A startup that’s using placental stem cells for various regenerative medicine and cell therapy treatments just raised an astounding $250 million in funding. Placental-derived stem cells are seen within the stem cell industry not only as a promising approach to clinical healing in several diseases, but also as the cornerstone of the rapidly evolving science of regenerative medicine whose main purpose is the advancement of technologies for the repair and replacement of damaged cells, tissues, and organs.
Called Celularity, the New Jersey-based biotech firm founded by X-Prize and Singularity University founder Dr. Peter Diamandis and veteran biotech executive Dr. Bob Hariri, who serves as chairman and CEO, is a Celgene Corp spinout that’s working on finding a remedy to many of the world’s worst illnesses from an unlikely source.
The new biotech initiative whose board includes former Apple CEO John Sculley, ex-FDA commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach and founder of Alphabet’s venture capital arm Bill Maris, is built around the idea that stem cells found in postpartum human placentas are ideal for regenerating damaged and aged tissues. According to Celularity, the placental-derived stem cells, which can be placed into any human without the risk of rejection, have the ability to reverse conditions like cancer and Crohn’s disease and to “ultimately extend the human life span.”
The use of stem cells – they can develop into almost any type of tissue, from brain cells to blood cells – has long been controversial since they’ve largely been harvested through embryos. However, by procuring them from usually discardable postpartum placentas, the technique bypasses the ethical controversy faced by embryonic stem cell research. Additionally, because placentas offer a limitless source of stem cells (Celularity says one placenta can generate more than 100,000 medical applications with the stem cells being frozen and used as needed), treatments would theoretically be more affordable and immediately available.
“Our ultimate mission is to make 100 years old the new 60 and to provide people with maximal aesthetic, mobility, and cognition as they age,” Diamandis told TechCrunch, noting that the “20 years of science, research, and intellectual property pioneered by (his) visionary partner Dr. Bob Hariri, is the cornerstone for the coming longevity revolution.”
What’s most notable about Diamandis’ comment is his believe in cellular medicine and Celularity’s therapies progress.
“Our vision is to augment immunity and augment longevity,” Diamandis says. “That’s what were doing, and that’s the powerhouse that we’ve built in Celularity.”
So far, several of the startup’s therapies have advanced through Phase II of FDA-approved clinical testing. The next step is to try and gain FDA approval to roll these treatments out on a mass scale. If the trials continue to be successful, the company’s therapies could be approved in the U.S. in three to five years. In some countries, that might come as soon as this year. That’s because “cellular medicine is intrinsically safe,” Dr. Hariri says while noting that the potential could have a “huge impact” on U.S. medicine.
Celularity’s cash infusions from United Therapeutics Corp, Sorrento Therapeutics and Human Longevity, Inc. dwarfs the $225 million raised by regenerative-medicine startup BlueRock Therapeutics in December 2016 that was previously a landmark accomplishment within the stem cell industry.