Political News

Perry joins board of firm where he had stem cell surgery

Posted October 13

— Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has joined the board of a stem cell company where he underwent experimental back surgery before running for president in 2011 — a procedure that didn't calm the chronic pain that he later blamed for his "oops" moment and other infamous gaffes that sunk his once-promising campaign.

Houston-based biotechnology company Celltex Therapeutics Corp. said Perry had joined its board effective back in May. The appointment was announced again Thursday after an initial announcement earlier this year. Perry receives a salary from Celltex as do other board members, but the company declined to say how much it is.

"I'm a big believer in adult stem cells," Perry told The Associated Press by phone Thursday. "My reputation is important to me and I want to be associated with companies I believe in."

While Perry was governor, the Texas Medical Board approved a rule creating guidelines for supervising stem cell use — benefiting companies like Celltex.

"Rick Perry has been steadfast in his advocacy for the advancement of autologous stem cells and was passionate about making Texas the stem cell capital of the United States during his time as governor," Celltex CEO David Eller said in an emailed statement. "Given this passion, it is natural he joined the board of a premier U.S.-based biotechnology company that is known for its unparalleled adult stem cell technology now that he has left public service."

Still, Perry's personal experience may not seem all positive for Celltex.

In July 2011, Perry underwent a procedure performed by Stanley Jones, a surgeon who is Celltex's co-founder. The company collected Perry's own stem cells and injected them into his back as a means of alleviating pain.

Perry announced his presidential run the following month and briefly rocketed to the top of the Republican primary polls, only to flame out after a series of missteps.

The best-remembered one came during a presidential debate when Perry couldn't remember — despite repeated attempts — the third of three federal agencies he had promised to shutter if elected. He finally muttered, "Oops."

His advisers denied subsequent reports that Perry was taking painkillers that helped explain his performance — but the governor also swapped his signature cowboy boots for orthopedic tennis shoes while campaigning, suggesting he still was having back problems.

Perry left the race before the 2012 South Carolina primary and later acknowledged that continuing to recover from "major" surgery had kept him from properly preparing for a White House run.

But Perry said Thursday that his recovery took longer than originally expected because of rare "neurological fusion" that occurred after the cells were injected.

"I know for multiple parameters that the stem cell treatment had a very positive impact on me," he said.

The longest-serving governor in Texas history before leaving office in January 2015, Perry briefly launched a second presidential bid last fall, but it stalled amid sluggish fundraising. He most recently garnered national attention during a brief appearance on this season's "Dancing with the Stars," but was eliminated in a dance-off against Vanilla Ice.

"How's My health?" Perry asked. "Good enough to be on 'Dancing with the Stars.'"


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