I Stock Analyst
Recently, Shenzhen’s Beike Biotechnology held the first annual 2008 China Stem Cell Stem Cell Technology Forum, a gathering that was attended by over 300 of the world’s most renowned stem cell biologist and researchers. The Mandarin-language conference included many participants from China, while others attended from the United States, Canada, India, Australia, and Malaysia. The focus of the conference was on advanced induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research and therapeutic uses of stem cells. The event was held at the China Medical City complex in Taizhou, China and chaired by Dr. Sean Hu, who also serves as Chairman of Beike Biotechnology Co., Ltd.
Beike is a controversial company because it has already begun treating patients with injections of stem cells, usually a combination of umbilical cord cells and stem cells derived from each patient. Beike claims to treat over 250 patients per month, a total of more than 3,000 so far. Approximately 70% to 80% of the patients report themselves satisfied with their treatments, and the treatments have the ability to produce at least some therapeutic effect in 86% of its patients, according to statistics provided by Beike.
Beike has not submitted its techniques to the rigors of a double-blind clinical test. Nor has it done the otherwise necessary animal testing. Nevertheless, the company points to its success with the majority of its patients as sufficient proof that its stem cell therapies are a valuable addition to the medical arsenal.
Beike charges its patients between $20,000 and $30,000 for several rounds of stem cells injections, which it says can help cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s, atoxia, heart conditions, multiple sclerosis, optic nerve hypoplasia, and spinal muscular atrophy . Although most patients come from China, its therapies draw significant numbers of patients from the West. The former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Audrey Jones, for example, flew to China for a round of stem cell injections to treat her cerebellar atrophy and came back to England proclaiming herself much improved. Before the Beike therapy, she was confined to a wheelchair. Now she plans to walk into Manchester City Hall without aid. Beike’s web pages are replete with similar success stories for a wide variety of diseases (www.stemcellschina.com).
Stem cells are commonly used for bone marrow transplants in the West, but experts say that bone marrow, which constantly undergoes renewal, is a better candidate for basic stem cell injections than Beike’ specialties of nerve/heart/spinal cord problems. Stem cells will not necessarily find the correct nerve to repair without coaxing, according to the experts. They believe a set of simple stem cell injections is unlikely to correct septo-optic dysplasia, for example. On the other hand, Dr. Hu does not claim to know the mechanism behind Beike’s treatments, but he points to the results.
Adding to Beike’s credibility is the high quality of its academic affiliations. Beike was founded with capital from Beijing University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Shenzhen City Hall. It is also supported with funds from the China State National Fund. Its research and clinical work benefits from collaborations with Beijing University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, No. 3 Army Medical University, Zhongshan Medical University, Guiyang Medical College and Zhengzhou University. Beike has over 60 PhD researchers focusing on stem cell research in its labs.
In November 2007, Beike Biotechnology teamed up with the Szenzhen Graduate School of Tsinghua University to establish a laboratory that will research cell reprogramming and gene engineering. The lab will conduct research on stem cells, the nuclear transfer and reprogramming of cells, and monoclonal antibodies. The new lab was honored with the “China Key Laboratory” designation and given a grant worth $4 million for equipment from the Shenzhen Municipal Government. The grant was part of $12 million given out in 2007 by Shenzhen to encourage innovative technologies.
In June of this year, Beike announce it began outfitting a 21,500 square foot comprehensive medical stem cell storage and processing facility in Jiangsu province. When completed, the Jiangsu Stem Cell Storage Facility will boast the technology to freeze, store, and process a broad range of human stem cell samples for clinical application. Initially, the facility will provide stem cell banking for human umbilical cord blood stem cells, placenta stem cells, amniotic membrane stem cells, bone marrow stem cells, and later it will also be able to house induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). The facility is expected to begin operations later this year, adding another dimension to Beike’s manifold stem cell-related activities