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Tengion Inc.

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Starting with the bladder, Tengion Inc. aims to alleviate the shortage of donated organs by developing, manufacturing and marketing working organs made from a patient's own cells. The company's autologous repair and replacement technology is built on the work of tissue engineering expert Anthony Atala, MD.

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Stem-cell and regenerative medicine firms are scrambling to find business models to harness the field's nascent, rapidly evolving science. Companies deep into clinical trials are still looking for pharma partnerships. Earlier stage biotechs are trying to turn their platforms into research revenue as they look to non-profit, government, and private funding sources to advance their preclinical therapeutic programs. Whatever the model, worries abound that the financial woes of the next couple of years could blunt hard-earned momentum.

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Stem-cell and regenerative medicine firms are scrambling to find business models to harness the field's nascent, rapidly evolving science. Companies deep into clinical trials are still looking for pharma partnerships. Earlier stage biotechs are trying to turn their platforms into research revenue as they look to non-profit, government, and private funding sources to advance their preclinical therapeutic programs. Whatever the model, worries abound that the financial woes of the next couple of years could blunt hard-earned momentum.

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If there's one word that ought to sum up the goal of cell therapy today, it's sustainability. Certainly that's the hope of using living cells to restore health and function to diseased tissues so that they perform as the body intended them to. But more to the point, in today's tough financing environment for venture-capital-backed start-ups, sustainability is the watchword for companies facing 15- to 20-year development curves. Tissue-engineered three-dimensional organs are complex, decades-long projects. Embryonic stem cells are much simpler in concept but are far from a commercial reality. Between those two extremes of tissue-engineering, however, there exist some well-defined opportunities, notably in the treatment of blood vessel disease. Start-ups Pervasis and Cytograft are gaining clinical validation in those areas.

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