Based: Madison, WI
The Scoop: Cellular Dynamics has set out to do something unique in the stem cell field: Make money. Working with the scientific know-how of stem cell pioneer Jamie Thomson at the University of Wisconsin, the company is run by a group of Midwestern pragmatists who believe that stem cells can blaze a new path toward more efficient drug development, offering an early look at how human cells will respond to an experimental therapy. And they've actively begun marketing products in a breakthrough for the entire stem cell field.
What makes it Fierce: Cellular Dynamics is taking a common sense approach to a field dominated by blue-sky thinking. Rather than focus on the remarkable long-term potential that stem cells have for growing new organs or curing some of the world's most complex diseases, the company has begun marketing stem cells as a tool for drug discovery. And that approach can start making money now, rather than years into the future.
"We're from the Midwest," explains Chief Technology Officer Nick Seay. "We're practical."
Starting off with funds from the state of Wisconsin, the company is using its stem cell technology to use human cells for drug screening. Instead of relying on animals, whose cells may not react to an experimental therapy the way a human cell would, CDI is offering a smart way for developers to get an early, more accurate look at the safety and effectiveness of their drug candidates. One of its technologies specializes in assessing the potential cardiac risks presented by a new drug program. And the company was quick to adopt IPS cells as soon as their potential was realized.
"We hope to convince developers to use human cells in vitro in large part in lieu of animal studies," says Seay.
Helping Seay make the case are some of the top scientists in the field.
UW-Madison's Jamie Thomson, the scientific founder of the company, was present at the dawn of the human embryonic stem cell revolution 10 years ago. And he's gone into business with two other noted UW-Madison researchers: Craig January and Timothy Kamp. Their stem cell tools are helping advance new programs, giving developers a chance to identify a smarter, faster way to assess their chances in the clinic.
What to look for: A key collaboration deal with industry-leader Roche should produce important data for the company in just about a year's time. Cellular Dynamics show-me-the-money practicality also has the potential to win over more developers willing to see how the technology can improve their performance in the clinic.