Steve Stice-The Professor Entrepreneur

Dr Steve Stice and Human Stem Cells

I am pleased and honored for the privilege of profiling Dr. Steve Stice.  He has a history of working in areas that are Biotechnology Headliners…from cloning to stem cells. Here I will be focusing on his current work with Human Stem Cells and Neural Progenitors  at ArunA Biomedical and The University of Georgia. As with all the News Behind the Neuroscience News, I will highlight how it could impact Neuroscience Research and Drug Discovery.

The Back Story

Where it Starts

Steve embodies a rare blend of entrepreneurship and scientific curiosity. He has been referred to in the press as “part professor; part entrepreneur”. This uniquely positions Steve to take his inventions from the lab directly to the marketplace by forming Biotechnology Companies. The DNA for ArunA comes from several of his earlier start-ups: Advanced Cell Technology and Cytogenesis (now part of BresaGen).

About Dr. Steve Stice

Dr. Steve Stice is CSO of Aruna Biomedical Inc and a Professor and Director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center and has a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar endowed chair.


Prior to joining the University of Georgia, Dr. Stice was a cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, a stem cell company.  Throughout his career he has published and lectured internationally on the topics of cloning and stem cells. 


In 2001, three of the human embryonic stem cell lines that Dr Stice’s lab derived were approved for federal funding by President Bush. In 2006, he was appointed by Gov. Perdue to the Post Natal Cord Blood Commission for the state of Georgia.


Dr. Stice founded Aruna Biomedical, Inc., and in cooperation with Millipore Inc. was first group to market a product derived from human embryonic stem cells (2007). The product is a neural stem cell used for research on neurological diseases and disorders, ranging from Parkinson’s disease to depression.


Contact Information:

As co-founder and CSO of Advanced Cell Technology, he has helped commercialize discovery platforms that could enable the application of stem cell technologies to the field of regenerative medicine to bring effective therapies to patients suffering from degenerative diseases like age-related macular degeneration. The company recently passed the milestone of  successfully. restoring visual function in rats through the implantation of RPE cells derived from human embryonic stem cells and in early 2008, completed pre-IND meetings with the FDA. Yes, Human Stem Cell based therapies have the potential to make the blind  see.

This bring us to ArunA. I am excited about their current and future products because their is a pent up need for them by the Neuroscience Research community which includes many of Neuromics’ Customers.

The ArunA Biomedical Story
Steve started ArunA in 2003. It actually sprung from a frustrating aspect of using Stem Cells for research. They are infinitely useful but hard to grow in cultures and differentiate into the research required cell types. Steve became acutely aware of this from his work starting in 2001 including a 5 day course he taught at NIH. Steve understood that most researchers do not want to spend the time and related frustrations associated with  this exercise. It is kind of like building a computer so you could enjoy the benefits of the web. In other words, Neuroscientists could care less about undifferentiated stem cells. At the very least, they want pure and healthy Neural Progenitors. These can then be expanded and differentiated into specific neurons. For example an ALS Researcher would be interested in making Motor Neurons; a Parkinson’s Researcher, Dopamanergic Neurons and a Pain Researcher, GABAmanergic. Nirvana for these researchers would be having pure cultures of these Neuron types at their fingertips.

Current Products

There is good news. Neuroscientists can now easily and inexpensively get human neural progenitor cells for Drug Discovery, Toxicity and Basic Research.

ENStem-A ™, Neural Progenitor Expansion Kit
hN2™, ArunA Human Neural Cell Kit 

So what was once difficult and frustrating, is now easy and convenient. Buy the kits and here’s an example of what you get.

What is Next

Knowing the needs and wants of the marketplace, ArunA’s products and capabilities excite me. Any tools that have they capabilities to bring researchers a steps closer to discovering cures for insidious Neuro-diseases need to be embraced. All of us have or will be touched by these diseases.

In my conversations with Steve, I am impressed with his clear understanding of how to evolve ArunA’s product to increase their value proposition. Available soon could be cultures developed to fit the niche needs of specific researrch areas like Parkinson’s, Pain’s and Alzheimer’s. I plan on communicating these evolutions here and at my company’s website @

Stem Cell News Update

Dr. Steve Stice is in the on deck circle. We will be featuring his work in developing neural stem cell based assays for use in drug discovery. These platforms have the potential to help more efficiently and accuratelyidentify targets for pain, neurodegeneration and other CNS and PNS related diseases.

