A report by Grand View Research predicts the global stem cell market will reach $15.63 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 9.2%. And trying to leverage this opportunity are multiple Indian start-ups that lure the health conscious with preservation and banking of stem cells, the master cells that act as the body’s building blocks with the potential to develop into specialised cells of the body like muscle cells, brain cells and blood cells.
Working on a slightly distinct model, NCR-based Advancells is looking to carve a niche by thrusting into not the banking of stem cells, but in regenerative medicine.
Started by serial entrepreneur Vipul Jain in 2013, Advancells produces stem cells lines, which are then used by its partner hospitals and doctors in providing regenerative therapies to patients. The enterprise is presently preparing stem cell lines at its GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and ISO certified laboratory from sources such as bone marrow, adipose tissue, dental pulp, cord blood and cord tissues. The cell lines are then leveraged by the medical community in treating neurological, kidney, lung, liver, eye, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.
“The world is waking up to the reality of the body regenerating itself to fight a disease and stem cells are at the epicenter of regenerative medicine. The (business) prospects are bright, not just from a company’s point of view, but also from a patient’s side, as medical costs can be significantly reduced,” says Jain. Apart from creating the stem cells that cure diseases, Advancells writes the protocols for medical practitioners on the effective usage of the cells.
Jain, an MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, feels there is not much credible competition for Advancells. “The key players are mainly into cord blood banking, and for them therapy is a side product on which they don’t really concentrate.”
But irrespective of the lack of competition, the sector is rife with controversies that include malpractices and misrepresentation of information and facts. This has invited the concerns of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), making the industry highly regulated. How is a start-up equipped to operate in such a taxing scenario?
Healthcare, admits Jain, is an overtly regulated area and it sometimes becomes “difficult to operate in such an environment. The government regulations are to protect patient interests, but sometimes they get so tight that the latest innovations get expensive and out of reach of the common man.”
Jain says the company is working with the government on creating a regulatory framework around regenerative medicine.
“We begin by assessing a case, followed by explanation of the protocol, the risks and the positives associated with a procedure. Only if the patient is willing to undertake the procedure after understanding all the pros and cons do we move ahead,” says Jain. The procedure is performed in a partner hospital using stem cells manufactured in Advancells labs. Jain adds that the company also follows up with patients post-treatment.
The company claims to have reached out to over 1, 500 patients in the last four years. Jain says they plan to double their patient reach year on year and invest and start a research wing to test and calibrate new methods of stem cell delivery into the body. “We expect to grow 50% year on year for the next three years.”