Geron Corporation

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Geron Corporation
Russell 2000 Component
HeadquartersMenlo Park, California, U.S.
Key people
John Scarlett: President and CEO; David L. Greenwood: CFO; Michael D. West: founder
ProductsCancer drugs (currently in human trials)
RevenueIncrease $36.371 Million USD (2015)[1]
Increase $46,000 USD (2015)
Number of employees

Geron Corporation is a biotechnology company located in Menlo Park, California, which specializes in developing and commercializing therapeutic products for cancer that inhibit telomerase.

Company information[edit]

Geron, based in Menlo Park, California, was founded by Mary C. West and Michael D. West, now CEO of AgeX Therapeutics.[3][4] They secured initial venture capital investments in the company from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Venrock.[5] The company was incorporated in 1990 and began doing business in 1992. John A. Scarlett was appointed CEO in 2011.[6]

The company's Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board has included Nobel laureates James Watson, Gunter Blobel, and Carol Greider, and Leonard Hayflick, known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro[7] (called the Hayflick limit).[8][9][10]

In 2017, Geron staff received the highest median pay in California, at $500,250. [11]

Drug candidates[edit]

Cancer therapies[edit]

Geron Corporation has sponsored human clinical trials of several anti-cancer products.

  • GRN163L (Imetelstat), is a drug that targets telomerase.[12] In studies conducted at Johns Hopkins University, GRN163L was active against both CD138+ and CD138neg cancer stem cells and eliminated the colony forming potential of both by five weeks.[13] Similarly, GRN163L inhibited the in vitro clonogenic growth of CD138neg Multiple Myeloma Cancer Stem Cells isolated from the bone marrow aspirates of patients with multiple myeloma. On November 3, 2014, the FDA removed the full clinical hold on imetelstat and declared the company's clinical development plan as acceptable.[14]
In November 2014 Geron entered into a licensing and collaboration agreement with Johnson and Johnson's biotech division (Janssen Biotech) to develop and commercialize GRN163L.[15] Two active Phase 2 trials for GRN163L are scheduled for completion in 2019 and 2022, one for Myelofibrosis and the other for Myelodysplastic Syndrome.[16]
In October 2017, GRN163L (Imetelstat) was granted Fast Track status by the FDA for certain patients in Myelodysplastic Syndrome.[17]
  • A trial of GRNVAC1, a telomerase vaccine being used on patients with prostate cancer was carried out at Duke University.[18] Geron's progress with telomerase vaccines attracted a modest monetary investment in 2005 from Merck.[19]
  • GRN1005, an LRP-directed conjugate of paclitaxel, was in phase II clinical trials for brain cancer but discontinued based on preliminary results in 2012.[20]

In 2014 Geron exclusively licensed imetelstat to Janssen Biotech.[21] This partnership was ended by Janssen on Sep 28th, 2018.

Telomerase activation[edit]

In addition to testing drug candidates that exploit cancer cell's dependence on telomerase, Geron is researching the possible applications of activating the enzyme in normal cells to delay cellular senescence. The company is in the early stages of developing a telomerase based treatment for HIV called TAT0002, which is the saponin cycloastragenol in Chinese herb Astragalus propinquus.[22] Geron has granted a license to Telomerase Activation Sciences to sell TA-65, the telomerase activator agent also derived from astragalus.[23] In October 2010 Intertek/AAC Labs, an ISO 17025 internationally recognized lab, found the largest component of TA-65 to be Cycloastragenol.[24]

Geron originally investigated telomerase as a means of understanding and modifying human aging. However, Geron has ceased aging research of any kind.[citation needed]

Stem cell therapies[edit]

On January 23, 2009, Geron received FDA approval to begin Phase I testing of GRNOPC1 in humans.[25] GRNOPC1 is an embryonic stem cell based drug that is designed to treat specific forms of spinal cord injury through remyelination of damaged axons. This trial does not involve direct use of stem cells however, as GRNOPC1 is composed of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells derived from embryonic stem cell lines. Studies have shown significant restoration of mobility in animals with spinal injuries that received cells.[26]

