Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Al Gore to Fund Ethical Stem Cell Venture

Al Gore is set to pump $20 million into a joint U.S.-Japanese venture to utilize ethical "induced pluripotent stem cells" in the search for treatments for debilitating diseases. From USA Today:
Induced cells are attracting interest from researchers and biotech firms as an alternative to embryonic stem cells. Induced cells are made by inserting four genes into ordinary skin cells, and they offer a new path for "regenerative" medical treatments.

"I just think it's a very important breakthrough that is filled with promise and hope," says Gore, a partner with the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, which is backing the research. "I think this is one of those good news stories that comes along every once in a while."

The cell technology company, iZumi Bio Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., will collaborate with Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka, who in 2006 demonstrated the induced cells could be produced by "reprogramming" skin cells into embryonic cell look-alikes, with similar potential to grow into organ tissues for transplants.

Of course, he's not standing against embryo-destructive research. From WSJ:
"I think that the incredible excitement over this new collaboration [between Kyoto University and iZumi] shouldn't be used as an argument against other kinds of research, as long as it's pursued ethically and along prescribed guidelines," said former Vice President Al Gore. . .

But at least he's putting his money into the more promising and ethical branch of stem cell research. So good for him.