- Diana Yukari/Business Insider; photos courtesy Samumed
Venture-capital investors are pouring money into regenerative medicine.
According to a report from Goldman Sachs, venture capital in companies pursuing regenerative medicine increased from $296 million in 2011 to $807 million in 2016, growing roughly 34% year-over-year.
“We see regenerative medicine as one of the most compelling areas for venture investment,” the report said.
Goldman Sachs defines regenerative medicine as approaches that grow cells or tissue from stem cells, treatments that promote regeneration, or transplants using organs or tissue grown outside the body.
These types of treatments – if they work – could revolutionize how we age, potentially helping humans live healthier, longer lives.
By the report’s count, 80 regenerative-medicine companies received funding in the last three years, and the deals related to regenerative medicine accounted for almost half of the top venture-capital deals in 2015 and 2016.
- Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs highlighted a few companies that received large sums in funding in the past few years, like Samumed, a $12 billion private biotech startup that wants to regenerate hair, skin, bones, and joints, and Unity Biotechnology, which is working on treatments that act on senescent cells. These are cells that have permanently stopped dividing that have been linked to conditions like heart or eye problems.
The report also highlighted BlueRock Therapeutics, a startup spun off from the pharmaceutical company Bayer that has $225 million in funding to treat diseases with induced pluripotent stem cells to regenerate heart muscle, as well as develop treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
“We believe companies backed by academic pioneers … or those with novel platforms … are likely to garner the largest investments and valuations,” the report said.
The promise and pitfalls of regenerative medicine
Over the past few decades, researchers have made strides to understand more about stem cells and regeneration. There have been several setbacks, and there’s no guarantee this new wave of companies won’t fail as well. Still, researchers are optimistic.
“If you hit any one of these, you’re going to be helping literally tens of millions of people,” Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer at the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told Business Insider.
Astellas is working on treatments for blindness using stem cells. To make that or other treatments a reality, Lanza is pulling together leaders and scientists in the regenerative-medicine world to stack the deck in his favor.
“We’re in a good position to make a difference,” he said.
Goldman Sachs found numerous challenges facing regenerative medicine as well. Beyond the complexity of how cells work, which could keep ideas and early research from becoming realities, there are also ethical concerns to consider.
“Ethical issues, such as the use of human-derived embryo stem cells, the potential risks of enrolling humans in experimental stem cell studies, and development of human-animal chimeras to generate organs, will also need to be addressed and resolved as the field of regenerative medicine advances,” the report said.