April 24, 2024

Stem cell company becomes political bombshell in Italy

The case of Davide Vannoni, head of the stem cell therapy company Stamina Foundation, is turning into an election issue.

some of Stamina’s supporters

An Italian accused of illegal harvesting, research and manipulation of stem cells is standing as a candidate in this month’s elections for the European Parliament. The secretary-general of the Io Cambio (I Change) party is turning the case of Davide Vannoni, the head of the stem cell therapy company Stamina Foundation, into an election issue. “Have the courage to act. Patients and your families, I beg you to open the doors of your hearts. On May 5 we shall place the lives of many people in your hands,” said the party official this week.

This overheated rhetoric has characterised a national debate about Stamina. Last week Turin prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello lodged a 69-page report with a court, alleging that Vannoni and 19 of his staff have been exploiting desperate patients. Stamina’s methods, he alleged, were unsafe, unethical, illegal and cynical. The indictment backed up the opinion of the medical profession, which regards Vannoni as a dangerous quack. Vannoni, on the other hand, – who is not a doctor—insists that his company deserves a Nobel Prize.

According to Science Insider, “The report says Vannoni had a well-developed strategy that aimed to bypass the law on stem cell therapies, take the treatment to public hospitals, get the Italian government to pay for it, and expand the business around the world. In addition, he actively pushed patients to go to court to claim the right to be treated.”

Many of Stamina’s patients support him to the hilt and are desperate for his treatments to continue. Last year the Italian Parliament voted to fund clinical trials for the Stamina method. The Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, who is under great political pressure, appears to favour it.

According to Science Insider, Amedeo Santosuosso, of the University of Pavia, who has investigated Stamina, has called for an abrupt end to the debate. “At this point the minister should have the moral and political strength to take the right decision and put to a definitive end the whole story. This is one of the darkest chapters in the history of medicine of this country.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
stem cells