Signals Blog


The Cell Therapy Industry’s equivalent of ‘Wimbledon Fortnight,’ is upon us: ARM’s successfully delivered Meeting on the Mesa (La Jolla, CA) has served as a tantalizing hors d’oeuvre to IBC’s Cell Therapy Bioprocessing Conference (Bethesda, MD) and CCRM’s and SCN’s Till & McCulloch Meetings (Banff, Alberta).

The trio of meetings are united in their bold and welcome aim to support industry development. Less welcome is the Vernian 17,765 mile round-trip for British devotees. It would appear that at the current stage of industry development, airlines are profiting from cell therapy more than investors!

Fortunately, the brightest minds in the cell therapy industry are also fond of more pleasant forms of travel, not least sailing. A fine weekend on the water with true cell therapy heavyweights in Malibu, California – all afflicted by the same near-term travel schedule – served as a floating summit addressing critical industry perspectives.

Among the conversation topics, a more avant-garde nugget was to consider what literary classics best parody the cell therapy industry. Invariably, and without much thought, my jet-lagged brain proffered Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Sitting back with the ocean gently lapping below, I reflected on my hazy memory of the classic and, travel schedules aside, noted the applicability of lessons learned by its protagonists for our community. Unexpectedly, there were quite a few!

  1. Identity: The plot is imbued with the consequences of mistaken identities, not least Fogg’s similarity to a fugitive. Hopefully minus alleged felony, cellular therapeutics are faced with a constant battle to establish their ‘commercial identity,’ building upon their established academic credentials. Furthermore, the ‘regulatory identities’ of cell therapy innovations remain a source of ‘regulatory uncertainty,’ conflated in part by the continued convergence of cellular therapies and biomaterials.
  2. Adaptability: Today, Around the World in Eighty Days can undoubtedly be described as a literary success. However, the origins of the text were difficult socio-economic times, set against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War, and are easily forgotten. Similarly, the cell therapy industry was very much conceived in a challenging fiscal environment. Consequently, the impact of the persisting funding constraints for biomedical translation and decreased pharmaceutical sector earnings, should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, an essential caveat is that basic stem cell research continues to be among the best-funded areas of contemporary science.
  3. Objectivity: Central to Fogg’s belief that he could successfully circumnavigate the globe in eighty days was a newspaper article that claimed the completion of long-distance railway. Upon his arrival in India, Fogg found that the railway had not been completed and he was forced to complete part of his journey, somewhat uncomfortably, on an elephant! Thus a timely reminder of the need for objectivity when communicating the potential of cell-based therapies to the general public and investors, not least refraining from presenting unreasonable timescales for the translation of basic bioscience into broadly accessible therapeutics. In most cases, there is still a long way to go. The importance of appropriate infrastructure is a direct analogy, with keen commentators requiring no reminder of past infrastructural challenges; for example, regarding the manufacture and distribution of leading products, including Dendreon’s Provenge (Sipuleucel-T) and current challenges, including the scalability of immunotherapy manufacturing.

This trinity of issues will undoubtedly provide a robust narrative thread to the events ahead, as industry thought leaders, united by their passion for translating cell therapy scientific innovations into broadly accessible patient outcomes, embark upon their ‘Autumn tour.’ Rest assured, I will be at the front and centre of the pack delivering timely perspectives from the ground for those of you that – perhaps wisely – opted against the epic voyage!

Fogg’s Original Schedule in Around the World in Eighty Days

Today’s Schedule for Loyal Cell Therapy Industry Followers

London, UK – Suez, Egypt 7 days London, UK – San Francisco, USA 11 hours
Suez, Egypt – Bombay, India 13 days San Francisco, USA – Los Angeles, USA 1 hour
Bombay, India – Calcutta, India 3 days Los Angeles, USA – Washington DC, USA 5 hours
Calcutta, India – Victoria, Hong Kong 13 days Washington DC, USA – Calgary, Canada 8 hours
Victoria, Hong Kong – Yokohama, Japan 6 days Calgary, Canada – Banff, Canada 2 hours
Yokohama, Japan – San Francisco, USA 22 days Banff, Canada – Calgary, Canada 2 hours
San Francisco, USA – New York City, USA 7 days Calgary, Canada – San Francisco, USA 2 hours
New York City, USA – London, UK 9 days San Francisco, USA – London, UK 11 hours
80 days 17,765 miles 42 hours


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David Brindley
David is an international thought-leader in the translation of life-science innovations into commercially viable products and services. His expertise spans the ‘Valley of Death,’ encompassing regulation, basic science, process engineering and finance. This distinctive skill set positions David at the forefront of socially responsible investments – in particular initiatives that make impactful contributions to global health. David currently holds a joint appointment between the University of Oxford and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and is an active Fellow of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and the Royal Society for the Advancement of Arts and Manufacturing. In addition to being an Editorial Board member of a range of international academic and industrial journals, David is also a founder of Translation Ventures, a boutique consultancy that is actively engaged in maximizing the financial and societal value realized from cutting edge scientific innovations. Disclosure: David A Brindley has no other relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in any postings apart from those disclosed. D.A.B. is subject to the CFA Institute’s Codes, Standards, and Guidelines, and as such, the author must stress that his contributions to this site are provided for academic interest only and must not be construed in any way as an investment recommendation.