Geron shutting down stem cell research, laying off staff

Geron, the company at the forefront of embryonic stem cell research, announced today that it is halting all current and future stem cell work, and is leaving the business entirely.

Geron had been working on using embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries, but the company said it had to cut that project, as well as all stem cell-related projects, in order to make up for the roughly $300 million in losses accumulated over the past four years.

John A. Scarlett, CEO of Geron, told the New York Times that the company’s withdrawal from stem cell research shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the field is no longer showing any promise, nor does this spell the end for stem cell research as a whole.

“I deeply believe in the promise of stem cells,” Scarlett said. “I don’t think that promise is in any way, shape or form changed by what we’re doing.”

USA Today reports that the company will also be laying off 66 full-time jobs, which accounts for 38 percent of the staff. By the first half of 2012, Geron expects the lay-offs to bring in $8 million, putting them in a position to end the year with $150 million in cash and investments.