New York regenerative medicine startup EpiBone‘s tagline is apt: “Grow your own bone.”
It uses a patient’s own stem cells to create transplantable, highly personalized bone grafts, going after a 900,000-strong market of patients that need some variety of bone graft to treat, say, severe bone trauma, growth defects or genetic disorders.
The company is showcased as one of TedMed’s 2014 Hive startups. CEO Nina Tandon has actually given a couple of great TED talks on caring for engineered tissue and using it to advance personalized medicine.
So here’s how EpiBone works: Using a scan of the patient’s bone defect, EpiBone manipulates the patient’s stem cells to grow a mass of bone that can be grafted back into the patient. The general plan here is to offer surgeons a simpler grafting method that reduces recovery time by sidestepping complications associated with synthetic implants. And since it’s a graft of patients’ own cells, they won’t have the same issues with transplant rejection that can be a plague.
“EpiBone’s living, anatomically-precise, patient-specific bone grafts are engineered for a perfect fit, and integrate with their skeleton without a need for a second surgery,” Tandon told TedMed. “We want to help people preserve their bodies for a longer, higher quality of life.”
The company was launched in 2012, based on more than a decade of research at Columbia University. In its earliest stages, EpiBone is operating off a BioAccelerate grant prize from the NYC Partnership Fund. It has also received funding from Breakout Labs, a Peter Thiel-backed nonprofit fund.
Mild departure into nerd-dom: There was something in the Harry Potter series about this. School nurse Madam Pomfrey had a potion called Skele-Gro that would allow a patient to regrow bones. This smacks of a case of life imitating art, no?