Al Gore on board for $20M stem cell venture

Former vice president Al Gore is entering the stem cell arena with an announcement today of a $20 million biotech venture in the hot area of "induced pluripotent" stem cells.

Induced cells are attracting interest from researchers and biotech firms as an alternative to embryonic stem cells. Induced cells are made by inserting four genes into ordinary skin cells, and they offer a new path for "regenerative" medical treatments.

"I just think it’s a very important breakthrough that is filled with promise and hope," says Gore, a partner with the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, which is backing the research. "I think this is one of those good news stories that comes along every once in a while."

The cell technology company, iZumi Bio Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., will collaborate with Kyoto University’s Shinya Yamanaka, who in 2006 demonstrated the induced cells could be produced by "reprogramming" skin cells into embryonic cell look-alikes, with similar potential to grow into organ tissues for transplants.

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