BioThursday: the regeneration of regenerative medicine

On 29th September 2011 just over 200 delegates gathered at UCL London to hear presentations from four of the UK’s leading stem cell companies.  Organised by the LRMN and OBN the event was an evening showcasing some of the best UK cell therapy and regenerative medicine companies.  The presentations were held in the rather splendid tiered Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre followed by the opportunity to meet the speakers and delegates over light refreshments.

There were two common themes coming through the presentations: firstly, that stem cell technology is likely to significantly benefit patients (including horses!) over and above current therapies; and secondly, that the venture capital community sees such investments as high risk opportunities and alternatives such as Angel funding or grants were often needed.  According to Michael Hunt, CEO of ReNeuron, “It is not the technology that keeps me awake at night – it is the funding – the fear of the business failing before it has had the opportunity to prove the beneficial effects in man.”

For Greg Sando, CEO of Cell Medica, “funding is a challenge – big pharma has not yet woken up to cell therapies – VC’s are focussed on simple business model with a 5 year exit (sell-on) strategy – VC’s are not interested in revenues which is tough for cell therapeutic companies”.  There was no talk of delivery devices as this is not currently seen as a priority given the funding situation. There were no clear strategies on busess models although all of the companies seemed to want to build viable businesses with revenues rather than sell-out early.  In summary, there is huge promise from this sector but it may be some time before these pioneering companies achieve both clinical and business success.

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