would like to highlight International Stem Cell Corporation
), researching the therapeutic applications of human parthenogenetic stem cells (hpSCs) and the development and commercialization of cell-based research and cosmetic products. ISCO's core technology, parthenogenesis, results in the creation of pluripotent human stem cells from unfertilized oocytes (eggs). The company is focused on using these stem cells to treat diseases of the eye, the nervous system, and the liver, where cell therapy has been proven clinically yet is limited by the availability of safe immune-matched human cells or tissue.
In the company’s news:
The entry on International Stem Cell Corporation in the SAGE Encyclopedia tells a bit of the company’s story. At first, the researchers at ISCO were working on finding a stem cell treatment for diabetes, but ‘in the process (they) discovered parthenogenetic stem cells.’ ‘Today, ISCO is focused on using human parthenogenetic stem cells (hpSCs) to develop clinical applications to treat diseases of the liver, nervous system and eye.’ ISCO’s hpSCs are similar to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in that they have the potential to be differentiated into many different cells in the human body. The derivation of hpSCs does not, however, require the use of fertilized eggs or the destruction of viable human embryos and so avoids many of the controversies and ethical quandaries surrounding stem cell research. HpSCs also offer the potential for the creation of immune-matched cells and tissues that are less likely to be rejected following transplantation. Scientists at ISCO have been able to create the first parthenogenetic homozygous stem cell line that can be a source of therapeutic cells with minimal immune rejection after transplantation.
It may appear as a sign of weakness that ISCO started out looking for a diabetes treatment but is now focusing on Parkinson’s disease and other areas, but that is actually a sign of strength because it signals the company is driven by a management team that is versatile and adaptive. An insightful article in Bioentrepreneur with the eye-catching title ‘Six secrets to success — how to build a sustainable biotech business’ (http://dtn.fm/TuX3j) talks, first, about the importance of ‘having a strong, experienced and stable management team’ and ‘investing in the people at the top rather than the assets, technology or product.’ Its second takeaway is adaptability. ‘One of the main reasons biotech companies fail is because they believe they have the best potential drug and that the world will adapt to accommodate their business… (but) very few companies got their drug right the first time… the majority of the world’s top biotech companies are very different today compared with their formative years.’
International Stem Cell Corporation is certainly adaptive and strong on the first factor as well. Its entry in the SAGE Encyclopedia makes mention of its CEO, Andrey Semechkin, PhD, and his son, Russell Kern, PhD. Dr. Andrey Semechkin is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and has been deputy director of the Institute of System Analysis since 2004. Professor Semechkin was awarded a Russian Government Award in Science and Technology in 2006. He is the author of several scientific papers. In 2012, for example, ‘Derivation of high-purity definitive endoderm from human parthenogenetic stem cells using an in vitro analog of the primitive streak’ (http://dtn.fm/lqr3J) was published, which discussed the potential of hpSCs as sources for cell-based therapies and their advantage over hESCs on histocompatibilty issues. Semechkin has over 20 years’ experience creating and managing businesses across different industries and scientific sectors.
Mahnaz Ebrahimi is the chief financial officer at ISCO. She has over 25 years’ experience in executive and senior level positions in financial management, accounting and SEC reporting matters, and has worked with numerous publicly traded and privately held biotechnology, life science, and technology companies. Prior to joining ISCO, she served as a consultant to the company as well as to Flux Power Holdings, Polaris Pharmaceutical, and Ocera Therapeutics. From October 2010 to July 2012, Ebrahimi served as director, financial planning and analysis and treasury at eBioscience, where she was instrumental in the successful merger with Affymatrix in June 2012.
Russell Kern, PhD is the executive vice president and chief scientific officer at ISCO. Dr. Kern was trained in medical genetics, stem cell biology and international business administration, and holds an M.S. degree from the Faculty of Fundamental Medicine of Moscow State University. He earned his PhD in Physiology from Anokhin Research Institute of Normal Physiology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. Kern is a well-known speaker on stem cell biology, including the use of stem cells for neurology and skin regeneration. He has publications in the field of clinical and molecular biology, and is the author of various patent applications.
Sofya Bakalova, J.D., is vice president, legal affairs & operations at ISCO. Bakalova received her law degree from the University of Miami’s School of Law and has experience in various aspects of corporate and biotechnology law, regulatory affairs, project management, and business operations. After joining ISCO in March 2011, she has held a variety of business and legal roles, including in-house counsel, advisor to the CEO, and vice chairman of the board of directors for Lifeline Skin Care. Bakalova holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Francisco State University and has worked in the banking and finance industries prior to beginning her legal career.
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