George Reed, a 73-year-old policeman, was told by his cardiologist that nothing more could be done for him. Having already been through several coronary bypass surgeries, stent procedures, defibrillators and pacemakers, to no avail, Mr. Reed was known by his doctors as a "no-option patient". Since his heart was so weakened by diffuse coronary artery disease, he was disqualified from undergoing even one more invasive procedure.
In fact, there was actually one other option which still remained: adult stem cell therapy. Fortunately for Mr. Reed, he happened to reside in what is quickly becoming a geographic center for pioneering adult stem cell research, namely, Cleveland, Ohio.
A case in point is The Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM), which was founded in 2003 with a $19.4 million award from the state of Ohio. Located on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, the CSCRM is now known as a "scientific matchmaker", bringing together a number of researchers from academia and private industry who collaborate in the R&D of adult stem cell therapies.
In the 6 years since its inception, the CSCRM has received an additional $13 million in state funding, and it has spun off four new start-up companies, namely, Arteriocyte in 2004, Cell Targeting in 2005, and both Invenio Therapeutics and Juventas Therapeutics in 2007. Together with another Cleveland-based biopharmaceutical company, Athersys, which was one of CSCRM’s original founding partners, the four new start-ups have raised over $235 million in venture capital. Thus far, researchers at CSCRM have conducted 51 clinical trials in which more than 250 patients were treated with adult stem cells, and more than 60 patients were treated with other novel therapies.
According to Debra Grega, Ph.D., executive director of CSCRM, "When we got started in 2003, stem cells were considered very esoteric and not very practical. Now that we’ve progressed into early-stage clinical evaluations and actually are treating patients, we’ve gotten the attention of large pharmaceutical companies, which was absent until now."
Thanks to the collaboration between such pharmaceutical companies, academia and CSCRM, much of which is focused on the development of clinical therapies derived from adult stem cells, patients such as George Reed are now given new hope.
As the local Cleveland article noted, "With little fanfare, Cleveland has become one of the leaders in the relatively young field of adult stem cell therapy."
It would seem as though fanfare and accolades are overdue.