A few years ago a promotional website called Bioinformant popped up in the stem cell arena.
It’s very different in some ways than most other stem cell-related websites that I’ve seen. It’s a marketing and promotion site.
What’s the backstory?
I believe there’s reason for concern here specifically related to Bioinformant promoting unproven stem cell clinics.
What’s in this article
What is Bioinformant and what do they sell? | Who are their purported clients? | Bioinformant’s unproven stem cell clinic customers | Specific unproven clinic clients | GIOSTAR clinic comes up repeatedly | Bioinformant prices | About those purported prestige clients | Overall review
What is Bioinformant and what do they sell?
Let’s start with this question: what exactly is “Bioinformant” and its mission?
The name seems to be a mashup of biology and informant.
The main person behind Bioinformant is someone named Cade Hildreth. I don’t see that Cade has experience as a physician or stem cell laboratory researcher. Maybe I missed something and if so I’ll add an update to this post.
To me the Bioinformant site seems primarily designed to make money. When you get to the home page you see a prominent “Shop Now” button. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making money per se, but how one does this is sometimes concerning, especially in the medical arena.
They have an online store selling stem cell and regenerative medicine industry reports and other stuff. Some of it looks interesting and potentially useful on first glance, but it’s a very mixed set of offerings and price tags, and as you continue reading you’ll see I have some other concerns.
Their recent report on iPS cells had a price tag of about $4,000 last time I checked. Near the other end of the price spectrum you can also get a $29 stem cell t-shirt. See a screenshot.
The shirt may be meaningful in a way as to the site philosophy. It is a mantra that unproven stem cell clinics & their friends often mention in one form or another: “We are not made of drugs, we are made of cells.” From what I’ve seen over the years this kind of motto generally argues against FDA oversight of autologous stem cells.
Who are their purported clients?
Navigating around some more on the Bioinformant site, you might notice a seemingly impressive list of what they say are their clients at the bottom of the homepage.
This includes Pfizer, other big pharma firms, and stem cell biotechs.
They even list the NIH as a client.
However, in looking around more on the site I found other apparent clients (not listed in the homepage group) who in my view don’t fit with the prestige group that is so prominently placed.
These other clients are unproven stem cell clinic firms like GIOSTAR (see screenshot above). The clinics fit more with the motto of that t-shirt for sale on the website.
The clinic firms promoted by Bioinformant sell injections of stem cells and other offerings that in my view are not supported by rigorous data. The injections are also not FDA approved. Customers cannot be sure the offerings are effective or safe.
So there appear to be two main types of possible clients.
There’s the group of high-profile biotech/pharma companies and even the NIH splashed on the site for everyone to see and then there’s the group of stem cell clinic clients that are promoted in posts on the site.
To me these two types of clients even seem to conflict in some ways in terms of their philosophies.
Bioinformant’s unproven stem cell clinic customers
Bionformant regularly mentions unproven stem cell clinics in positive terms on the site in various posts.
Let’s dig a little more.
Take the example of a Bioinformant post about stem cell treatment cost.
In that post you can see information like a range of possible prices for different stem cell offerings. However, their post on cost seems to me to also be a promotional piece. It gives glowing endorsements to quite a few unproven clinics.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific clinics that get promoted. Note that these unproven stem cell clinic customers of Bioinformant are banned from advertising on Google as are all stem cell clinics.
Specific unproven clinic clients
The Stem Cell Institute in Panama
The post by Bioinformant about the cost of stem cells describes a clinic called The Stem Cell Institute in Panama (which sells unproven stem cell injections including into children) this way:
“Founded by Dr. Neil Riordan, the Stem Cell Institute in Panama is one of the world’s most trusted stem cell therapy centers.”
Most trusted by whom? I have some serious concerns about the Stem Cell Institute.
In the same post Bioinformant also mentions GIOSTAR again, a clinic chain that has had some issues as reported by the LA Times.
I highly recommend that LA Times piece by Michael Hiltzik on GIOSTAR. It raises serious concerns in my view.
This same Bioinformant piece ostensibly on stem cell cost also describes the Regenexx clinic in the Cayman Islands this way:
“Founded by my colleague Dr. Chris Centeno, Regenexx is one of the oldest and most trusted providers of stem cell treatments.”
