Nsight Barbara Nelsen on the business of science.

Filed under Research tools, Business growth, Cell manufacturing, Cell therapy, Innovation, Minnesota funding

Minnesota Life Science Companies to Watch – Part I

It’s no surprise that cell and gene therapies are a very hot topic in the biotech industry right now. But, did you know that right here in Minnesota we have some exciting companies in this space? Here we highlight three Minnesota life science companies moving the needle in this industry in very different ways.

StemoniX: 2016 Winner of the 12th Annual MN Cup Competition

The Minnesota life science company, StemoniX develops and manufactures human induced pluripotent stem cells (HiPSCs) for drug discovery and personalized medicine applications. What sets it apart from competitors? 

active neurone1. StemoniX reprograms human skin cells to HiPSCs to create biologically accurate, miniaturized organ-like micro-tissues, like hearts and brains. This platform is a ‘clinical trial on a plate’. Offering a human in vitro testing environment for toxicity and efficacy screening.

2. Their approach is high volume, high throughput, and low cost. StemoniX’s recent partnership with Cell Applications allows them to produce 1 billion HiPSCs from one lot in one week.

So far, StemoniX has raised $3.5 million including funding from Gopher Angels, a Minneapolis-based angel investor group in June 2015. For more information on strategies to secure investments see our recent posts here and here as well as our earlier article published in Nature Biotechnology, The View Beyond Venture Capital.

Wilson Wolf Manufacturing 

In our recently published article, Unlocking the therapeutic and commercial potential of CAR-T technology, we discuss challenges in translating the striking clinical results of CAR-T cell therapies in treating blood cancers to a commercial reality. One major challenge is efficient and cost-effective manufacturing of these patient-specific (autologous) T cell therapies. Traditionally, manufacture of these therapies relied upon plates, flasks, and bags in a complicated, labor-intensive process. As a solution, the Minnesota life science company, Wilson Wolf offers a cost-effective, closed, disposable, cellular manufacturing platform called the G-Rex®. The G-Rex® can expand T cells, hematopoietic stem cells, natural killer cells, and pancreatic islet cells. So far, several top-tier research institutions in the cell therapy space have already adopted this system for their manufacturing needs. According to one contract manufacturing organization, “most people are using the G-Rex® to manufacture T cell-based therapeutics.”

For more on manufacturing in cell therapy, see our recent brief report here and are full market research report here.

B-MoGen Biotechnologies 

B-MoGen is a Minnesota life science company based on genome engineering technology spun out from the University of Minnesota. Recently, B-MoGen closed its initial round of investment with participation from Bio-Techne and the University of Minnesota’s Discovery Capital Investment Program. B-MoGen uses cutting edge gene editing and gene delivery technologies, such as Sleeping Beauty and CRISPR/cas9, to “deliver your favorite gene in your favorite cell”.

We asked Jeff Liter, B-MoGen’s CEO what three factors have contributed to B-MoGen’s success to date:

  1. Definition of successAlignment of vision and purpose. We are a virtual leadership team where every member is not a full-time employee. So, we ensure that we are all connected on where we are headed and why it is important to B-MoGen’s future. We meet face-to-face once a month and are on a call bi-monthly to constantly calibrate on this topic.
  2. Translation of cutting edge technologies into useful applications. We constantly challenge ourselves. Yes, this is cool science but what is its functional use to prospective customers or patients.  In our fundraising efforts this story line was critical in getting our investors on board.
  3. Clearly defined and communicated roles, responsibilities, and accountability on our execution. At the end of the day it is how we execute everything. From the design of experiments, to the delivery of product to our customers, to the collecting and accounting for our financial records. This can only be done well if we all know who is to do what, we trust each other to get it done, and we do not have gaps and overlaps.