Movers and SHAKERS
An Interview with the Founder and Executive Director of the Regenerative Medicine Foundation
Next week the Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF) will be holding its annual World Stem Cell Summit. As it has each year for the past decade and a half, this year’s 16th World Stem Cell Summit (WSCS) will bring us all a step closer to solutions to health problems that had once seemed insurmountable. At the heart of this great event is Bernard Siegel (Bernie), Founder of the WSCS and Executive Director of the Regenerative Medicine Foundation. This year’s summit will be held virtually from June 14-18. Noble Capital Markets, along with Channelchek, are Platinum sponsors of the 2021 WSCS. This allowed me the opportunity and good fortune to be able to sit with Bernie and ask a few questions to help enhance the understanding of regenerative medicine, the World Stem Cell Summit, and Bernie Siegel himself.
Bernie, you were an attorney; how did you did move from a non-medical background to one where you’re at the forefront and even the spokesperson for stem cell research.
I did come into the field entirely outside of the realm of science, policy, and regulation. I was a practicing lawyer, but through my entire life have been interested in a lot of topics. I've always been a reader, and one of the topics I read a lot on is science, including the life sciences industry policy and politics. I came to realize this field is so different, so helpful, and so innovative - it can possibly create treatments for chronic diseases with no available cures, this resonated with me.
The actual turning point was when I survived cancer and decided I should do what I want including only taking cases I wanted to and allow myself to pursue other ventures that I might find interesting.
I got involved in this field and wound up taking a well-known case involving a religious sect claiming to have delivered a cloned baby. The case had national attention, and I wound up testifying before Congress and the National Academy of Science. Then excessively interviewed on news shows aired across the country. So much attention and noise surrounded the case that George W. Bush was President and brought up and denounced human cloning in his 2003 State of the Union address. He did this the day before my case went for arraignment.
I quickly became viewed by the science world as the only person standing up for legitimate science, and they were helping me. It became an extremely serious matter, I was doing it to establish a legal principle. By the time the case was done my life was turned upside down.
Some of the pushback on this science has been the use of embryonic cells. Is this still a hurdle?
Suppose the surplus in the embryos from IVF is being tossed as medical waste where they could be used for research and something good can come from it. In that case, it is a philosophical question and a political issue for those opposed to embryonic research.
The thing is, today, regenerative medicine has ways of creating very potent stem cells that can turn into any type of tissue in the body without destroying an embryo. Adult pluripotent cells can be used to create cells that will differentiate into other human tissue. This was discovered by a Japanese doctor by the name of Shinya Yamanaka who won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his work.
Yamanaka was able to take a human skin cell and apply viral vectors and transform it into a pluripotent cell that could be used to create any kind of tissue of the donor. This was a breakthrough in that duplicate cells could be made without the moral quandary of using embryonic tissue.
Your foundation supports study in a field that barely existed at the turn of the millennium. Aside from your well-publicized case, as an outsider, how have you been able to build it into such a deep network and strong force?
During the 30 days, I was held up to intense media scrutiny and held under a microscope with the cloning case showed me what I was capable of and caused me to think I could do even more with my life than I was. I’m still a member of the Florida Bar, but I gave up the actual practice of law to do this full time, it became a calling if you will.
When I built the organization, I built it first by recruiting some of the top scientists. Their names and their reputations allowed me to kick the doors more open to the biotechnology industry, major players in Washington, and the medical philanthropy world.
There is a method to building a movement.
Who Benefits Most from Going to the Stem Cell Summit?
Bernie Siegel: Who doesn’t? This is the key; a patient with a family member suffering from ALS never encounters a scientist that may be working in a lab with human cells. With the Summit, a patient can interact with the scientist. The scientist feels motivated, the patient becomes more of an advocate, the patient goes to the government and says “we need more funding for this.” The patient or family member meets with groups specific to a condition important to them that can benefit from this research. Clinicians can go and see the emerging promise in the field to understand what medical solutions are coming down the road that will change their medical practice. An insurance company will understand they will be reimbursing a new medical treatment. An investor or philanthropist is going to find out how these great medical institutions are translating their research into business opportunities that will become the future of medicine and how they all work together.
Understand, a tissue engineer might not be aware of everything in microscopy; someone who is working in microscopy may not have gathered what is going on in machine learning or AI. All of the enabling technologies in the field are at the Summit this creates energy in the field and interest from government leaders. The FDA and representatives from the NIH are there. We also have the international side with a whole segment of the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine the largest society in the world. This isn’t just a scientific meeting; investors and media are also there to see what clinical implications are why the public should be excited. This is of interest to everyone, I know this because I see it every day.
The World Stem Cell Summit is a project of the nonprofit Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF). They’ve built the strongest, most comprehensive global network for regenerative medicine in the U.S. This annual event unites the world’s leading researchers, medical centers, universities, labs, businesses, investors, funders, policymakers, experts in law, regulation and ethics, medical philanthropies, and patient organizations all meet next week.
Information on presenting companies can be found here.
The World Stem Cell Summit website can be found at this link.
For a copy of the Noble Capital Markets press release, go here.