Authorities Shut Controversial German Stem Cell Clinic

BERLIN—Health authorities in Germany have shut down a large clinic that had been peddling unproven stem cell treatments for a variety of physical disorders, including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury. The XCell clinic had taken advantage of a loophole in European regulations that allowed some treatments already in use when the law took effect to continue for 18 months without formal approval. That grace period ran out in January, however, and German authorities apparently shut down the clinic in late April.

Local authorities are also investigating possible criminal charges against the clinic’s administration and one of its doctors following two cases in which the treatment went very wrong. In October, an 18-month-old boy died after doctors at the clinic injected stem cells into his brain. A few months earlier, a 10-year-old boy almost died after undergoing similar treatment. He is now more severely disabled than before the therapy. The clinic charged more than 3000 patients up to €26,000 each for its services.

The clinic’s founder, Dutch physician Cornelis Kleinbloesem, moved to Germany after his clinic in Leuvenheim, the Netherlands, was shut down in 2006. XCell had operations in Düsseldorf and Cologne.

The German newspaper WirtschaftsWoche reports that the company’s main shareholders, California millionaire Pawan Seth and French investor André Stamm, fired Kleinbloesem on 22 April. It says they promoted XCell’s chief of research Hans de Munter and its chief doctor Dirk Happich to be new co-directors.