Excerpt from Karen Ring‘s blogpost at CIRM:
How do you go from basic stem cell research to cures for patients? We ask this question everyday at CIRM, and we’re not alone in our tireless pursuit to find answers to this challenging question.
In fact, two leaders on different sides of the stem cell arena – research and investment – came together last week at the Gladstone Institutes’ Fall Symposium to discuss how stem cell research can be translated into effective cures.
Nobel prize winner, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, and Google Ventures partner and Stanford PhD, Dr. Blake Byers, shared their thoughts on where stem cell research is now and the future of stem cell therapy for treating and curing disease.
iPS Cells and the Stem Cell Revolution
President of the Gladstone Institutes, Dr. Sandy Williams, laid the groundwork for the symposium by outlining ways that stem cell research, especially Dr. Yamanaka’s discovery of cellular reprogramming and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, will lead to cures.
“Cellular reprogramming has really launched the stem cell revolution. There are three pathways that stem cell biology or cellular reprogramming can be turned into new medicines. Cellular transplantation, reprogramming cells inside the body, and cellular models of human disease created by cellular reprogramming are all different routes to cures.”
He followed with the point that the success of the stem cell revolution cannot rest solely on the shoulders of scientists and clinicians. He said, “the best science will never be a cure unless it passes into the commercial arena. It has to pass through venture investors, biotechnology companies, and pharmaceutical companies, device companies for scientific advances to help human beings.”
Yamanaka on iPS Cell Applications
Yamanaka covered the research side of the discussion and shared a heartwarming story about his father inspiring him to pursue medicine before delving into the applications of his Nobel prize winning technology.
After becoming a doctor, Yamanaka continued his training as a scientist, but not without significant hurdles to overcome before his career-defining success.
I had a clear vision, I wanted to help patients by doing medical research. But of course, it’s easy to say, but very difficult to achieve. I spent many hours, many days, and many years in laboratories without significant success. 20 years later however, I became extremely lucky to have a wonderful group of people. And that group developed a new technology. Our group was able to find a way to make a new type of stem cell, which we designated iPS cells.