Rigorous testing of cell therapies in South America struggles with emerging opportunities and regulatory deficiencies. As in other continents, these tend to be permissive with commercial opportunism but stifling for research. We describe a successful biotechnological entrepreneurship, born from within an academic institution, to foster science and promote translational research. Sustainability, however, requires a more complex niche, and realistic contributions from investors, state agencies, and legislators. An added level of complexity is required to enable multicentric studies. Herein we succinctly describe some of the most urgent challenges that the deployment of cell therapy faces in Chile. If this is truly an aspiration, fantasy should not be allowed to direct regulatory agents or legislators, and our Latin American Magic realism should remain within the realm of literary fiction.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Conflict of interest MK is funded by Consorcio Regenero and “Cells for Cells”. FEF is the Principal Investigator of a Clinical Trial funded by Consorcio Regenero.
In the early years of the precedent decade, at the Uni-versidad de los Andes, then a barely “teen-aged” University; the Vice-Principal quickly surmised that the establishment of a biotechnological “niche” aiming at the basic and clinical science of Cellular therapies might shortcut Institutional transit to adulthood, at least research-wise. So even being a Rheumatologist (FEF), I contributed to setup our Cell Therapy Lab in 2006 with a visionary grant from… the Ministry of economy! Perhaps the United States housing bubble and subprime crisis gave us then an extra boost, leading investors in Chile to widen their interests. Then, after a crash course in Biology, a handful of them turned from real estate to stem cells (still a multipotent pathway allowing de-differentiation). This was how Cells for Cells (C4C) was born in 2010, as a private and public Biotech company, emerging from within the research Labs of a brand-new School of Medicine. Support from the Principal's office was far-sighted in mounting a Research & Development Office, instrumental for the attainment of long-term (10 years) funding from the Government Agency for Development (CORFO) . This occurred in tandem with a coincident grant from the Ministry of Education, for the generation and retention of advanced human “capital” or… value-adding talent. It all boiled down to one of the most weighty public and private investments in science in our country, with a historical funding record close to 20 M USD. From the outset this was a plan to nurture a top caliber research center in collaboration with high level scientists and institutions from abroad. It should be bench to bedside, translational and perhaps—setting it apart from other units within Universidad de los Andes—self-supporting by building its own business platform.
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