Sale of a Madison company could be a big step for stem cell research

cdi_logo_webBy Mark Johnson & Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The pending sale of Madison’s Cellular Dynamics International Inc. should end the company’s nagging financial struggles and could prove to be the moment that stem cell technology came of age, emerging from a blurry vision to a period of concrete medical advances — including the laboratory production of working human organs.

Cellular Dynamics, known as CDI, said late last month it has agreed to be acquired by Fujifilm Holdings Corp. for about $307 million, or $16.50 a share, in a quick transaction that could close by the end of April. The acquisition caps more than a decade of work by stem cell pioneer James Thomson and his colleagues to build a company that manufactures and distributes vast quantities of human cells for research around the world.

Fujifilm appears poised to act on the promise of CDI’s work. The Japanese company intends to combine its own technologies with those of CDI and another company it purchased, Japan Tissue Engineering Co., “to develop organ regenerative treatments,” according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s a long way of describing an idea that, until recently, seemed like science fiction: engineering whole organs in a lab using real human cells.

For years the stem cell field has been dogged by the ethical debate over embryonic stem cells and criticism that the research has produced few medical breakthroughs. Bone marrow transplants remain the one approved and commonly used treatment involving stem cells. Read more …

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