Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Pharma Invests Big in Stem Cells

GSK gives the Harvard Stem Cell Institute $25 million.

  • July 24, 2008

Today, the pharma company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced a five-year, $25-million-plus collaborative agreement with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute to develop new methods for screening drugs with stem cells.

“GSK believes stem cell science has great potential to aid the discovery of new medicines by improving the screening, identification, and development of new compounds,” said Patrick Vallance, head of drug discovery at GSK, in a statement released by the company.

Big Pharma has mostly shied away from investing in stem-cell research. But drug screening, which some scientists say is likely to be one of the biggest near-term benefits of stem cells, is a growing area of interest.

Because stem cells can be differentiated into any type of cell in the body, they present an ideal source for screening. For example, scientists can determine how a candidate heart-disease drug affects heart cells and also look for potential side effects in liver or other cell types.

The time appears ripe for investing, because scientists can now use new reprogramming techniques to develop stem cells from patients with specific diseases. (While no one has yet reported this, word among stem-cell researchers is that it has been done.) That means they can make nerve cells from stem cells derived from an Alzheimer’s patient and then examine how candidate Alzheimer’s drugs affect the diseased cells.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.