Monday morning musings: stem cell stocks, ISSCR, grants, CRISPR, New Book, & more

Wake up, it's Monday

What’s on your mind on this Monday morning? Are you caffeinated enough yet? Depending on where you live it may even be time for dinner, bed, or already early Tuesday.

Here’s some musings…

To get safe and effective stem cell treatments to patients in a responsible, compliant manner you need commercial efforts and that in almost all cases means biotechs.

Doing this blog for 5+ years has made it really sink in just how crucial the commercial side is to all of our shared goals. This means that things like stocks, patents, etc. are really important for us all to think about including academics, patients, students, and more. Of course stocks are very important more directly to investors too.

I’m not a big investor overall and my only stock in the stem cell biotech world now is Ocata ($OCAT) in which I have a very small holding (consider this a disclosure). I like the company’s scientific leadership and its technology. Throw in some promising clinical trials for an area of huge need like macular degeneration and it’s hard not to get excited about Ocata. However, even as Ocata rang the bell at NASDAQ last week, the OCAT stock price has been getting its bell rung this year and in particular more recently it has dropped off a (small) cliff. I don’t claim to understand the subtleties of stock investing super well, but one gets a sense that the company is at a sensitive moment in its history right now. The above issues as well as some rumors and intangibles give a feeling of change in the air.

Of course Ocata is not alone. The stem cell  sector is super volatile and the stock prices of other stem cell companies routinely take beatings. For instance, StemCells, Inc. has had a pretty awful time of it lately on the stock front and things seem pretty dicey right now for them. I hope it can turn around. By the way, this post is clearly not financial advice.

More broadly in this area I suppose we can just hope for the best in terms of trial results and financials holding up during tough periods of time. This has been a tougher year than I had imagined on this front for the field. Stay tuned for more posts on stem cell stocks soon. Still it was good to see many stem cell biotechs at ISSCR making presentations of largely encouraging data.

Speaking of ISSCR, I wasn’t there myself, but the sense I got from some attendees is that it was fairly upbeat. Again, seeing more biotechs presenting talks than in the past is very encouraging. I believe that the more diverse that ISSCR can become the better. Stay tuned also for one or two more posts on ISSCR Stockholm including possibly more from Heather Main (see her posts here). It’s looking like Heather may become a more regular contributor to this blog, which I think would be awesome.

Grants are on everyone’s minds even more now than in historical times in science (i.e. meaning a few decades ago). In my 2+ decades in science in various positions I’ve never seen it quite this bad. These days it seems like I’m always working on at least one grant and sometimes several simultaneously. It eats up a lot of time, focus, and energy, but that seems to just be the new reality.

I consider myself lucky to have gotten one foundation grant funded recently. Even so we’ve all got constant worries on grants. I also recently participated again in another NIH study section, which is always a lot of hard work, but a huge learning experience.

CRISPR science has moved at warp speed, but there is also rapidly growing focus in the life sciences on policy issues related to CRISPR-Cas9 technology, particularly in 2015. The next 6-12 months are likely to prove crucial in determining the path forward including possible action by Congress, the NAS, and more.

In addition to participating in the dialogue, I am also currently finishing a new book on human genetic modification that will probably come out late this year or in early 2016. I hope that it educates and sparks more dialogue without getting me in too much hot water. Stay tuned for some previews/teasers on this book in the next month or two.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “postdoc crisis” of there being too few academic positions for postdocs, postdoc training periods being too long, etc. This problem has been growing over the years, sometimes the same possible solutions get trotted out, and people wring their hands, but nothing substantive changes. I don’t have some kind of miracle solution, but it is something we should all be thinking about. What might be some creative solutions?

5 thoughts on “Monday morning musings: stem cell stocks, ISSCR, grants, CRISPR, New Book, & more

  1. Wow you get everything in this blog – even stocks and biotech investments!

    This is close to my heart as a serial biotech executive, which in Europe is akin to repeated visits to the amphitheater to face the lions. European investors have never really understood the biotech model and despite many real successes, the baseline for most funding events is “drip feed and wait to see what happens” as opposed to the “fund it and drive it forward” mentality in the US.

    Result is fewer and fewer biotechs with any power in the EU and an ever growing “valley of death” for funding validation, seed-phase and even later stages.

    So hold on to your Ocata stock – it will come good in time and with so little competition on the horizon, the market’s big enough for everyone to get a slice of the pie.

  2. In response to Paul’s question…I think that ISSCR this year was a good meeting—not a great one, but better than the last one. The big change was that there are now some clinical studies using pluripotent stem cells in the works. Of course, I love seeing old friends, and the Genea booth had fabulous coffee!

Comments are closed.