SCI Innovation Facilities Bustling in Spite of COVID-19

Stem Cell Business Incubator

The UMN Stem Cell Business Incubator provides equipped laboratory space to start-up companies in the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine business sectors.

In the Fall of 2020 the Stem Cell Institute Business Incubator was pleased to graduate its first successful client company. SynerFuse, a company addressing lower back pain management by combining spinal fusion and neuromodulation technologies, was co-founded by UMN faculty member Gregory F. Molnar, PhD Vice President of Operations.

Quote from Beth Lindborg (Stem Cell Institute alumnus and the former Vice President of Operations at Synerfuse)

“Access to the SCI business incubator space has been invaluable to SynerFuse.  The space gave us an opportunity to be close to the University staff and faculty we were working with using 3rd party contracts.  We utilized the UMN Cadaver lab and Advanced Preclinical Imaging Center for our pre-clinical studies and are in the process of beginning our Industry Sponsored first-in-human clinical trial at the University of Minnesota though the department of Neurosurgery.  The pre-clinical and clinical work will result in about $1.5M total spend at the University of Minnesota.”

Dr Dutton says “SynerFuse was one of the first companies supported by the SCI Business Incubator when we opened in 2018. They have been excellent clients and it has been very exciting to have had a role in supporting them during their early stage and see them successfully graduate from the Incubator.

The Business Incubator also continues to support our existing client companies:

Sarcio was founded by SCI Faculty member Professor Timothy O’Brien, uses pluripotent stem cells and organoids to address cartilage repair.

Anatomic is using discoveries made at the UMN Stem Cell Institute to accelerate the production of neurons from pluripotent stem cells. Patrick Walsh MS, CEO of Anatomic is a graduate from the 2011 inaugural class of Stem Cell Biology MS students at the UMN Stem Cell Institute.

In addition, we have welcomed a new client, Blue Cube Bio, which is developing non-toxic preservation solutions to improve cell manufacturing. Blue Cube Bio CSO is Allison Hubel PhD, SCI faculty member, Professor in the Dept of Mechanical Engineering and Director of BioCor, the UMN Biopreservation Core Resource.

Stem Cell Core

The UMN Stem Cell Core supports a variety of stem cell and reprogramming projects around the University. We provide expertise, training, reagents, cell lines, assistance with differentiation protocols and other aspects of stem cell technologies and assist with potential translation. UMN research groups can request services by completing the form here.

The Stem Cell Core is supporting multiple projects:
  • generating preliminary data on automating hiPSC- hematopoietic differentiations to support funding proposals with Dr Beau Webber and Professor Logan Spector from the Department of Pediatrics
  • testing the differentiation of iPSC-derived limbal stem cells for potential corneal repair applications with Dr Joshua Hou (Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences)
  • assisting with reprogramming recalcitrant donor somatic cells for Dr Shauna Yuan (Institute for Translational Neuroscience) and developing repetitive scheduled cell sampling workflows using the automation equipment for circadian rhythm research for the Bigliardi research team (Department of Dermatology)

Laboratory for Stem Cell Automation

Robot image

Deborah Ferrington and James Dutton are heading a project that is utilizing these machines to automate the differentiation and drug screening of Retinal Pigmented Epithelium generated from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from individuals with Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The project was highlighted in this recent publication in SLAS Technology (PMID: 33292045). More details of the robotic workstations and how to make requests for use can be found here.