Regenerative medicine harnesses the body’s own power to fight a diseases or problem sans the side effects of contemporary medicine and surgery.Rahul Gupta, living in Auckland, New Zealand was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2010, which had relapsed several times since then.By 2017, the disease progressed to a stage where he lost the ability walk.
MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord, which causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body, eventually, causing the nerves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
After most of the past treatments failed, Rahul read about stem cell therapy, which had the potential to cure this disease. This is where Noida-based startup Advancells comes in.
Rahul approached Advancells and was accepted as part of the startup’s trial for unique Adult stem cell therapy program. He flew down to New Delhi and underwent the procedure in June 2017. As of August 2017, Rahul can not only walk, but also climb stairs and even get on a treadmill.
This is the potential stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine has. And Advancells is working on this new form of medicine to be able to bring it to the masses.
“Regenerative medicine and stem cells are often called the future of modern medicine. If you look at contemporary medicine, we don’t really treat a disease. We treat the symptoms with man-made medicines. But Regenerative medicine harnesses the body’s own power to fight a diseases or problem sans the side effects that contemporary medicine and surgery brings with it,” says Vipul Jain, CEO of Advancells.
So what is regenerative medicine and what does Advancells do? Advanced cells is a GMT compliant lab, which deals in manufacturing of all types of cell lines. These are then used by hospitals and doctors for treatment of various diseases.
Regenerative medicine is where the body’s own cells are used to treat any disease without any use of any medicine. Why this works is because our body has the capability of healing itself and of regenerating itself and these cells that regenerate are called stem cells.
Advancells produces stem cells for the treatments of various diseases. It works on making the cells, writing the codes and how the cells have to be used. It also trains doctors in regenerative medicine.
The cells are made from a patient’s own body – it could be from bone marrow, adipose tissue, skin, etc and then used for treatment. This would mean that every treatment that Advancells does is personalised to the person and his ailment.
In the treatment that involves only a few procedures, the process starts with either a patient reaching out to Advancells directly or through a doctor.
“If he goes to the hospital, once the doctor determines that this patient can get benefited from regenerative medicine, they get in touch with us, give us information of patient and aspirate the source and give the material to us. We then process the material and send the cells back to them. Typically, that’s how the cycle runs. In the case of the patient, he goes to the hospital, gets admitted, gets one procedure done in morning and one in evening,” says Vipul.
He adds that there is a lot of information that runs back and forth because the treatment is individualistic in nature and there are several patient-related decisions that have to be taken in the process.
Advancells generates revenues from the cells is produces and sells. Costing is on the quantity of cells that a patient will need, which is different for each patient.
It is currently working with 55 doctors across over 20 hospitals in country. It has also recently started working with hospitals in 8 different countries that use Advancells’ our stem lines. It has one central lab where all the manufacturing takes place and is shipped.
While the process sounds straightforward, Vipul says that there is a lot of work constantly happening around research and development in terms of producing better quality of cells, better yield of cells and different sources to produce cells from. Most of the R&D is done in house.
“We also participate in different clinical trials from across the globe where the cells are tested and their efficacy and safety terms are published and ultimately they are used for treatment of patients,” he adds.
There is also a lot of innovation centered on new ways of making cells and new sources. Having started with one source, Advancells today has at least 10 sources. It’s all about how you can make you process more efficient, and change it to get better quality and quantity, Vipul says.
Advancells is working on finding therapy and cure for various diseases right from Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, to arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, liver failure, lung diseases and cosmetic procedures.
Despite the scope of stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine, being a new concept, there are several challenges involved in running a business in this line. The biggest challenge here is acceptability from the medical field itself. “For anything new in medicine, they need 10-15 years of follow up data, which isn’t there for stem cells. It isn’t easy to go up to a doctor and ask them to team up with us,” Vipul says.
The next big challenge is government regulation. Since Stem cell is not yet a gold standard therapy, Advancells has to continuously work with the government to get approvals and put in a regulatory framework.
“Funding is the third challenge. It is not easy to raise private equity as we don’t know when the returns are going to come. We are very dependent on government grants and funds, which are not enough,” he says.
It will take a few years before regenerative medicine becomes gold standard. “But the way we are shaping up, the day it becomes gold standard, we should be at the forefront of regenerative medicine. Anyone who wants to be able to do anything with it should come to us,” Vipul adds.
But the scope is large, given the total healthcare spend on an annual basis is nearly a trillion dollars.
If a disease can be fought using the body’s own capability in completely natural way, we can find solutions for many diseases that contemporary medicines doesn’t have a solution for currently – and that too in a completely natural way.