Innovation / Leaders & People / Science

Will RoosterBio and 3-D BioPrinting Change Modern Medicine?

Jon Rowley and son photo

Jon Rowley, founder of RoosterBio, enables the next generation of medicine with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for Regenerative Medicine and 3-D Bioprinting.

RoosterBio’s innovative stem cell products changes the landscape for biomedical research scientists from one of scarcity to abundance with an unlimited field of opportunities to help the human body with an injury or disease be restored to health.

Tissue engineering is an obvious area for development. Current RoosterBio clients are developing cartilage, bone tissue and even, engineering “cell sheets” into solid cords, creating tendons for transplantation into animal models. Another area for development is biofabrication injection molding, creating, for example, replacement disks for the spine. Even soluble factors that MSCs secrete into their culture medium has caught the fascination of a pharmaceutical research labs (as new drugs) and cosmeceutical developers (for facial creams). Now, with the ability to rapidly produce  billions of high quality stem cells at the same time (or as manufacture would say “within the same lot”) along with the potential targeting of these cells directly to areas of injury or disease, the possibilities for research and applications are the next frontier in medicine.

The use of MSCs in biomedical research is not new, 30 years old in fact. However, the ability to rapidly expand MSCs with standardized manufacturing processes is allowing RoosterBio to usher in a new era or productivity into the field.. Through an innovative and proprietary manufacturing process, RoosterBio begins their process with 2-3 tablespoons of freshly collected bone marrow from healthy adult donors.  The bone marrow contains very low numbers (less than 0.1%) of MSCs, but these cells can be expanded to make enough to treat thousands of individual patients from a single donated marrow.  RoosterBio manufactures billions of MSCs and provides them to researchers as standardized vials 10 million cells (MSC-001). These cells are used as “seed cultures” to produce over 100 million more within a week.

Think of an ear of corn. An analogy would be how one seed of corn can produce hundreds of more corn kernels. One MSC can divide 20 to 30 times to make between half a million to half a billion cells – for each cell that is started with.

The ability to publish hundreds of millions of clinical grade MSCs affords researchers quantity, time and dramatic cost savings. This ability to efficiently expand these cells will enable a new wave of therapies and medical devices.

For scientists, this is revolutionary. Up until now regenerative medicine researchers requiring 10s or 100s of millions of cells to start an experiment would spend five to six weeks to grow these cells, only to conduct a limited number of sequential experiments annually. RoosterBio’s innovative product format cuts the traditional time to cultivate and test from 5-6 weeks to 5-10 days. A Virginia Commonwealth professor and customer shared with Rowley that previously he employed one person full time to grow cells for his researchers. Now, using RoosterBio cells and media, he can’t keep this person fully busy and needs to hire more graduate students to perform the amount of work he wishes to do.

Saving time and money is a game changer in biomedical research and allows for a “re-imagining” of what is possible. The abundance of cells available for research means new ways of thinking about experiments, about therapies, and likely even new applications. If the realities of time and financial constraints have produced a steady ‘drip’ of results. Now, imagine a flood of opportunities.

The range of cellular therapeutic applications is vast from tissue repair to improving suppressed immune systems such as: Chron’s Diseaseheart diseaseDiabetescancerburns, and/or bone damage.

Heart disease, according the U.S. Center for Disease Control, is the leading cause of death in the U.S., followed by cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes. Aging, death are obviously human realities. Potentially, strategically engineering MSCs could dramatically alter treatments for common injuries and diseases, and is even central to today’s “rejuvenation” research.

The Sens Research Foundation – Re-imagine Aging is hosting a conference in Santa Clara, California in August 2014. What answers will they discover?

Imagine the potential and results – if a patient who does need medical assistance has options that are less intrusive, more effective, can be rapidly deployed to maximize the body’s immune system and minimize hospital or medical costs.

It is now within reach to potentially create a Trojan Horse bio-bot and strategically program the cells to target and kill a cancer cell. As the body ages or if a patient smokes, the body’s ability to heal slows down which leads to injury or disease.  Cell therapies work with natural biological patterns and the human body’s intrinsic healing mechanisms.

Jon Rowley, a husband, father and entrepreneur at heart, has worked for several leading bio medical research laboratories such as Becton Dickenson and Lonza Group, where he admits he was certainly an intrapreneur. However, Rowley shares, the urge to take Regenerative Medicine and 3-D Bioprinting to the next level is a calculated risk and one only possible outside of a fixed structure of an institution where many prefer the comfort zone of science with a paycheck over the entrepreneurial zone of science with a risk.

Calculated risk, in the sense that Rowley has done his research and has learned from past entrepreneurial endeavors – from building lofts in graduate school turning a 100% profit to miscalculating the demand for plants for freshmen and having to gift 1,000 plants to friends and family. Succeeding and failing has been his teacher.  He does admit that “nothing could have prepared me for the roller coaster ride of a Biotechnology start-up.”

Rowley identifies important lessons he took away from previous endeavors. For any business, it is essential to study and know:

the supply chain;

the quality of the product;

financing options; and,

most importantly, know your customers and ask what they want….don’t just guess.

When asked who is his mentor. Rowley, responds, “I don’t have one.” Yet, an avid reader and learner, Rowley quickly references the RoosterBio advisory board and offers several authors who he considers his teachers. Some exceptionally wise insights for Rowley have come from:

On ethics, Rowley says,

“always identify what are the ethical questions.”

With good guidelines available for the industry, Rowley recommends, “don’t skirt any of the ethical aspects.” He shares that at an annual retreat with a group of scientists calling their effort EBICS, short for Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (of which Rowley sits on the Industry Advisory Committee) several hours of discussion among the scientists focuses on ethics, considering the unintended consequences of research, the implications and identifying the boundaries of reasonable minds. Scientists must “think through the implications.”

Rowley knows he is in a race to breakthrough the most challenging part of entrepreneurship and ultimately, what will ensure the success of the business – funding. With an international team of seven, enough capital to start, RoosterBio delivered its first order in February 2014. Having proved quality and ability to produce a much needed product, Rowley now spends a significant portion of his day talking with potential investors.

Rowley shares,

I am personally not doing it for the money. It is more for personal satisfaction of helping an industry succeed. This technology can be done and should exist. Even if we don’t succeed, we will be changing the industry for the better.”

By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, DC. Copyright protected 2014. All rights reserved.

 

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