Based: San Carlos, CA
Why It's Fierce: Cellerant is in a race to create the first approved product from adult stem cells and they think they may be well within 18 months of an FDA OK. That's no easy task. Cellerant has been developing ways to purify hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), harvesting them from patients who are about to undergo high-dose chemotherapy and radiation and then infusing them back into the patient through bone marrow transplants to help them regenerate their blood forming abilities -- essential to preserving a person's immune system. If the procedure is successful, it helps avoid the reintroduction of cancerous cells back into the patient. The therapy may offer new ways to treat genetic blood disorders and autoimmune diseases by eliminating significant T-cell contamination. The key is being able to avoid graft vs. host disease in which the transplanted cells are rejected. And there are trials planned within a year that are intended to show its effectiveness with sickle cell and lupus patients. Given the fact that it's a process and not a product, FDA approval can come sooner rather than later, and preliminary data from trials will start to arrive within 60 days on sickle cell patients. Others in the field have been working on a mix of donor and host cells. But the net result may well be a significant advancement with a pioneering new product.
What to look for: Expect human trials for the stem cells no later than early 2006 along with the first human trials of its manufactured cell in the first half. Late 2006 is the expected time frame for a third round of venture financing, though a possible partnership deal could alter that timetable.