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StemSource Migrates to the Device World

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

A rudimentary orthobiologic rationale forms the basis of Macropore Biosurgery's acquisition of StemSource. Macropore wants to develop the devices needed to collect adipose stem cells (StemSource's technology) in the operating room for surgeons to administer them to help rebuild damaged organs and tissue. While financially modest, the deal is one of the first forays to bring the medical device and cell therapy worlds closer.

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StemSource Inc.

StemSource Inc. aims to derive stem cells from adipose tissue removed during liposuctions. This fat will be the foundation for what the company intends as a diverse platform: it has created a stem cell bank in which patients can store their own cells for future use. And it plans to take a portion of those deposited adult stem cells and develop them for a wide range of therapeutic, autologous applications.

Redefining the Stem Cell Opportunity

Small companies are now trying to leverage the value of both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, as genomics tools and for toxicology screening. At the same time, stem cells are gradually making their way into human testing, leading to an even more urgent need to understand the role that cytokines and growth factors play in signaling cells to differentiate. In fact, there's a growing recognition that the ultimate pharma opportunity may lie in selling drug cocktails that control cell differentiation, not in making and selling cells. Because dormant adult stem cells reside in tissues and in circulation, researchers are even beginning to envision applications where transplanted replacement cells are not needed at all.

Orthovita: The Most Natural Thing

The spinal orthopedics business, long focused on traditional fixation tools such as screws, dowels, cements, and more recently, interbody fusion cages, has been undergoing a slow evolution that also incorporates a biological approach to bone healing. Orthovita believes its glass/resin-based bioactive materials mimic the biology of bone healing better than previous synthetics, and that these materials can more easily incorporate biologic agents for an added bone-healing boost. Now the company faces the challenge of generating the data that will differentiate it from a host of competitors making similar claims and enable it to penetrate a market inherently slow to adopt new technology.

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