Root to stem

In new survey, we try to get to the bottom of perceptions on stem cells and other R&D efforts

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In our first survey collaboration with Mizuho Securities USA Inc., thepicture for biopharma research and development and for stem cells specificallyis definitely a mixed bag—at least for the United States. 
Perhaps it's just skittishness in a still-shaky economy, and thus thefeeling that things are worse here in the States than they are elsewhere andwon't get better, but it is interesting to see among the 99 respondents to the"Mizuho Drug Discovery R&D and Stem Cell Survey"—all U.S.-based and 80percent of them either in the biopharmaceutical industry or academia—they seemmodestly hopeful about stem cells in general, but are a little more grim onU.S. competitiveness and funding.
Looking at 2011, nearly 40 percent of respondents saw funding as beingon a downward trend compared to 2010, though a quarter of them believe fundingis up. Predicting the 2012 vs. 2011 dynamic, things are a bit more even, with36 percent saying funding will be up and 34 percent saying it will be down.
However, the 12-month outlook for R&D funding in the stem cellrealm has a decidedly more positive spin, with respondents expectingmid-single-digit growth. Moreover, 47 percent expected stem cell research to beamong the areas that will see the largest funding increases, beat out only bycancer, which 52 percent predicted will see some of the biggest boosts. Comingin slightly behind stem cell research in terms of confidence that funding willincrease were biomarker research, cited by 37 percent of respondents, andpersonalized medicine, cited by 36 percent. Around 20 percent of respondentssaw one or more of the following research areas as being among the big gainers:diabetes, neurosciences, nanotechnology and vaccines.
Respondents were far less confident about areas like infectiousdisease, autoimmune disorders, genomics, disease prevention, immunology,proteomics, metabolic disease, women's health and synthetic biology. Scoringdead last, with fewer than 5 percent expected funding boosts in the next year,was the area of association studies.Nearly half of respondents think the current political climate isconducive for stem cell research and just under a quarter have neutralfeelings. More striking is that approximately 71 percent believe that thecurrent climate is getting better forstem cell research—though not a single respondent "strongly agreed" with thatview.
But while the climate may be improving, respondents aren't so sure theUnited States will be a major beneficiary in any stem cell windfalls.Respondents were split on the statement that U.S. stem cell research will lagthe rest of the world due to political restrictions, as 35 percent somewhatagree with that and 41 percent somewhat disagree—though on average, theresponse score was a neutral 3.2 on a scale of 1 to 5.
This isn't far off from opinions of U.S. competitiveness overall, asthe survey shows that respondents tend to think that the Unites States islosing its R&D edge, with a slightly above neutral score of 3.5—1 being"strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree." Also, respondents tended tobelieve that pharma is losing its competitive edge versus biotech (3.5), andfocusing more on product development (3.4). Also, respondents modestly agree(3.4) that China will start to dominate R&D this decade. Views on Europelosing its competitive R&D edge were more neutral (3.0) as was the view onresearch being de-emphasized at respondents' organizations (2.9).
So, in the end, regardless of whether the United States dominates, lagsor hovers in the middle, when will stem cell therapeutics become the standard?Weighing responses overall, the general opinion seems to be between 12 and 13years, with more than a quarter predicting it will happen within the next fiveto 10 years and just under 50 percent predicting within the next 10 to 20years. Neurological care is expected to be the most important indication forstem cell therapy, though oncology, cardiovascular and allergy and immunologyalso fared well in respondents' predictions, trailed by metabolic disease,endocrinology and women's health. 
Editor's Note: If you are interested in obtaining a copy of thissurvey, please contact Peter Lawson at Mizuho Securities

Researchers discuss the ethical, moral and scientific concernsassociated with stem cell research
By Amy Swinderman, ddn Chief Editor     
Editorial: Embryonic stem cell research: A Dickey-Wicker of a situation 

Isn't it about time Congress revisited what is essentially anafterthought on a 15-year-old appropriations bill, clearly articulated thefacts and concerns about hESC research and put forth a specific policy on thematter?

By Amy Swinderman, ddn Chief Editor

To view all of the content from our three-part series on stem cellresearch, click here

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