Maxine Vaccine celebrates a biotech breakthrough that shows imaginative branding as well as medical commitment.
One of this week’s most exciting pharmaceutical industry news stories is the first regulatory approval for a manufactured drug based on stem cells.
Canadian regulators have approved Prochymal from Osiris Therapeutics to treat children suffering from rejection of bone marrow transplants.
The drug is prepared from stem cells obtained from the bone marrow of healthy young adult donors and replicated in culture.
This is exciting news for biotechnology fans – and as I’ve said before, biotechnology is the future of the drug industry.
But what made me do a double take when I first read the news story was the company’s name: Osiris Therapeutics. As a name for a specialist regenerative medicine company, that is quite inspired.
Apologies if I’m telling you stuff you already know, but here’s the story…
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Osiris was the god of the dead. This was a consequence of his having been murdered by the evil god Set. His body was cut up and buried in various locations across Egypt.
Isis, his bride, spent years searching for the pieces of Osiris. Because he was a god, he could return if his body was put back together. She found all of the pieces except one. Isn’t that always the way?
So Osiris became the damaged god of the underworld, while Isis resigned herself to an eternity of knitting.
It’s a classic myth about the power and the limitations of healing. (I don’t use ‘myth’ in the modern sense to mean a lie, but in the traditional sense to mean a tale of seriously weird stuff.)
So this small biotech company has positioned itself, by virtue of its trade name, as the heir to a magical tradition of regeneration – one with power over human life and death, but with overtones of loss and quiet endurance.
And just as Isis spent lonely years collecting the parts of her lover, Osiris Therapeutics has worked two decades to get to this point.
Whether the company demands reimbursement in the form of ritual sacrifices I doubt, though it would be worth it just to see the look on Andrew Dillon’s face.