Stem cell researchers have a lot of big dreams, and one is to someday regenerate damaged hearts. That is still many years away from becoming a commercial reality, if ever, but a few University of Washington scientists have formed a new company that hopes to make cells that can replace pacemakers, and someday rebuild damaged heart tissue that people are left with after heart attacks.
The company, Bellevue, WA-based Beat BioTherapeutics, is the brainchild of Chuck Murry and Michael Laflamme, a pair of UW stem cell researchers, and UW bioengineering professor Buddy Ratner. It has roots in about a decade of research, with $20 million of funding from the National Institutes of Health, Ratner says. No venture capitalists have chipped in to carry this work forward through the early phases of development, although the fledgling company has found another way forward through a partnership with the Bellevue, WA-based Hope Heart Institute, that will provide it with services and support, says CEO Stephen Quinn.
The basic concept of BeatBio, as it’s known for short, is a marriage of stem cell biology and biomedical engineering. Murry and Laflamme’s work has at least partly paved the way for the company to reprogram adult skin cells, to give them vast potential to become other types of cells, like those of the heart. BeatBio specifically wants to direct these cells to become cardiac pacemaker cells, and also cardiomyocytes, the cells that make up heart ventricles. Importantly, scientists have shown the cells can be kept proliferating over time in live animals, Ratner says (…)
“Somebody’s got to be crazy enough to take stem cell therapies to the market,” Quinn says.
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