Stemgent: Fate, Obama and 74 new products




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Video title: Stemgent: Fate, Obama and 74 new products
Released on: September 01, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaVentures Business Review, Dr Fintan Walton caught up with Ian Ratcliffe, CEO of Stemgent, for an update on the company’s exciting past year. They discuss:

• induced Pluripotent cells

• the 74 products developed by Stemgent in the last year

• the importance of Barrack Obama’s changes to stem cell legislation

• Stemgent’s alliance with Fate Therapeutics and their Catalyst Programme: the consortium’s work to accelerate industrialisation of stem cell research

• Stemgent’s plans for the coming year to meet customer demand with unique, innovative products
Origin and development of Stemgent
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here at Bio in Atlanta. On this show I am pleased to have back Ian Ratcliffe who is the CEO of Stemgent. Last year you were here and we talked about your organization. Welcome back to PharmaVentures business review.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Thank you Fintan Walton and it's a great opportunity to update everybody about Stemgent.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Excited to be here.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, good. I know you have had an exciting year. Just remind our audience what--what Stemgent is about? What's the role of this organization?
Ian Ratcliffe:
So Stemgent is a pure play reagent company supplying reagents to stem cell researches for basic research. We are focused completely on the stem cell market the products we sell or validated for " for using stem cell research in those cases we use with embryonicstem cell as well as, we have some adult stem cell products but most of our focus has been embryonic stem cell and of course the company's slogan reprogramming the reagent eludes to the fact that we've spent a lot of time, effort and money on developing reprogramming-technologies the discovery of the induced pluripotent cells and those sorts of technologies have been you know for focus for the company over the last year and we'll continue to be so in future.
Fintan Walton:
Have revolutionized all the way stem cells are "
Ian Ratcliffe:
It certainly changed how stem cell research is viewed I think both ethically and also how " how it can be done scientifically the interesting thing about induced pluripotent cells of course is you got the potential to know what the patient history is of the " of thestem cell . When you take a stem cell from an embryo you don't know what the embryo is ultimately going to turn into.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Ian Ratcliffe:
But with the induced pluripotent cells you can take a cell from murine its Fibroblast cell reprogram it and actually that, that cell can then effectively recapitulate potential genetics of humans cells, you get some more information and different information that way. Whether they are(indiscernable) equivalent to the embryonic stem cell or not is still question for debate but --
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Certainly phenotypic ally and from the markers and that we use it to test this they appear to be.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So non-embryonic cells obviously have political issues are removed but "
Ian Ratcliffe:
Yeah absolutely.
Fintan Walton:
Also clear scientific stats ----
Ian Ratcliffe:
And they have said scientific differences that's I think you know lot of people have made lot about the " about the ethical issues and the political issues but to me it's much as interesting at least is the scientific difference.
Fintan Walton:
Yes.
Ian Ratcliffe:
I don't think anyone ever believed before (indiscernable) and others proved this could be done that cells that you know was always seen that cell faith was going one direction from undifferentiated to differentiated this throws that on its head and the other interesting part of the science which I think is fascinating is trans differentiation which again was sort of voodoo science nobody believed it. I think Doug Melton's termed it -- termed it direct differentiation where you can take A cell that is partially differentiated or fully differentiated and turn it another type of cell without necessarily turning it back into a induced pluripotent cell.
Products of Stemgent
Fintan Walton:
So as this all develops your own company has been developing when we talked last time I think you only have one product now you are developing --
Ian Ratcliffe:
Yes I think we did we had one product we now have 74 I think today.
Fintan Walton:
So when you talk about a product 74 products what are those products? They are cell lines?
Ian Ratcliffe:
