stake.