Thursday, August 11, 2011

International Stem Cell Corporation: A Company with Scores of Potential by Deborah Sterescu

International Stem Cell Corp (OTCBB:ISCO) is a company to watch this year, with several promising developments in store, according to a conference call with investors this morning.

The company, whose parthenogenetic stem cell technology can be used to derive pluripotent stem cells, meaning they can be transformed into any cell type in the body, has many important advantages at its fingertips.

Regenerative medicine is a market that is set to boom in the coming years, as more and more companies are developing therapies based on stem cell use. International Stem Cell's long-term goal is to be a universal supplier of stem cells for not just one, but a host of therapies.

The company's parthenogenetic stem cells are derived from unfertilized eggs, avoiding the ethical issues behind the destruction of viable human embryos, and giving cell-therapy companies one big reason to chose International Stem Cell as their supplier of choice when the time is right.
These parthenogenetic cells, like embryonic cells, also have the capacity to become almost any cell type in the body, but have demonstrated they are better in terms of the immune system, as one single stem cell line can be genetically matched to millions of people, reducing the need for immunosuppressants.

The company holds the world's largest collection of research-grade human parthenogenetic stem cell (hpSC) lines, which it uses along with its partners to investigate cellular therapies for a number of incurable human diseases.

Its plan is to establish a US bank of its clinical-grade human parthenogenetic stem cells that will be capable of being immune-matched to millions of patients, so that a physician could call up and request a specific cell type for people. The company, which recently received approvals to enroll around 3 US donors for its bank, already has a collection of ten human parthenogenetic stem cell lines used for research purposes, which were derived outside the US.

These cell lines could potentially be used to cure a number of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, liver disease, among many others. Already, the company has several trials in the works, and has successfully demonstrated in pre-clinical animal studies that its stem cells can be used to create viable liver cells.

Currently, efficacy tests in rat models are in progress for the liver cells, with results anticipated soon. If successful, the company said it plans on aggressively initiating the FDA process, with the aim of beginning first stage clinical trials sometime in 2012. The hope is that International Stem Cell will attain Fast Track designation, as few alternative options are available to patients suffering from liver disease.

The company also has trials in the works for Parkinson's disease and diseases of the eye, and is actively looking for collaborative or joint venture opportunities, as well as in-licensing and out-licensing arrangements.

In addition to its hugely potentially valuable stem cell therapy business, the company also two other operations that are set to generate revenue in the meantime. Lifeline Cell Technology, which saw sales grow by 35% in the first quarter, develops manufactures and markets the Lifeline brand of cell-culture products, which are used by researchers to grow human cells for pre-clinical research.

The subsidiary's products are developed using parent International Stem Cell's technology, and the company expects that as trials for researchers progress into more advanced stages, its technology will be embedded in this progress, potentially generating hundreds of millions of revenue.

In the last quarter, Lifeline Cell gained over 200 new customers due to new product introductions and the development of distribution channels internationally, a strategy it plans to continue.

Lastly, International Stem Cell's Lifeline Skin Care business sells skin care products based on its stem cells, having a very successful launch at the end of last year. The company planned on selling 1,000 products, but sold 7,000 initially, and plans to aggressively kick start major marketing initiatives again in September.

International Stem Cell is a company with scores of upside potential, and though future capital raising has not been ruled out, it has a facility that allows it to draw equity as necessary.
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