How is Bioinformant a colleague of Chris Centeno? Fellow stem cell blogger?
DVC Stem Cell Clinic
Then Bioinformant plugs the stem cell clinic DVC Stem Cell:
“For over a decade, its physicians have been using alternative therapies to clinically treat patients with various medical conditions. It is one of the most advanced stem cell clinics in the Caribbean, with IRB-approved protocols, a fully licensed staff, and a facility that is accredited by the medical governing bodies of the Cayman Islands.”
What does it mean to be one of the most “advanced” clinics?
Other clinics are also listed including Celltex.
Since the Bioinformant post with this content is about stem cell prices, you might ask, “couldn’t the site just be including these clinics here to list their prices, which is relevant to the cost theme?” I don’t think so as for most of the clinics here the actual prices are not mentioned in this section listing the clinics. Some prices for clinic offerings are listed elsewhere.
Could Bioinformant be mentioning these clinics for free just because the site agrees with their philosophy? That’s hard to imagine for me, but I can’t be sure.
GIOSTAR clinic comes up repeatedly
At the end of this same post on stem cell cost, Bioinformant has a disclaimer of a sort and oddly squeezes in yet another plug for GIOSTAR (emphasis mine):
“As the world’s largest publisher of stem cell industry news, we understandably cannot provide clinical treatments or advice. For this reason, please contact GIOSTAR, a global stem cell company that has treated a large number of patients, with your medical questions.
You can reach them at this link to schedule a consultation or ask them your questions.”
So Bioinformant says to turn to the GIOSTAR unproven stem cell clinic firm with medical questions and even includes a link to do so.
Isn’t that risky? It also seems to me to be like they’re giving advice to readers of the site even though they are saying they’re not giving advice.
GIOSTAR comes up in quite a few posts on Bioinformant including a post on lung conditions (see screenshot above) and in others that seem to have nothing directly to do with GIOSTAR such as a post about the “5 types of stem cells.” And there’s that link for readers to connect with GIOSTAR again.
Does Bioinformant get a fee for every customer that GIOSTAR clinics receive this way? Or a flat fee?
Speaking of money, as mentioned earlier you can buy all sorts of things from the shop on the Bioinformant website. On their menu of items available for sale is a “Native Content” section (emphasis mine):
This is another popular option. Pricing is only $997 per Sponsored Article to get your content published to our site, distributed across all of our audience channels and SEO optimized to rank high in Google Search.
Sponsored Interviews are published and distributed across all of BioInformant’s audience channels for $2,997.
Importantly, you get substantial credibility when a third-party releases news about your company.
Is this the kind of route that the clinic customers go? Sponsored articles and interviews?
Admittedly, Bioinformant has interviews and articles about many entities in the regenerative medicine space well beyond clinics. Why include the unproven clinics as customers as well? Cade mentions having gotten their own stem cell treatment so perhaps feels really positively about clinics?
Would the site better serve the community without the clinic promotion? I think so.
About those purported prestige “world class” clients
Let’s circle back to the client group listed at the bottom of the Bioinformant homepage.
The site calls them “world class” clients.
What does it mean to be a “client” listed in this group? You regularly work with Bioinformant as a partner or have in the past?
Or is it more that someone at Pfizer, the NIH, or the other places just once bought a report from the Bioinformant website shop?
Does a t-shirt purchaser count as a client?
It’s not clear.
Are Bioinformant’s self-reported big-name clients like Pfizer, Merck, NIH, etc. aware that Bioinformant also promotes unproven stem cell clinics that are part of an industry about which many of us in the biomedical field have serious concerns?
It’s especially hard to imagine the NIH being okay with that.
Are these top-notch firms and the NIH okay with Bioinformant using their logos on its website? How would one check on such a thing?
Overall review of Bioinformant: clinic promotion is troubling
On the whole, Bioinformant is a mixed bag of some useful information along with a concerning dose of stem cell clinic promotion. In my view, the promotion of clinics detracts from much of the other material.
It’s troubling to me to think that in a sense some vulnerable patients’ money given to clinics for unproven injections may go right back to Bioinformant via the likely big promotion fees paid by the clinics.