They're all, there are all sorts of different things. We do have some cell lines. Most of our products we have met various different methods and technologies for reprogramming cells. We have all the antibody markers for pluripotency to show you once you made " made a cell a reprogrammed cell that it is pluripotent there is of course the same markers you use to determine that in embryonic stem cell is pluripotent. We have a number of Cytokines and proteins that we use. We have a large number in I think probably the best array of small molecules with which to manipulate stem cell fate and that's definitely focus of the company because of the work of Sheng Ding who is the scientific founder from the Scripps. We focused on those sorts of products and then we have some extra cell in the matrices products. We are trying to cover the water front in terms of all the things you would need to do an experiment ultimately our model is to try and simplify stem cell research to some extent to allow more people to enter it- enter the field and get successful results from their experiments.
Fintan Walton:
And the customers who buy your products, who are they?
Ian Ratcliffe:
They are mostly academic labs today. I would say right now we are seeing about 75- 25 split. 75% academic and 25% from the industrial you know pharma and biotech world and that's probably " that's probably a representation of where the research has been done, you know our products are targeted basic research that's where you know where most of the research had been done today is in " is in academic centre's all over the world and most major universities now have some form of regenerative medicine centre or core facility.
Changes in stemcell research and effects on the business.
Fintan Walton:
Right. Now forStemgent obviously working in the area of stem cells, we've had a change in " in President of United States we've got Barrack Obama now and he " one of his early things he did was to -- to change the way stem cell research could be executed here in the United States. So from your perspective was that important?
Ian Ratcliffe:
I think its very important. I mean what it does allowed " what it will allow scientist to do is to use a much larger array of particularly cell lines and embryonic cell lines for their research. The lines that where they were restricted to working it before under the Bush restrictions the executive order were all were the first lines that we made. Many of them had short comings and there was lack of diversity, lots of limitations. Now with federal money you are allowed to do research on any adult cell lines that are available. It is not clear where the legislation is going to end up in this space. There is still change is to be made and it's also worth pointing out that there was no specific funding pointed at "
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Stem cell research, obviously a large amount of money is gone into the NIH for stimulate " as part of the stimulus package. It is not certain whether you know what -- some of that will obviously come to stem cell research but exactly how much and to do what is still to be decided I think.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so they were basically the restrictions that were imposed through the "
Ian Ratcliffe:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
Executive board of President Bush have now largely been" been lifted?
Ian Ratcliffe:
And lot of " remember one of the reasons that those restrictions were so onerous was the uncertainty that they created in labs that received in NIH funding the example being if you received an NIH grant to one part of your lab but you were doing research, we would say some you know foundation money "
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Ian Ratcliffe:
In another part of your lab, you had to run two completely separate accounting systems, you had to " you couldn't mix things around. People were just worried that they would lose their eligibility fit for grants. So they said you know what " we'll just not do " we'll just not do that work. Now I think that's gone away that -- that potential problem and also the ministry of (indiscernable) has created and that will undoubtedly you know stimulate a lot more people to do interesting work in stem cells.
Fintan Walton:
and has that changed your business?
Ian Ratcliffe:
No I wouldn't say so. I mean it's very difficult to say as a relatively small company growing you know all we getting more sales today because of the " we are getting more sales today which is great but I " could I attribute it directly to Barrack Obama's changes in the stem cell world I wouldn't say that's the case. I'm sure it's good for the future though. I'm having a more enlightened view because what really Barrack Obama has done is he depoliticized this issue. He said there is no place for that political argument in the regulation of science and he's left it down to the individual labs there are still people who of course you know for their own religious reasons and ethical reasons don't wanna work with embryonic stem cells, you know and that's fine. But you know if you do you can and that's the advantage of that.
Alliance with Fate Therapeutics.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. The other thing recently you've done at Stemgent is to enter into alliance with Fate Therapeutics [PharmaDeals ID = 333842]. Could you describe what that alliance is because it brings in another perspective to your organization?
Ian Ratcliffe:
