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CalbaTech adds adult stem cell banking service
September 2006
by Lisa Espenschade  |  Email the author
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IRVINE, Calif.—In mid-August, LifeStem Inc., a subsidiary of CalbaTech Inc., intro­duced a program that collects and banks adult stem cells from two tissue sources in healthy individuals. James DeOlden, CEO of CalbaTech, says LifeStem's "Stem Cell MicroBank Service retrieves stem cells from two tissue sources, peripheral blood and adipose tissue. Stem cells are extracted from each individual collection and stored cryogenically." Three collec­tions of blood and one collection of adipose tissue, he says, cost $3,500; annual storage fees are $200.
 
All cells placed in the MicroBank are for autologous use if a client becomes sick and can benefit from stem cell-based ther­apies, says DeOlden, though one potential exception would be if clients designate that CalbaTech may provide a portion of their stem cells for research purposes, in exchange for a discount on MicroBank services.
 
Thanks to Proposition 71, which funds stem cell research in California, DeOlden sees opportunity to sell research-grade stem cells to local scientists and avoid shipping cells outside the state. CalbaTech already collaborates with stem cell ther­apy companies, says DeOlden. LifeStem expects to bank more than 1,000 dona­tions during the program's first year, says DeOlden. "We believe that our banking provides the best opportunity for those who wish to bank and benefit from research activity within the indus­try due to the fact that we collect stem cells from two tissue sources, thus doubling the potential thera­peutic applications."
 
LifeStem cites heart, liver, bone, and mus­cle as some of the tissues that the extracted stem cells could generate. A recent prepared statement from CalbaTech cited research reported on Cell.com suggesting that cells collected for the MicroBank could potentially be manipulated to mir­ror embryonic stem cells, but with­out tissue rejection concerns.
 
CalbaTech will supplement its core revenue through the MicroBank, which it projects to earn $3.9 million during the program's first year, while other subsidiaries, such as Molecula and K-D Medical, will continue to sell research supplies like oligo­nucleotides, buffers, reagents, and growth media. CalbaTech, says DeOlden, "determined early on to not just be seen as an R&D com­pany, so we sought out other com­panies that had revenue, that had a business model that made sense to us, and acquired a couple of com­panies on the east coast." Having resources within CalbaTech, he believes, will make it easier to sup­ply cell expansion operations aris­ing from the MicroBank.
 
Although Shankar Sellappan, a research analyst in drug dis­covery technologies at Frost & Sullivan, cites other companies selling robust stem cells, he says, "The business of banking seems like a very niche market. It seems like a neat business. I don't know how much it will grow." He sees low storage costs as a plus, though, and LifeStem's agreement with Solana MedSpa locations, which will serve as MicroBank dona­tion points throughout the United States, should reach customers with disposable income.
 
Sellappan agrees that adult stem cells show potential for therapies beyond current uses but cau­tions that generating enough cells can require time and specialized environments, making their use difficult after emergencies. Even if the right types of tissues are generated, some, like heart cells, which have difficulties meshing because they must beat in rhythm, are problematic. Despite current hurdles, Sellappan sees numer­ous future markets for stem cells, including adipose applications in reconstructive, plastic, and breast enhancement surgeries.
 
Code: E090612

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