This morning Asterias Biotherapeutics announced that they have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start a clinical trial using stem cells to treat spinal cord injury. It’s great news, doubly so as we are funding that trial.
You can read more about the trial in a news release we just sent out.
This trial is a follow-on to the Geron trial that we funded back in 2010 that was halted after 5 patients, not because of any safety concerns but because of a change in Geron’s business strategy.
Katie Sharify was the fifth and final patient enrolled in that trial and treated with the stem cells. Like all of us she was disappointed when the trial was halted. And like all of us she is delighted that Asterias is now taking that work and building on it.
Here’s what Katie had to say when she heard the news:
“Of course, I’m very happy that the trial has been revived. Knowing that the FDA approved the continuation based on the safety data I was a part of is great news. As you know, the trial was halted 2 days before I received the stem cells. A big part of why I ended up participating was because I figured that once the study is revived a bigger sample size (even if just by 1 person) was more valuable than a smaller one. I never regretted my choice to participate but I have doubted whether my contribution actually meant anything. I think now I finally feel a sense of accomplishment because the trial is not only being continued but also progressing in the right direction as a higher dose is going to be used. A lot remains unknown about human embryonic stem cells and that’s exactly why this research is so important. The scientific community is going to have a much greater understanding of these stem cells from the data that will be collected throughout the study and I’m glad to have been a part of this advancement.”
One thought on “FDA gives Asterias green light to start CIRM-funded clinical trial in spinal cord injury”
Dozens of scientists at Geron, as well as Asterias Biotherapeutics and elsewhere deserve kudos– Hans Keirstead, Jane Lebkowski, Thomas Okarma and more– but for me it begins with a football player down on the field, paralyzed, but unconquered.
The Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act paid for the initial research. That is our joy.
But it was Roman’s indomitable spirit that not only inspired the bill, but also the Alabama Institute of Medicine, and much more.
Over his hospital bed, in those terrible days of September, 1994, he had the message: “I can, I will, I shall”.
The fight is not over. But it is well begun.
Don C. Reed