Wayne State University will showcase its novel Great Lakes Stem Cell Commercialization Center before an audience of more than 1,200 of the world's most influential stem cell stakeholders in science, business, policy, law, ethics and advocacy at the 2010 World Stem Cell Summit, being held in Detroit Oct. 4-6.
As part of Michigan's University Research Corridor, Wayne State University joins the University of Michigan and Michigan State University as official co-sponsors of the summit. The three powerhouse research universities voluntarily joined forces in 2006 to transform Michigan's lagging economy through strategic investment in innovation.
Headquartered at Wayne State's TechTown business incubator in Detroit, the Great Lakes Stem Cell Commercialization Center is a business accelerator in its own right. It exists to facilitate stem cell research for companies worldwide by providing physical lab space and an infrastructure designed to expedite stem cell research and clinical trials. TechTown is located within a 40-minute drive of five major hospital centers as well as Wayne State University's School of Medicine.
Randal Charlton, executive director of TechTown, said the lab is in early-stage discussions with stem cell research teams in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Israel and Hungary.
"Detroit has always been known as Motown, but this 2010 World Stem Cell Summit, attended by nearly a thousand researchers and policy experts from all over the world, is an opportunity to tell a very different story," Charlton said. "Within a few miles of the summit are more than 20 high-powered medical research institutions, generating billions of dollars in economic impact for the state and pioneering the research that will lead to life-saving cures."
Charlton said the lab is particularly valuable to small startup companies, which rarely have the capital to afford the space and high-tech equipment the Stem Cell Commercialization Center provides. He added that companies also will have access to TechTown's business growth development programs and services to aid in commercializing their research findings.
Key to the center's potential for success is its first tenant, MitoStem, a startup company that recently won a $200,000 National Institutes of Health grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant was awarded to develop processes for reprogramming mature adult cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells -- stem cells that offer the same self-renewal and differentiation properties as embryonic stem cells and are effective in researching a variety of diseases.
"MitoStem is a model for how companies can both use and feed the center's commercialization resources," said MitoStem founder and President and CEO James Eliason, Ph.D. "We are conducting research in the center's labs while creating commercial products and services that other stem cell companies (and tenants of the center) can utilize to advance their own research. The synergies created in this collaborative environment may eventually enable patients to replace diseased and damaged tissue using their own cells."
Until recently, induction of pluripotent adult stem cells was an inefficient process. However, MitoStem's novel technology, developed in the WSU School of Medicine, makes generation of iPSCs from mature adult stem cells more practical, simple and affordable.
Carol Brenner, Ph.D., associate professor of Physiology at WSU's School of Medicine, transitioned to stem cell research from a long career in reproductive medicine. As chief scientific officer of MitoStem, Dr. Brenner hopes to partner with local hospital centers on proposals that show promise for breakthrough discoveries through stem cell research. These include investigating the correlation between Down syndrome and leukemia, and the potential for amniotic fluid cells -- which have natural regenerative properties -- to be used to derive reprogrammed stem cells.
"The World Stem Cell Summit is the perfect place and time to make it known that we have something extremely progressive," Dr. Brenner said. "These are technologies that you would normally see in Silicon Valley, but through TechTown and the Great Lakes Stem Cell Commercialization Center, we have been able to create a fertile environment for stem cell research and job creation for a diverse population right here in Detroit."