The company I founded in 2005 is to be acquired by Intrexon for $26 million.
GERMANTOWN, Md. and SAN DIEGO, Dec. 20, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Intrexon Corporation (XON), a leader in synthetic biology, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire, for approximately $26 million, San Diego-based Medistem, Inc. (MEDS) a pioneer in the development of Endometrial Regenerative Cells (“ERC” or “ERCs”), universal donor adult stem cells that stimulate new blood vessel formation and are capable of generating different tissues including heart, brain, pancreas, liver, bone, cartilage and lung. Intrexon intends to employ its integrated synthetic biology platforms to engineer a diverse array of cell-based therapeutic candidates using Medistem’s multipotent ERCs.
Brussels, Belgium: http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT00790257?term=islet+diabetes&rank=21
University of Calgary, Canada: http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT01652911?term=islet+diabetes&rank=32
University of Illinois at Chicago: http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT00679042?term=islet+diabetes&rank=61
Argentinian trial of pig islets: http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT01736228?term=islet+diabetes&rank=79
University of Wisconsin: http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT00214253?term=islet+diabetes&rank=89
Other resources: Clinical Islet Transplantation Consortium http://www.citisletstudy.org/
Information from NIH on islet transplants: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/pancreaticislet/
I met Richard Humphries in May of 2008. He had come to Costa Rica for stem cell treatment for his secondary progressive MS. He had come with Sgt. Preston Walker of the Ft. Worth Police department. My role at ICM was management and overseeing the laboratory, so I didn’t meet many patients. Richard and Preston stopped me as I was heading out the front door to a meeting. Richard said, “If you guys are thinking of trying anything new, we’re game.”
The doctors and I had been talking for several months about using the patient’s own fat as a source for mesenchymal stem cells. They had been using only mesenchymal stem cells grown from umbilical cords. But the process was quite expensive which limited the number of cells that could be given. If they could take about a pound of belly fat, they could potentially get over 100 million cells from that alone. There was plenty of information coming from the veterinary world about treating autoimmune diseases with the stem cells isolated from fat. So Doctor Solano explained the concept to them, and they decided to go for it.
Richard and Preston therefore became the first two people with multiple sclerosis to be treated with stem cells from their own fat. Theirs along with the third patient’s cases were written up in a scientific journal article that was published the following year—after extensive examinations including new MRIs etc. The results were very positive and there were no side effects other than the bruising from the liposuction that was required to get the fat. Richard and Preston are famous for coming into the office 2 days after the liposuction, raising their shirts and saying, “So, this is what you call a ‘little’ bruising?”
I became fast friends with both Richard and Preston.
Richard had a good response but wound up having to come back because he was having a relapse in October 2009. He responded well again. Richard and I made a pact (well, it was more of suggestion of Richard’s—those of you who knew him well will know what I mean—he had a Ph.D. in the power of suggestion)—if he was still better the next summer, we would make a trip to Panama and accomplish the following: Golf (for him), play blackjack (for me), and swim in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in one day (for both of us).
We made the trip. On a Friday night we drove from Panama City to a beach area on the Pacific coast that had both a casino and a golf course named the Decameron. We found a little beach restaurant/bar called Woody’s (named for it’s Canadian owner) not far away and decided to have their dinner special—steak and lobster (for only fifteen bucks). There were only a few people there when we ordered our dinner. The place was somewhat of a local watering hole for Expats and they filtered in over the next few hours. Richard started up a conversation with one group, and before we left, we were on a first name basis with virtually everyone in the place. It took us 30 minutes to leave because everyone wanted to hang out with Richard. That sums up his personality to a T. If I had gone to that place by myself or with anyone else, I would probably have not even met a single person—instead I met everyone. Richard had this effect on people everywhere I went with him. He went with me to buy a pickup when I moved to Texas and, yet again, everyone in the dealership knew us by name before we left.
We went to the casino after the restaurant that night and proceeded to win 900 bucks—enough to pay for the Panama part of the trip. In the morning we got up to play golf. Richard shot a 2 under on a course he had never seen much less played on. What a golfer. Had he not had MS I’m sure he would have played on the PGA Senior Tour. In a phone text to me just about month ago he said he had just hit a 462-yard drive. He admitted it was downwind. I would never bet against his golf abilities or his coaching abilities. He taught two of my kids how to smack some pretty good golf balls from scratch in almost no time.
