The company will use the $40.6 million infusion of capital to boost production of its stem-cell derived beating heart cells, the company’s first commercial product, which was launched in December. Further, it expects to expand its product line by developing liver, nerve and blood vessel cells. Chief Executive Bob Palay said Cellular Dynamics expects to launch all three products in 2011, but hasn’t decided on which would come first.
The company takes tissue and blood samples from adults, then grows those samples into induced pluripotent stem cells, which are like embryonic stem cells in that they can be turned into any of the human body’s more than 200 cell types. Earlier this month, Cellular Dynamics was named to MIT’s list of 10 emerging technologies “poised to change the world.”
Cellular Dynamics’ cells allow drug companies to more quickly and accurately do preclinical tests of drug candidates, Palay said. Typically, preclinical tests are performed on human tissue cells from cadavers, cells derived from tumors, or animal cells.
“For the first time, pharmaceutical companies have access to the number, quality and purity of heart cells that they need for their drug research,” he said. “We’re talking about products that can be used today by drug researchers to improve people’s health.”
MedCity News first reported the company’s $40.6 million round of funding in early February. The latest round, which was led by previous funding leader Tactics II Stem Cell Ventures, brings the company’s total funding to $70 million. Also participating were Sam Zell’s Equity Group Investments LLC and Sixth Floor Investors LP.
Cellular Dynamics has 80 employees and plans to “expand rapidly.” The company is looking to hire more scientists and sales and marketing workers, but Palay declined to project how many. The company’s manufacturing process is “scalable and portable”, but it’s currently all done in Madison, Palay said.
Last year, the company’s sales were in the “multimillions,” but Palay declined to be more specific or share projections for this year. He said he was bound by confidentiality agreements and couldn’t disclose any of Cellular Dynamics’ customers. However, earlier this year, the company expanded a drug-candidate testing agreement with Roche. Further, based on comments by a Pfizer researcher in an MIT Technology Review article from January, it seems likely that the company is also a customer.
Eventually, Cellular Dynamics hopes to manufacture personal stem cells lines based on an individual’s blood and tissue, which would allow for personalized testing of drugs, but that’s likely many years away. “I can foresee a day in the not-so-distant future when doctors will be testing medicines for safety and effectiveness on your own cells before giving you a prescription,” Palay said.
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