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San Antonio startup signs license agreement with STTM
August 23, 2011

SAN ANTONIO (August 23, 2011) - StemBioSys LLC, which is commercializing a novel system to isolate and expand stem cells from umbilical cord blood, has entered into a licensing agreement with South Texas Technology Management (STTM).

STTM is a University of Texas full-service regional technology transfer office. Members are The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, The University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Texas at Brownsville, The University of Texas-Pan American and Texas State University-San Marcos.

StemBioSys is a biomedical company led by Steven A. Davis, M.D., chief executive officer, and Xiao-Dong Chen, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer. Dr. Chen, who has studied stem cells for 20 years, is an associate professor in the Dental School at the Health Science Center and conducts research there.

Stem cells are the cornerstone of regenerative medicine, which seeks to restore tissues deteriorated by age, disease or injury. Dr. Chen's work focuses on the isolation, expansion and use of native, pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) isolated from umbilical cord blood.

These MSCs have the potential for broad clinical applications due to pluripotency - the ability to differentiate into multiple types of body cells and tissues, including bone, muscle, blood vessels, glandular tissue and nerve fibers. Because of their ability to become so many types of cells, these cells are called "embryonic-like" MSCs - but they are not from embryos.

It has been widely assumed that very small numbers of MSCs exist in umbilical cord blood, but StemBioSys' novel extracellular matrix (ECM) can isolate and expand these in far greater numbers, Dr. Davis said. StemBioSys' technology meets another important challenge: when the cells are expanded using standard methods, they lose their capacity to become different types of cells.

"Our lab has developed a system to rapidly expand mesenchymal stem cells and slow down the loss of their stem cell properties," Dr. Chen said. "They are pluripotent and have not differentiated into mature cells. They are also ‘native' stem cells, not induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)," which are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state.

StemBioSys licensed the four pending patents on which the system is based. One pending patent is for the ECM - a 3-dimensional scaffold that enables expansion of stem cells. The second pending patent is for a method of isolating stem cells from umbilical cord blood. The third and fourth pending patents are focused on the use of the cells themselves.

Researchers have struggled with collecting quantities of MSCs from cord blood. "Some companies sell cells that they claim are from cord blood," Dr. Chen said. "We tried them and they really can't grow well. Also, they are expensive."

StemBioSys will sell its ECM and cells to research laboratories, and the company already has scientists interested in placing orders, said STTM Executive Director Arjun Sanga, J.D., assistant vice president for technology transfer at the Health Science Center.

The company is purchasing umbilical cord blood from the Texas Cord Blood Bank, Dr. Chen said.

Dr. Chen is in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry in the Dental School. He previously conducted research at the National Institutes of Health and Yale University.

Dr. Davis credited BioMed SA President Ann Stevens for matching Dr. Davis, a dermatologist and clinical researcher director, with Dr. Chen's research.

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About STTM: STTM is the UT technology transfer office serving institutions in South Texas. STTM provides leadership in promoting innovation and technology transfer through proactive management of intellectual property, technology development and commercialization to support the missions of member institutions, to advance regional economic development and to benefit the public. Please refer to www.utsttm.org to learn more about STTM or other innovative UT technologies.

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