Company Worth Watching: Harvard Start-up Platelet Biogenesis Creates Platelets from Stem Cells
Platelets are the band aids of the bloodstream, and Platelet BioGenesis is disrupting the way in which humans heal. Platelet BioGenesis, a Larta NIH-CAP graduate, is a pre-clinical is a pre-clinical stage biotech startup and a spinoff from Harvard University. The Company is developing a process to produce life-saving human platelets from stem cells. Its process uses stem cells to mimic bone marrow and trigger platelet production, resulting in platelets that are cheaper, safer, and available on demand.
The Company has attracted investors such as Qiming U.S. Healthcare Fund, Vivo Capital, and eCoast Investors in a Series A funding round totaling $10 million in June 2017. The biotech startup received an additional $200,000 from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center through the Massachusetts Ramp-Up Program (MassRamp) that provides grant funding to early-stage life sciences companies. Platelet BioGenesis’ successful funding round will support preclinical testing of its stem cell-based bioreactors.
Platelet BioGenesis’ introduction into the biotech sector comes at a particularly opportune moment in the global transfusion market. The U.S. blood transfusion market is worth over $2 billion, and globally, the market is worth over $12 billion. Over 2 million Americans receive life-saving platelet transfusions annually for cancer treatment, transplants, and surgery. Clearly, the domestic and international market for platelets is booming—and yet, the supply is unable to meet the demand.
Because platelet supply is contingent on donors, demand for platelets consistently outpaces the supply. Platelet donation takes 90 minutes, making the process a tough sell for potential donors. Also, platelet donation comes with an increased risk of viral or bacterial contamination. On the demand side, platelet shelf life is limited to 5 days, giving medical providers a slim time frame to get the platelets from bank to patient, especially if patients are located in rural areas, away from the mostly urban platelet donation centers.
Platelet BioGenesis’ method, on the other hand, extends platelet shelf life to 10 days. Stem cell- originated platelets are purer and decrease the risk of viral or bacterial contamination. Platelet BioGenesis’ innovation expands the platelet transfusion market beyond first-world countries and supports new or restricted growth markets reliant on platelets otherwise reserved for transfusion. Finally, since their product is scalable, it can be produced on demand and at a fraction of the price of current transfusion options.
Mark McDade, Managing Partner at Qiming Ventures, emphasizes these attributes, stating, "We are excited to partner with Platelet BioGenesis to realize a shared vision of a platelet supply independent from human donors. The word disruptive is thrown around too often these days, but this technology truly has the potential to reshape the blood industry and positively impact millions of patients."