Cord blood banking is a growing market in North America and globally. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of privately banked units grew steadily at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25 per cent, giving companies the ability to capitalize on a part of the anatomy – the umbilical cord – that has historically been seen as medical waste and discarded following childbirth. With consumer awareness of stem cells steadily increasing, this growth continues today as more parents are choosing to bank their babies’ umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood is a viable source of stem cells for transplantation, but the success rate of blood system transplantation is strongly correlated to the number of cells used. Unfortunately, one cord blood unit doesn’t produce enough stem cells for adult transplants. That’s where a new Canadian company intends to have an impact.
Launched earlier this month, ExCellThera is a clinical stage biotechnology company founded with the vision of developing robust and cost effective processes for growing blood stem cells for therapeutic use. It has developed an award-winning technology to boost the number of stem cells in a single cord blood unit, for patient use. The expansion process is so efficient, it is anticipated that physicians will no longer need to use two cord blood units to perform stem cell transplants in adults.
The company is based on a key molecule discovered by Dr. Guy Sauvageau, at Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), and a bioreactor developed by Dr. Peter Zandstra, at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME). ExCellThera is CCRM’s first spin-off company, in partnership with IRICoR.
A Phase I and II clinical trial designed to test the ability of ExCellThera’s stem cell expansion process is slated to begin this year in Montreal, with other centres to be added in the near future. The trial will enroll up to 25 patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who require stem cell transplantation for the treatment of their disease. You can learn more about ExCellThera here.
July is cord blood awareness month. You can read more about the importance of cord blood banking in this guest post.
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