Article on Venture Capital and Stem Cells
The San Diego Union Tribune
had an interesting article yesterday about the lack of investment by venture capitalists in stem cell research and technology. According to the story, only $120 million of $5.9 billion invested by venture capitalists in biotechnology went to stem cell research. Some of the issues cited were scientific, some political. Among them were issues regarding the tumor-causing potential of transplanted stem cells, questions about immune system responses, technology issues, intellectual property issues, and the controversy about embryonic stem cell research. Venture capitalists reportedly don’t like to put their money into a field with so much uncertainty. One scientist who was interviewed said that there are questions about what exactly is being sold—it’s not a pill or device but instead a cell that provides a process. One researcher predicted a five to ten year window before there are good human clinical trials with embryonic stem cells. One person said that venture capital firms needs to change their ideas about the stem cells business model from something that provides therapies to patients to something that provides cells to researchers.
I don’t know much at all about the business of venture capital, so I don’t have an opinion on this, other than to think that it reflects the youth of the stem cell field.