Updates to Stem Cell Innovation Facilities

The UMN Stem Cell Innovation Facilities, under the direction of Associate Professor Dr. James Dutton, are integral to the support of stem cell research at the University of Minnesota and provide a bridge to the commercialization and clinical translation of Stem Cell discoveries made by UMN faculty and staff.  The three components of the UMN SCI Innovation Facilities, the Stem Cell Business Incubator, the Stem Cell Core, and the Laboratory for Stem Cell Automation provide UMN researchers with access to expertise, equipment and space to enhance their research discoveries and provide assistance with potential translation.

The Stem Cell Business Incubator provides laboratory and office space to start-up companies in the Stem Cell and Regenerative business sector. In the summer of 2019 the Business incubator laboratory space (housed in the Lions Research Facility adjacent to the Stem Cell Institute) underwent a complete refurbishment and now welcomes an additional new client - Half Moon Bay Biotechnology, LLC.  Founded by SCI Faculty member Jamie Modiano PhD, Perlman Professor of Oncology and Comparative Medicine in the UMN Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Half Moon Bay Biotechnology, LLC focuses on testing for early cancer diagnosis with approaches for strategic prevention in canines.   It joins three other companies currently resident in the UMN Stem Cell Business Incubator:

  • Synerfuse addressing lower back pain management by combining spinal fusion and neuromodulation technologies
  • Superior Organoid Technologies founded by SCI Faculty member Prof Timothy O’Brien, using pluripotent stem cells and organoids. and
  • Anatomi Corp, using discoveries made at the UMN Stem Cell Institute to accelerate the production of neurons from pluripotent stem cells. The CEO of Anatomi Corp is Patrick Walsh MS, a graduate from the first class of Stem Cell Biology MS students at the UMN Stem Cell Institute.

The Stem Cell Core Facility continues to provide expertise, reagents and support for researchers using stem cell and reprogramming technology in their projects at UMN. In the Summer of 2019 the Core was awarded funding from the 2019 Research Infrastructure Investment Program directed by the UMN Office of the Vice President for Research. This funding is integral to supporting the activities of the Stem Cell Core that have enabled researchers making use of the core services to attract in excess of $10M in federal and regional grant support since the inception of the original iPSC Core in 2008.

Automation Lab

An increasing number of projects initiated with support from the Stem Cell Core now also utilize the UMN Laboratory for Stem Cell Automation. This facility was opened in 2018 and houses two TECAN Fluent automated cell culture workstations. The primary project in this laboratory, managed jointly by Prof Deborah Ferrington, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences and Dr. James Dutton, utilizes the workstations to automate the derivation, differentiation and drug screening of Retinal Pigmented Epithelium from individuals with Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) to discover new treatments to arrest and prevent this devastating eye disease. This project was recently highlighted in the TECAN journal in an article titled “Keeping an Eye on Stem Cells."

The Stem Cell Automation Facility is also currently supporting research incorporating novel DMSO-free cryopreservation reagents in automated workflows with SCI Faculty member Prof Allison Hubel, Director the UMN Biopreservation Core Resource (BioCoR) and work with Prof Isobel Scarisbrick from Mayo Clinic investigating the potential of inhibiting PAR1 activity for improving neural regeneration in work funded by the State of Minnesota Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program.