The Geron Corporation, a tiny biotech company with about 125 employees, has been back in the news again during the last few days – this time for receiving FDA clearance to begin the world’s first human clinical trial of an embryonic stem cell-based therapy. The Phase I trial will involve 20 patients with acute spinal cord injury in seven major medical centers, the ultimate objective being to determine whether Geron’s proprietary oligodendroglial progenitor cells can safely regenerate spinal chord connections so as significantly to improve locomotor capability of the injured patients(ref). The Geron stem cell line has been shown capable of safely doing that with mice. Geron is also pursuing other stem cell development programs including use of proprietary osteoblasts for osteoporosis, hepatocytes for liver failure, cardiomyocytes for heart failure and pancreatic islets for diabetes.
In business since 1992, in its first years Geron focused heavily in the area of regenerative medicine and telomere science. It has to its credit several basic patents related to telomere activation and gene therapy. With its Hong Kong affiliate TA Theraputics, of which Geron is the majority owner, Geron has identified several proprietary astragalus-based telomerase activators including TA-65 which is licensed to TA Sciences(ref) and TAT2 which is being pursued as a HIV therapy by TA Theraputics(ref). The basic research related to the capabilities of astragaolside IV for telomerase activation (described and suggested as a firewall component in the Anti-Aging Firewalls treatise) was done by Geron and is disclosed in its telomerase activator patent application.
In all its years of operation the company has consistently run at a loss, without a mainline drug product and betting on its possible science-based future. In recent years, I speculate to keep the wolf from the door and investors interested, Geron has focused on telomerase inhibition as a cancer therapy. It has two proprietary drugs and a vaccine for this purpose in the clinical trials pipeline. Besides being strong in telomere science and gene therapy applications, the company is also strong in cloning technology, having acquired Bio-Med Limited in Scottland, the company that cloned Dolly the sheep.
Owning Geron’s Stock is not for the faint of heart. I first purchased a small position in it back in 1998, yes because I had an interest in telomerase activation even back then. I bought it for about 6, rode it up to about 70 in 2000, and then rode it all the way back down again as the biotech market boom fizzled I currently have a small position in the stock. The stock bottomed at around 2.5 in October 2008 and shot up with the news to over 8 yesterday. I suspect it will continue to generate a wild ride.