Geron also has several other embryonic stem cell treatments that are still in the preclinical phase, including GRNCM1, a treatment for heart disease, and GRNIC1, a treatment for diabetes. In tests with diabetic mice, 80% of the mice given GRNIC1 were still alive in 50 days while the entire control group, which was given no treatment, perished.[27]

Geron sold its human stem cell research assets to Asterias in 2013.[28]


As of October 2010 and November 2010, One of Geron's most highly publicized trial therapy products has been GRNOPC1, a stem cell therapy designed to heal severe spinal cord injuries. The cells in the GRNOPC1 therapy have been coaxed into becoming early myelinated glial cells, a type of cell that insulates nerve cells. For every GRNOPC1 cell that is injected in the patient, they become six to 10 cells in a few months.[29] In Oct 2011 updated results on 4 patients were released.[30] The trial was discontinued in Nov 2011.

In early 2013 BioTime, whose CEO at the time was Geron founder Michael D. West, acquired 400 patents and other intellectual property related to embryonic stem cells from Geron [31][32] and later went on to restart the trial.[33]

Patent issues[edit]

Geron Corporation initially held exclusive rights to three cell types derived from embryonic stem cells, as the result of paying for the research originally conducted by Dr. James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[34] The patents on the other three cell types are owned by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). WARF and Geron did not charge academics to study human stem cells but did charge commercial users. In 2001 WARF came under public pressure to widen access to human stem-cell technology, and they launched legal action against Geron Corporation to recover some of the previously sold rights. The two sides agreed that Geron would keep the rights to only three cell types.[35]

In October 2006, a legal challenge was mounted to overturn these patents by The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and the non-profit patent-watchdog Public Patent Foundation.[36] They contended that two of the patents granted to WARF are invalid because they cover a technique published in 1992 for which a patent had already been granted to an Australian researcher. Another part of the challenge came from the molecular biologist Jeanne Loring who stated that University of Wisconsin–Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson's techniques (currently patents held by WARF) are rendered obvious by a 1990 paper and two textbooks.[37] The outcome of this legal challenge was particularly relevant to the Geron Corporation as it can only license patents that are upheld.[38] The patents were ultimately upheld when the reexamination concluded in 2008.[39]

As an interim measure, on January 23, 2007 WARF relaxed the stem cell patents, allowing industry-sponsored research at academic and non-profit institutions without a license.[40] WARF will allow easier and simpler cost free cell transfers among researchers and would not require a license or agreement from California's taxpayer-funded stem cell research program.[41]


As a participant in the then-controversial stem cell and cloning area, Geron Corporation was asked to testify about its technology before the U.S. Congress. In 2001, when Congress was attempting to ban all forms of cloning, then Geron CEO Thomas Okarma spoke before Congress to preserve cloning for therapeutic purposes.[42][43][44]


