Where are the hot spots for stem cell research? Literature citations point to top research institutes

While the US and China lead in volume of citations, Singapore, Italy, Japan and Israel are coming on

It’s still very early innings in commercialization of stem cell-based therapies (although a first FDA approval for a product, Hemacord stem cells for transplantation, was granted in 2011, and several countries are allowing direct injection of stem cells as therapy). But, to the extent that the most energetic research locales will ultimately lead to the business in transporting stem cell products to patients, a study from Elsevier (Amsterdam) and several research centers brings the activity into focus.

Elsevier, together with the Kyoto University Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences and EuroStemCell (an EU-funded network of European research institutes, managed out of the University of Edinburgh), compiled data on scientific papers mentioning stem cells in the 2008-2013 period. Overall, the study showed that stem cell research has doubled over that time frame, and that its focus is sharpening on regenerative medicine as opposed to drug development. Within stem-cell research fields, induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells (which are derived, typically, from adult cells that have been genetically manipulated) is ramping up quickly, while growth in embryonic stem (ES) cell research is slowing down. The number of researchers worldwide (based on author profiles in published papers) has grown from roughly 65,000 in 2008 to just under 100,000 in 2012.

Based purely on volume of papers cited, the US, China, Germany, Japan and Great Britain (in that order) have led over the 2008-2012 period, but the analysts also calculated a “relative activity level” that shows the change, over time, of stem-cell research activity based on that country’s overall research activity relative to a global average. On that basis, Singapore, Italy, Israel and Japan join the US in showing the highest growth of research activity.

The study, “Stem Cell Research report: Trends and Perspectives on the Evolving International Landscape, was presented at the World Stem Cell Summit (San Diego, Dec. 6), and is available at no charge from Elsevier.