ACT, R.I.P?

7/17/08Follow @xconomy

I don’t know the folks at Advanced Cell Technology, a company famous for making sensational claims about cloning the embryos of humans and animals alike, and it sounds like I may never get the chance. Today’s Boston Globe has a story about how ACT, which has been long on promise and low on cash for much of its history, appears to be finally running out of steam.

The story hinges on a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week that says ACT, whose labs are in Worcester, MA, had $17 million in liabilities and $1 million in cash, and that unless it raises money fast or makes huge cost cuts, it may not be able to keep the doors open past July 31. The stock closed yesterday at 2.5 cents.

The Globe‘s Todd Wallack writes that all the publicity that ACT garnered over the last decade “likely backfired.” News reports likened former CEO Michael West to the famed circus promoter P.T. Barnum, he recounts. A former executive adds that pharmaceutical firms and life sciences VCs were scared away by ACT’s controversial cloning techniques and stem cell research.

West surely got more than the usual publicity for a small biotech company. He was profiled in several publications and, as Wallack points out, co-wrote an eight-page spread on the “First Human Clone” in Scientific American. In 2003, he wrote a book, The Immortal Cell: One Scientist’s Quest to Solve the Mystery of Human Aging. West, though, told the Globe he doesn’t think he overstated any of the company’s work.

“I have indeed heard that criticism of me, but think it’s flat wrong,” he told the newspaper.

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