  1. ^ "GERN Income Statement". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. ^ GERN: Profile for GERON CORP - Yahoo! Finance
  3. ^ "Anti-ageing drugs are coming that could keep you healthier for longer". New Scientist. April 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Pollack, Andrew (May 18, 2011). "A Blood Test Offers Clues to Longevity". New York Times.
  5. ^ "SEC Schedule 13G, filed Feb. 17, 1999".
  6. ^ Leuty, Ron (30 September 2011). "Chip Scarlett's skills may pay off - again - at Geron". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  7. ^ Hayflick L (1965). "The limited in vitro lifetime of human diploid cell strains". Experimental Cell Research. 37 (3): 614–636. doi:10.1016/0014-4827(65)90211-9. PMID 14315085.
  8. ^ "Geron Corporation 10K 1996".
  9. ^ Hall, Stephen (2003). "Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the New Dream of Life Extension". Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0547561571. Page 151.
  10. ^ Monmaney, Terence (14 January 1998). "Scientists Give Cell Apparent Immortality". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "This Map Shows the Best-Paying Company In Every State".
  12. ^ "Imetelstat Sodium". NCI Drug Dictionary. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ Brennan, Sarah K.; Wang, Qiuju; Tressler, Robert; Harley, Calvin; Go, Ning; Bassett, Ekaterina; Huff, Carol Ann; Jones, Richard J.; Matsui, William; Swarbrick, Alexander (1 September 2010). "Telomerase Inhibition Targets Clonogenic Multiple Myeloma Cells through Telomere Length-Dependent and Independent Mechanisms". PLoS ONE. 5 (9): e12487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012487. PMC 2931698. PMID 20824134.
  14. ^ Alex Planes (November 3, 2014). "Why Geron Corporation Shares Skyrocketed". The Motley Fool.
  15. ^ "Geron Announces Global Strategic Collaboration with Janssen to Develop and Commercialize Imetelstat". Investor Relations: Press Release. Geron. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  16. ^ "Search of: grn163l - List Results -". Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  17. ^ Corporation, Geron. "Geron Announces Fast Track Designation Granted to Imetelstat for Lower Risk Myelodysplastic Syndromes". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  18. ^ Harley, Calvin B. (March 2008). "Telomerase and cancer therapeutics". Nature Reviews Cancer. 8 (3): 167–179. doi:10.1038/nrc2275.
  19. ^ "Geron plans stock offering, Merck buying $18M in shares". 12 September 2005.
  20. ^ "Geron Scraps GRN1005, Cuts Jobs". Zacks Investment Research. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  21. ^ Fitzhugh, Michael (17 November 2014). "'New chapter' as Geron lands potential $935M imetelstat deal with Janssen". BioWorld.
  22. ^ TAT2 (cycloastragenol, CAS Registry no. 84605-18-5)
  23. ^ Borrell, Brendan (2 August 2012). "Lawsuit challenges anti-ageing claims". Nature. pp. 18–18. doi:10.1038/488018a.
  24. ^ American Analytical Chemistry Laboratories Analysis Document #100710-236 of TA-65
  25. ^ "Despite Bush Veto, Stem Cell Research Abounds -". Forbes. Archived from the original on February 4, 2007.
  26. ^ Keirstead HS, Nistor G, Bernal G, et al. (May 2005). "Human embryonic stem cell-derived oligodendrocyte progenitor cell transplants remyelinate and restore locomotion after spinal cord injury". J. Neurosci. 25 (19): 4694–705. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0311-05.2005. PMID 15888645.
  27. ^ News: Geron Presents New Data That Document Progress in Development of Therapeutic Products from Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News - Biotechnology from Bench to Business
  28. ^ "Geron Announces Record Date for Distribution of Asterias Series A Common Stock". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  29. ^ CNN Rachel Meade Reports (October 13, 2010)
  30. ^ "Geron (GERN) updates Clinical Data from GRNOPC1 Spinal Cord Injury Trial". 20 Oct 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-23.
  31. ^ "Geron's Stem Cell Program Sold". The Scientist. October 2, 2013.
  32. ^ "BioTime acquires stem cell assets from Geron, raises $10 million". San Francisco Business Times. January 7, 2013.
  33. ^ "Funding windfall rescues abandoned stem-cell trial". Nature. June 3, 2014.
  34. ^ Westhoff, Julia (22 January 2002). "WARF, Geron reach settlement". The Badger Herald.
  35. ^ Regalado, Antonio; Hamilton, David P. (18 July 2006). "How a University's Patents May Limit Stem-Cell Research". Wall Street Journal.
  36. ^ Kintisch, E. (21 July 2006). "Groups Challenge Key Stem Cell Patents". Science. 313 (5785): 281–281. doi:10.1126/science.313.5785.281. Lay summary (18 July 2006).
  37. ^ Loring, Jeanne (8 November 2007). "A patent challenge for human embryonic stem cell research". Nature Reports Stem Cells. doi:10.1038/stemcells.2007.113.
  38. ^ "Stem Cell Patents Come Under Fire". Center for Genetics and Society. Associated Press. 19 July 2006.
  39. ^ WARF press release
  40. ^ Somers, Terri (23 January 2007). "Stem cell scientists shout out hallelujah". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  41. ^ "Wisconsin Group Eases Stem Cell Patent Restrictions After FTCR". PUBPAT. 23 January 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  42. ^ Herper, Matthew (April 5, 2001). "Geron's Cloning Quandary -". Forbes.
  43. ^ "Online Extra: Thomas Okarma: Don't Ban Stem-Cell Research". BusinessWeek. 2 June 2003. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011.
  44. ^ "House Hearing, 107th Congress - The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001 and The Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001", U.S. Government Publishing Office, 20 June 2001

External links[edit]