“This Noida-based startup is promoting stem cell technology to cure a host of diseases.”
From fabric imports to animation to medical tourism, Vipul Jain has founded businesses that cover a wide spectrum of industries. And the latest venture from this 41-year-old serial entrepreneur has added to his eclectic bouquet of enterprises. In November 2013, Jain, an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, founded Advancells, a startup that manufactures stem cells. The cells are used by the startup’s partner hospitals and doctors to treat patients.
Jain, who had been part of the healthcare marketing industry for more than a decade, decided to enter the field of stem cell research because of the field’s untapped and unmatched potential. “Around 2009-10, people started approaching me with queries around stem cell therapies, but there weren’t centres offering these therapies in India. Meanwhile, I was convinced that it was the future of medicine and so I decided to enter this field,” says Jain.
Advancells cell lines are being used to treat a variety of diseases including neurological conditions, orthopaedic issues, kidney, liver and lung diseases, cardiology and cosmetic procedures. The startup also writes protocols (guidelines) for therapies and provides training to doctors on regenerative medicine. “The body has enough resources to regenerate itself from any trauma or disease that it might be fighting and stem cell therapy is at the core of regenerative medicine. It has the potential to replace many large surgeries being done today,” says Jain.
Founded with an investment of ₹4.5 crore, put in by Jain, Noida-based Advancells is a business-to-business company with hospitals and doctors as its clients. Besides providing cells to hospitals in India, the startup also ships them overseas. It has been growing speedily and from just about ₹12 lakh in revenue in its first year, Advancells closed 2016-17 with a top line of ₹1.8 crore. In the current financial year, it has already generated ₹4.5 crore, reveals Jain. “We expect to grow by at least 50% year on year, for the next three years,” he says.
Despite growing at an impressive rate, the startup has struggled to create greater awareness in the medical industry about the importance of stem cell-based therapies. The growth would be much higher, says the founder, but for the reluctance among the medical fraternity to try this newer branch of medicine. However, he accepts that doctors need to be cautious. “It is very difficult to convince doctors of a new way to treat patients and, understandably, they want long term follow-up data. This data will take time to come—this reins in our growth,” says Jain. The other big challenge for Advancells, which bagged a series of awards in 2017 including the Best Stem Cell Technology R&D company at the Global CEO Excellence Awards, Company of The Year by ACQ5 Global Award, Best Quality Initiative in Healthcare and Best Product Innovation at CMO Asia Healthcare Excellence Award, has been funding. “Lack of investment is actually our biggest challenge. Most investments in healthcare sector still come from trusts and charities, who enter the segment with a no-profit no-loss mind-set, which restrains their capacity to invest in research and new technologies,” says Jain.
Even as the startup battles its challenges, it has set up an ambitious growth plan and is actively partnering with doctors and medical institutes to expand its reach and is investing in R&D to keep pace with global developments in the stem cell space. The goal, says Jain, is to turn Advancells into the most sought after name in regenerative medicinenot just in India, but across the globe.