The Nobel Prize that Matters

The important Nobel Prize news last week was the recognition of three American scientists for their role in the discovery of telomerase. More attention was garnered by the rather puzzling Peace Prize award, but that has become routine. The five Norwegians who pick the Peace Prize winners are specifically selected, it seems, by Norway’s liberal parliament primarily to comment on and meddle in American politics.

Regardless, the prize for medicine this year is extremely significant. Telomerase is the ‘immortalizing enzyme,’ produced by stem cells. When administered to adult cells, telomerase adds life-extending telomeres to the ends of a cell’s DNA. There has been no more important discovery in the history of medicine.

The list of scientists credited with the discovery is sorely short, having ignored the contributions some other critical researchers who have made crucial contributions to the current state of the science — one of which runs a company in the Breakthrough Technology Alert portfolio. I’m glad, however, that the award will help bring attention to regenerative medicine.

As more people learn what regenerative medicine can do, it will attract additional capital and accelerate progress. It will also, of course, push up the value of companies that hold important patents covering telomerase and other stem cell technologies.

The most important patents associated with telomerase and stem cells are already in our portfolio.