Thomas B. Okarma, president and chief executive officer of Geron Corporation (Nasdaq:GERN) will give a keynote presentation on the company’s regenerative medicine program at Biotech 2002 on May 20.

Biotech 2002 organizers asked Dr. Okarma to speak to Geron’s leadership in telomerase and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which hold promise for the scalable production of therapeutic cells potentially useful for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure and spinal cord injury. Okarma will explain the scientific basis for the potential medical utility of hESCs and telomerase and will also address the differences between hESCs and so-called “adult stem” cells. He will also provide insight into the ongoing debate surrounding therapeutic cloning.

Geron, based in Menlo Park, CA, has been a leader in the embryonic stem cell field since 1995, when it initiated sponsored research collaborations at three university laboratories. These early funding efforts led to the successful derivation of hESCs in 1998, the company says, and the subsequent development at Geron of seven differentiated cell types, as well as production methods for manufacturing commercial scale quantities of therapeutic cells.

Geron’s ties to the North Carolina biotech community include the clinical trials being conducted with the company’s cancer vaccine at Duke University Medical Center and research collaborations with Duke faculty.

Biotech 2002, which is the 11th such conference, is May 20 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in RTP, features company exhibits as well as expert panel discussions on the industry’s hottest issues, including stem cell research, biotechnology in public health, genomics challenges, the international marketplace, and life science investing. Billed as the Southeast’s premier life sciences industry conference, Biotech 2002 is co-hosted by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the N.C. Biotechnology Center, the N.C. Biosciences Organization and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

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