Yes we've launched the catalyst-program at Fate Therapeutics. Now Fate Therapeutics " Fate Therapeutics and Stemgent share a number of founders in scientific advisory board members and we both have a lot of our employees in San Diego and both the CEO ofFate Therapeutics, Paul Grayson and myself have been involved in consortiums before. So we came up with a idea that one way of very quickly advancing stem cell research industrially and to make the tools available industrially would be to assemble a collection of " of large biotech and pharma companies in a consortium structure and thereby Fate Therapeutics and Stemgent would develop precompetitive tools that will accelerate in the industrialization of stem cell research and by industrialization I mean the sorts of cell lines and cells and technologies that are going to be required to make large numbers of cells for " for cell based therapy for drug screening and the like and of course also to capitalize tremendously on the " the iPS technology that both of our companies have licenses to.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So how does that actually work? So pharmaceutical companies join the " the collaboration?
Ian Ratcliffe:
That's right. They join the consortium.
Fintan Walton:
consortium.
Ian Ratcliffe:
They put funding and some potential technology into the " into the consortium that is then collectively developed and all the parties who are called catalyst members get to use that technology.
Fintan Walton:
And they get that as a non-exclusive license back to them?
Ian Ratcliffe:
They do. Yes, that's right. Exclusive within the partnership to partners but not " but, but obviously "
Fintan Walton:
Within that group?
Ian Ratcliffe:
Yeah, within that group. So you have potential all those companies who are sharing the same "
Fintan Walton:
So co-exclusive?
Ian Ratcliffe:
IPF, yeah it's sort of like a large co-exclusive. The other interesting thing about it particularly forStemgent is that these technologies will also be available to the academic community immediately. So lots of work would be developed can then be used in academic settings immediately and so we hope that " that will not only stimulate more sales for us as a company but also speed up the rate of which academic institutions or labs can do.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Do research.
Fintan Walton:
Those announced in April?
Ian Ratcliffe:
That's correct.
Fintan Walton:
so where is that now going. What " where about ---?
Ian Ratcliffe:
We are in the process of talking to a number of potential partners and " and hopefully next year when I am talking to you again you know it will be a done deal and we'll be " we'll be up in running be able to tell what we're doing there.
Future development plans of Stemgent
Fintan Walton:
Excellent. So Ian when you look at Stemgent and what you're doing you've told us right where you are, right up to-date. What other developments do we see happening with Stemgent now over next year?
Ian Ratcliffe:
I think will some existing things ISSCR and --
Fintan Walton:
What's that?
Ian Ratcliffe:
This is the International Stem Cell Research meeting that's held annually. This year it's in Barcelona and we will be launching a lot of interesting products at that meeting. Our first and media products would be launched at that meeting and we'll continue to you know to bring on innovative new products. I'd like to see ultimately at least 30% of Stemgent's products being unique innovative products that you may only be able to get from us. We are not there yet but we'll certainly be striving for that and meeting demand is as you sell more things to more customers you start to understand what it is they are really looking for and that's a very powerful feedback loop for a commercial entity like us. So as we " as we talk to more customers and we sell more things you know it sharpens our focus and what it is we are gonna to be making in future. But we are sticking with our business plan. We are focused on stem cell market, application testing products that you " that can be used for stem cell research specifically.
Fintan Walton:
Ian Ratcliffe, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thank you.
Ian Ratcliffe:
Thank you very much Fintan Walton. Great to talk to you.
Ian Ratcliffe
Chief Executive Officer
Ian Ratcliffe, President and CEO StemgentInc Boston, Massachusetts worked as Board Chairman at Enzymatics Inc and Chairman and Owner Enzymatics Inc and also as President at Upstate Executive Vice President Upstate.Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development Upstate and as President at Asterand plc Non-Executive Director Asterand plc President PBM Products LLC President of the Upstate Division Serologicals Corporation. Board Memberships and Affiliations Chairman of Board of Directors Enzymatics Inc Board Member Global Cell Solutions Inc Education M.B.A. Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia first degree, Chemical Engineering University of Surrey Guilford.
Stemgent
Stemgent advances stem cell science by providing proprietary reagents and tools developed by some of the world's leading stem cell scientists. Stemgent's product offering has been specifically optimized for, and screened against, stem cells, and includes small molecules for pluripotency, self-renewal, and differentiation, viral-delivered transcription factors, matrices, cell lines, cytokines, antibodies, transfection reagents, and more. This unique product mix is designed to serve researchers who study stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and those who use cells derived from stem cells as tools to advance their understanding of major diseases.