Minister predicts role for stem cell biologists in re-shaped pharmaceutical industry

Stem cell research should have a bright future and could play an important role in tomorrow’s pharmaceutical industry, Spain’s Minister for Health told an international conference of stem cell
biologists on January 11.

Professor Bernat Soria, himself a distinguished cell biologist, was speaking at the EuroSTELLS conference in Barcelona, organised by the European Science Foundation. EuroSTELLS is the ESF
programme that aims to develop a ‘toolbox’ for the fundamental study of stem cells – the ‘blank’ cells that have the potential to become programmed to form a wide range of different types of
cell and which could one day be used to repair damaged tissues and organs in human patients.

Fundamental research into stem cells could eventually play an important role in a ‘new look’ pharmaceutical industry, Professor Soria said. «The pharmaceutical industry is confronting big
changes. Big pharma is facing complete re-shaping in the sense that traditionally it has come from chemistry. We are now moving into a pharmaceutical industry more based upon biotechnology,
with academic researchers and university spin-out companies playing a greater and more influential role.»

In this environment, stem cell biologists could play a more prevalent part in the discovery of new therapies, Professor Soria said. But he urged caution. «While I do not wish to be a
pessimist, we are still a long way from producing cells that behave like adult cells,» he said.

Nevertheless, the outlook was potentially rosy. «There are new niches in which biotechnology and biological scientists can play a certain role,» Professor Soria predicted. «I
anticipate that you will have a nice future. And I hope you will have a splendid future.»

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