Gov. Perry's stem-cell firm draws FDA scrutiny

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received a complaint alleging the Houston company involved in Gov. Rick Perry's unregulated adult stem-cell operation is a potential danger to patients and not in compliance with federal law.

In an eight-page letter sent last month, University of Minnesota bioethicist Leigh Turner called on the FDA to investigate Celltex Therapeutics Corp., which banks people's stem cells for future reinjection in the event of disease or injury. Perry was the company's first customer last year.

"It appears their business plan involves injecting or infusing on a for-profit, commercial basis non-FDA-approved adult stem cells into paying customers," Turner wrote in the Feb. 21 letter. "This plan conflicts with FDA regulations governing human stem cells."

An FDA spokeswoman declined comment, but Turner said an agency official told him the matter has been assigned to an investigator and is being taken seriously.

Celltex co-founder David Eller said Tuesday night he is confident the company will "meet all FDA specifications." He emphasized that Celltex doesn't administer stem cells, but stores and processes them at the behest of doctors who later reinject them into patients.

Dr. Stanley Jones, a Houston orthopedic surgeon, injected Perry's stem cells during his back surgery in July.

The plan by Celltex and Perry to make Texas a leader in the therapy have been controversial since details about the governor's procedure became known last summer. The therapy, drawing on the ability of adult stem cells to replenish dying cells, is promising but thought by most medical researchers to need much more clinical study before it is commercialized.

Stem cells are a kind of medicine known as biologics, therapy involving living cells rather than chemicals. Most medical experts say that adult stem-cell therapy involves more than the "minimal manipulation" the agency allows without its oversight because the cells are isolated, cultured in a laboratory and stored for some period of time before being reinjected.

The FDA has recently stepped up enforcement of unregulated adult stem cell activity, though legal experts interviewed last fall by the Chronicle said it was unclear whether the agency would look into Perry's procedure because he seemed fully informed and unharmed by it.

The Texas Medical Board is currently considering a policy that would require providers of stem cells and other experimental drugs to use them only with the permission of independent review committees that assess trials for patient safety. The policy comes up for final approval in April.

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Gov. Perry's stem-cell firm draws FDA scrutiny

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