AQ: Australian Quarterly

Cell Therapies – Australia playing catch up?

Moreover, many people will not only live much longer, but many will do so with a reduced quality of life. It is against this bleak backdrop that regenerative medicine - repair or regeneration of diseased or damaged tissue to restore normal function - offers a new paradigm in the treatment of previously incurable diseases.

Australia is no different – in addition to the challenge of an ageing population and rapidly rising health costs, we also face a near-stagnant economic environment and in some states, a decline in traditional manufacturing industries. In the future, many Australians will benefit from cell therapies, so we need to ensure that Australia positions itself as a key player in this emerging industry and not just a user. This article asks how Australia can best position itself to benefit from both the health and economic outcomes of regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine encompasses cellular therapies, gene and gene-based cell therapies and tissue engineering, where the active ingredients are cells or cell-derived products that offer a potential cure for a number of incurable diseases. The use of cells or cell-derived products is nothing new – with the first successful human blood transfusion dating back to 1818.2

The advent of bone marrow transplants is often regarded to have heralded the modern era of cell therapies and ever since, the momentum has been growing. More recently, the rapid growth in the cognate field of regenerative medicine has been associated with a shift in the industry’s core technology from the use of mature, patient-derived, cells to the use of allogeneic, donor, stem cells.

Indeed, the emergence of non-embryonic stem cells has been game changing. These cells, sourced from screened donors, are now generally considered to be safe and ethically acceptable. They are the main focus of a rapidly emerging cell therapy industry, where cells are usually delivered directly to the patient.

Many Australians will benefit from cell therapies, so we need to ensure that Australia positions itself as a key player in this emerging industry and not just a user.

A changing paradigm

Worldwide there are over 600 industryled clinical trials utilising a range of different cell types. Many of these trials are targeting conditions and diseases

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1 Jeff Nesbit, “Google’s True Origin Partly Lies in CIA and NSA Research Grants for Mass Surveillance,” Quartz (blog), December 8, 2017, 2 Sh