As a back drop, we wanted to feature several updates. First is a brief summary of the current positions of the Presidential Candidates.

Sen. John McCain

.- John McCain has set his sights on Florida as the state’s primary draws closer. In a conversation with Catholics in Florida and CNA this afternoon, McCain maintained his support for embryonic stem cell research while emphasizing his hope that it will become an academic issue given the latest scientific advances.

When he was asked how he reconciled his otherwise solid pro-life voting record with his support for experimentation on “surplus” embryos, Sen. McCain called his decision to back the research “a very agonizing and tough decision”. He continued, saying, “All I can say to you is that I went back and forth, back and forth on it and I came in on one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had, in favor of that research. And one reason being very frankly is those embryos will be either discarded or kept in permanent frozen status.” The senator, while standing firm on his decision added, “I understand how divisive this is among the pro-life community.”

Referring to the recent break through in stem cell research which allows scientists to use skin cells to create stem cells, McCain said that, “I believe that skin stem cell research has every potential very soon of making that discussion academic…. Sam Brownback and others are very encouraged at this latest advance….”’

Sen. Barack Obama
Advocates increased stem cell research. Campaign Web site states: “We owe it to the American public to explore the potential of stem cells to treat the millions of people suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases.” Supported legislation during his tenure in the Illinois Senate that allowed embryonic stem cell research in that state.Opposes human cloning.

Voted in support of these congressional stem-cell bills:

– The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which amends the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research.

– The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, which promotes research into deriving stem cell lines by methods “that do not knowingly harm embryos.”

– The Fetal Farming Bill of 2006, which prohibits the “solicitation or acceptance of tissue from embryos gestated for research purposes.”

He was one of the co-sponsors of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (S. 5), which expands the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally funded research.

Regardless…research using cells derived from government approved cell lines and aborted/miscarried fetuses marches into the face of uncertain funding and a raging moral debate. Both candidates are taking risks and demonstrating leadership…in the season of hope and new beginnings, I look foward to cogent policy and funding levels that enable the development of therapies that treat the millions of people suffering from debiliatating diseases.

An alternative, though in its infancy, could be induced pluripotency (iPS).

Here’s a recent interview with Dr. James Thompson who published the first two papers on making human iPS cells.

Nature Reports Stem Cells
Published online: 14 August 2008 | doi:10.1038/stemcells.2008.118

James Thomson: shifts from embryonic stem cells to induced pluripotency

Human Embryonic Stem Cells-The Great Debate

The use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells in Research is a lightening rod. It is catalyzing a great debate that transcends science and instead challenges us to take positions based on morality and ethics.

My considerations are humble. They do not extend to the potential of manipulating pluripotent cells to grow transplantable human tissues and organs in the lab. I am more interested in the ability for scientists to manipulate progenitors to grow pure cell populations in vitro for basic research.  These cultures are useful for helping Scientists understand the molecular biology of diseases. This is but a baby step in the direction of actually discovering therapies for insidious human diseases. I would like to have these cultures available as research tools for my customers, but what are the ethical considerations even, say, if the cells were derived from government approved cell lines.

Ted Peters

Ted Peters

In my journey of understanding, I happened upon a website that articulates  the roots of the debate and sheds light on the big questions that need to be answered by systematic theologians and public policy makers. These answers then could provide a moral and ethical framework for unleashing the promise of stem cells.

The Stem Cell Debate: Ethical Questions-About the author: Ted Peters is a professor of Systematic Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California. He is author of GOD-The World’s Future (Fortress 2000) and Science, Theology, and Ethics (Ashgate 2003). He is editor-in-chief of Dialog, A Journal of Theology. He also serves as co-editor of Theology and Science published by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley.

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Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (, an RNA interference company developing novel therapeutics utilizing proprietary Dicer Substrate Technology™, today announced a second closing of its Series A financing, receiving a total of $8.4 million in additional venture capital from new investor Abingworth and existing investors Oxford Bioscience Partners and Skyline Ventures. With this additional capital, Dicerna has completed a $21.4 million Series A financing round. Pursuant to this second closing, Vincent J. Miles, Ph.D., venture partner at Abingworth has joined Dicerna’s board of directors. Prior to Abingworth, Dr. Miles was senior vice president of business development at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an Abingworth portfolio company.