A 'Blind Alley'

A "Blind Alley" 

Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., which invested 15 years and $150 million, said Tuesday that it can no longer sustain the costs of stem cell research. Paul Sakuma Associated Press

Efforts to protect the unborn took a step forward recently when a major participant in embryonic stem cell research said it was ending the practice.

Geron Corporation of Menlo, Park, CA said it will discontinue further research because of financial difficulties.  The company, which invested 15 years and $150 million in developing the treatment, said it can no longer sustain the cost of its research.

Geron was the first company to receive governmental approval for clinical trials using human embryonic stem cells.  Those trials involved four patients, including two at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

Dan Becker, President of Georgia Right to Life, noted both the clinical and financial failure of the program.  Stressing that embryos are destroyed in the process, Becker said “it’s wrong to destroy human life under any circumstances, even when it’s done in the name of scientific research.”

He said the company’s failure to obtain additional funding indicates that investors are slow to back such treatments because they represent a “blind alley.”

As an alternative, Becker touted research and treatments using adult stem cells, which have been used for 50 years to treat leukemia.  In fact, research using adult stem cells, which does not result in the destruction of human life, has yielded treatments, or cures, for more than 70 conditions, including multiple sclerosis and chronic liver failure.

Geron’s decision to curtail stem cell work followed an intense review of costs, timelines and other critical issues.  The firm’s inability to get new backing seems to indicate that investors are not willing to put money into research that doesn’t pay off.

However, the company is expected to continue looking for financial support, even though there have been few, if any, positive uses of embryonic stem cells.

In the meantime, Geron will focus its limited resources on two cancer therapies that could reach significant clinical trials in the next two years.  Geron CEO John Scarlett said, “This would not be possible if we continue to fund the stem cell programs at the current levels.”

GRTL’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research is based on the belief that life begins at conception.  Even a children’s book states: “When you first began, you were just one little cell, even smaller than the dot at the end of this sentence.  Half of this cell came from your mother’s body, and the other half came from your father’s body.”

“The real debate is about the value of life, not when it begins,” Becker said.  “A distinctly human life begins at conception and has innate dignity and worth simply because it’s human.  This new life deserves respect and protection.  As a lawful society, we understand that taking innocent human life is wrong”.