We are on the brink of a new era of medicine
Regenerative medicine represents a new paradigm in human health, with the potential to resolve unmet medical needs by addressing the underlying causes of disease.
Regenerative medicine research translates fundamental knowledge in biology, chemistry and physics into materials, devices, systems and a variety of therapeutic strategies which augment, repair, replace or regenerate organs and tissues. This rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary field in healthcare is transforming the practice of medicine, medical innovation and the production of medical devices and therapies.
Why Is Regenerative Medicine So Important to the Future of Healthcare?
Currently, the vast majority of treatments for chronic and/or life-threatening diseases are palliative. Others delay disease progression and the onset of complications associated with the underlying illness. Very few therapies in use today are capable of curing or significantly changing the course of disease. The result is a healthcare system burdened by costly treatments for an aging, increasingly ailing population, with few solutions for containing rising costs. The best way to significantly improve the economics of our current healthcare system is to develop more effective treatments for the most burdensome diseases—diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, stroke and cardiovascular disease, for example—to facilitate longer, healthier and more productive lives. Regenerative medicine is uniquely capable of altering the fundamental mechanisms of disease; however, to realize its potential we must think differently about therapeutic development and commit to investing in these transformative technologies. A more effective, sustainable healthcare system is possible through regenerative medicine, but it will require the combined efforts of patients, payers, healthcare providers, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, private investors and governments working together.
Stakeholder Coordination— A Critical Factor for Success
Delivering cures through regenerative medicine requires coordination amongst a broad range of stakeholder groups from industry, academia, government, healthcare professionals, the investment community and consumer advocates. The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine is the voice for these groups, drawing them together to create an influential and unified community that is paving the way for a healthier future with many new life saving therapies.
A Snapshot of the Field
The field of regenerative medicine is reaching a point in its evolution where progress is not only seen in headlines but felt by thousands of patients who are receiving disease-altering therapies every day. At the same time, new data are becoming available from late-stage clinical trials of regenerative medicines to treat cardiovascular disease, stroke, ALS, critical limb ischemia, cancer and a number of debilitating autoimmune diseases. As these results become known, they will dramatically heighten awareness around regenerative medicine and reinforced the profound impact it could have on our healthcare system.
Additionally, companies such as GE Healthcare and Cellular Dynamics International—the Gold winner of the 2011 Wall Street Journal’s Technology Awards Contest—are mastering the science of cellular reprogramming and cellular signaling to control the fate, or differentiation, of cells for specialized functions. Because of these discoveries, scientists can now manufacture beating human heart cells, liver cells, endothelial cells and neural cells to test the safety and toxicity of newly discovered drugs, understand the biologic mechanisms of disease, as well as discover new molecules and biologics with therapeutic potential. Recent advancements at the federal level include bipartisan congressional support for the Regenerative Medicine Promotion Act (HR 1862), the first national initiative to support regenerative medicine. The National Institute of Standards and Technology received funding in the 2012 Appropriations bill and encouragement from the House to conduct research addressing standards and measurement for regenerative medicine technologies. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health established a Center for Regenerative Medicine to advance translational research. At the state level, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine formed twelve international agency partnerships to fund cutting-edge translational research. We are energized by these developments and see them as building blocks toward the establishment of a coordinated national strategy for regenerative medicine. This will be a key focus of our advocacy efforts in 2012 and beyond.
Payers are beginning to recognize the encompassing potential of regenerative medicine. Further, as data are released from the late-, mid- and early-stage clinical trials that have enrolled more than 17,000 patients, significant advancements will be seen in pharmacoeconomic models reflecting the breadth and depth of economic transformation through regenerative medicine.
Patients and advocates of regenerative medicine continue to inspire and urge us on each day. We are grateful to organizations such as the New York Stem Cell Foundation, which recently received Time magazine’s scientific discovery of the year award; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; the Parkinson’s Action Network; and the Genetics Policy Institute. Thanks to organizations like these, the patient advocacy community continues to remain unified and fund critical translational research.