Birds of a Feather

Posted by Jesse Reynolds December 18, 2008
Biopolitical Times

In what may just be a match made in heaven, two controversial cloning-based stem cell research companies have formed a joint venture. In exchange for $500,000, Advanced Cell Technology will license its technology to generate blood cells from stem cells to Allied Cell Technology, a new venture majority-owned by CHA Biotech.

Advanced Cell Technology has been shouting for attention from the furthest fringes of respectable science for years. Founded by an ardent believer in immortality through science, it regularly has tried to prop up its faltering stock over the course of decade through exaggerated announcements. But despite recent adulatory coverage from Discover and Barbara Walters, it is running out of cash, and its stock hasn't been worth more than five cents since September. In the first quarter of 2008 alone, it lost more than $9 million on revenue of only $120,000. Four years ago, it moved its headquarters to California in hopes of getting a slice of that state's $3 billion stem cell pie, but has now returned to Worcester, Massachusetts. Now, there is little left of the company besides an intellectual property portfolio.

CHA Biotech is an American project of a large Korean health care company that operates several hospitals and a medical school. It got into hot water after its affiliated research institute was initially awarded a grant for research cloning efforts from California's stem cell agency. In the ensuing publicity, it emerged that the CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute was a California nonprofit in name only, and that its affiliated fertility clinic - whose offices were in the same Los Angeles office building, raising concerns about conflicts of interest in the acquisition of women's eggs for their cloning-based work - was facing serious allegations from a woman whose eggs had been improperly obtained and handled. CHA later "voluntarily" withdrew its grant application during the subsequent administrative review.

While Allied Cell Technology is purportedly a joint venture, the lopsided nature of the deal may be the first step towards a takeover.

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