He was always coaching, even when he wasn’t. We played together in a charity golf tournament the last three years. This spring would’ve marked out fourth year. Each year he would stack our team with his students. All of them revered him. They called him “Coach”, as did I. His nickname for me was “Breaux” since I had lived in Southern Louisiana when working in the oil field, and was familiar with the nickname and appreciated his crawfish Étouffée. People in the lab said that we had a “breauxmance.”
Back to Panama. After another winning night of blackjack at the casino, we woke up early on Sunday. After breakfast we went swimming in the Pacific Ocean. We showered up and headed to the Atlantic. It should only take about 1.5 hours but we got lost and it took more like 4. The whole time we were cutting up and it didn’t seem that long at all. We finally arrived at an old port on the Atlantic side. We realized we didn’t have any towels. So we went to a little store and all they had were tea towels. Well, you know Richard was around 6’ 5” and I probably still outweighed him, so we bought 50 tea towels (they were 10 for a dollar). And we went swimming! We laughed all the way back to Panama city about how ridiculous we must’ve looked to the locals in the port as we dried ourselves off with the tea towels.
Fast forward to this week. We received a text from Laura on Tuesday morning that Richard was in critical condition at the hospital. We went as soon as we could that day. When we asked for his room, the nurse at the station said, “that man is a celebrity—everyone is coming to see him—through the glass doors on the right.”
Richard is a celebrity. Not because he was in movies or a rock and roll star. He is a celebrity because he cared. You know he cared because he noticed. He had a power of observation that I have never seen in another person. He could tell when things were right and when they were not and would always be there to encourage and nudge you in the right direction.
There is a Zulu greeting that fit Richard: “Sowubona.” It literally means, “I see you.” Not, hello, howdy, wassup?, or how’s it going? No matter what his greeting was, Richard was seeing you. His seeing would always be followed by gentle, practical nudging that would lead you to see yourself a little bit differently—which made you feel better about yourself and your capabilities. I saw it time and again, whether it was with me, his students, his family, or the hundreds of patients who sought out his advice and insights on stem cells.
His practicality was one of his most endearing traits and was part and parcel to his nudging. He wrote a series of articles for his golf students that he shared with me and other members of our staff called “Between Your Ears” that were chocked full of practical advice and insights. Shirley and I were scheduled to fly to Tokyo on Wednesday and considered canceling the trip. I heard Coach’s voice in my head, “Breaux, why are you going to go and do that for? You know you can’t do anything about it.”
So we went. And awoke in Tokyo to the news that my brother had passed.
Coach, rest in peace. I miss your nudges. Sowubona, I will always see you.
aka Neil Riordan
Winter Vitamin D Alert!
In the past few years I have had my blood work tested routinely. In early October of 2012 my vitamin D3 level was 60 ng/mL. The normal range is 40-100 ng/mL.
I take 2 Stemkine (and have been for 2 years) capsules every day which combined contain 2000 units of vitamin D3. My vitamin D3 level on January 18th, 2013 was only 27 in spite of the supplementation. I received those test results today.
In the past few months I have been having problems with dry skin including a few episodes of massive spontaneous, itchy exfoliation. Arthritis in my knees has also been increasing over the past 6 weeks. I had attributed this to a vigorous exercise program but now suspect the lower vitamin D3 may have something to do with both the skin and arthritis problems.
Regarding the itchy desquamation problem, I found the following article which chronicles cases of similar skin problems being associated with low vitamin D levels and resolution of symptoms in 70% of the cases with vitamin D supplementation—50,000 units once weekly and daily supplementation:
“Idiopathic itch, rash, and urticaria/angioedema merit serum vitamin D evaluation: a descriptive case series. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21322467
Regarding the knee arthritis, there is a plethora of articles on autoimmune disease and vitamin D deficiency—and my knee pain has some rheumatic features although there is certainly underlying osteoarthritis. I found this article which described a 92.9% incidence of vitamin D deficiency in primary knee osteoarthritis patients: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22024977
There is a clinical trial that started in August of 2012 in Australia that is testing to see if a weekly dose of 50,000 units of vitamin D3 will “reduce loss of knee cartilage volume, prevent the progression of other knee structural abnormalities, reduce knee pain and strengthen lower limb muscle strength, thus modify disease progression in knee OA.” Pubmed citation found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22867111
Just off the press is a study in JAMA that showed 2000 units per day of vitamin D3 did NOT help knee pain or reduce cartilage loss. Of note, the endpoint serum level was only 36 ng/ml. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299607?dopt=Abstract
It will be interesting to see if the Australian study of 50,000 vitamin D3 units per week with have a different outcome as the blood levels will likely be much higher than in the JAMA study.
Given that your body can produce tens of thousands of units of vitamin D3 per day if your skin is exposed to sunlight, I am starting a regimen of 50,000 units once per week and continue on the 2000 units per day I’ve been taking. Will let you know if there are any improvements. I will get out in the sun more also, weather permitting.
Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in depression and other mental disorders as well. If you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere this winter, and if you’re not banging on all eight cylinders, you may want to get your vitamin D level checked.
Great resource on vitamin D:
I recently read the book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. By Dr. William Davis.
Dr. Davis is a cardiologist and describes the benefit of removing wheat from the diets of several of his patients. In these cases the patients lost weight but also have profound improvements in their cardiovascular risk—which was demonstrated by much improved lipid profiles.
Above and beyond the case studies Dr. Davis makes a compelling argument for elimination of wheat from the diet. The two take away points that I am likely not to forget are: 1. Wheat today is not like wheat from even fifty years ago. Through hybridization (mostly) and genetic modification (plus or minus) the protein component of wheat has changed dramatically; and, 2. The wheat of today has two properties that “ancient” or non-modified wheat does not. Property 1—Even supposedly healthy whole wheat bread made from today’s wheat increases blood sugar, and therefore insulin, to a larger degree than even table sugar—ie, it has a higher glycemic index. Property 2—the protein of today’s wheat contains molecules referred to as “exorphins.” Similar to endorphins, molecules produced by your own body in response to exercise or other positive stimuli, these molecules bind to opiate receptors in your brain and essentially create an addictive desire for more exorphins (from wheat).
In addition to the two points above, Dr. Davis argues that even if you do not have an overt, obvious gluten allergy as in people with diagnosed Celiac disease, there is likely a spectrum of gluten intolerance and if you are somewhere on the sensitive side of the spectrum you may benefit from avoiding wheat.
In the two weeks that I have been off wheat I have lost 6 lbs and my bowel movements have been wonderful!
Reading the book sparked my interest enough to do a quick Medline search. This new article which supports Dr. Davis’ hypothesis that more people are sensitive to wheat than just those with Celiac disease came up: Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity Diagnosed by Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Challenge: Exploring a New Clinical Entity. And this article about the connection between gut inflammation and schizophrenia: Gastrointestinal inflammation and associated immune activation in schizophrenia.
Note to self: Finish inflammatory cytokine/schizophrenia post.
I bought the Kindle edition of the book for 9.45. Link is here: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
Related article co-authored by my father, Hugh Riordan. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999.
Neil Riordan October 10, 2012
Following is a protocol that I originally sent to a mutual friend who had asked if I knew of anything to help with migraine headaches. Since then I have added to the text and several people have followed the recommendations and have decreased the incidence of, or completely eliminated migraines.
Magnesium chloride, 500 mg, three times per day–if your stools get too loose, you may want to lower dosage to twice per day, or use 300 mg tablets—magnesium is mother nature’s calcium channel blocker, and can compete with calcium running through the ion channels which cause the initial spasm of the blood vessels; Zinc, 25-30 mg, one time per day, with food–zinc helps the magnesium out;
B-Complex, a B-50 supplement, one time per day, preferably in the morning after breakfast—B-6 is important for magnesium metabolism, B2 by itself has shown usefulness in migraine prevention. The B vitamins tend to work together; Vitamin C, if you don’t take it already, 2000 mg twice per day—It helps to stabilize mast cell membranes, and helps with constipation;
Flax seed oil, 4, 1000 mg capsules, twice per day—has a lot of omega 3 fatty acids which are precursors to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins—migraines begin with inflammation.
I haven’t had a migraine for more that 20 years after taking these supplements. I would think you should see some improvement in a few weeks. Don’t expect rapid drug effects—you are trying to build up a reserve of these nutrients so when you have a triggering event, it won’t spill over into a full-blown migraine.
One other thought—you may have a triggering food—I once saw a guy who drank liters of tea a day—when we tested his white blood cells’ reaction to tea it was off the charts—when he quit the tea, he didn’t have another migraine. In an article in the Lancet from 1979, common allergens in migraine patients were: “wheat (78%), orange (65%), eggs (45%), tea and coffee (40% each), chocolate and milk (37%) each), beef (35%), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33% each).”
It’s a complex problem and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I hope these suggestions may help.
Neil Riordan October 10, 2012