Over $8M in 2020 Stem Cell Funding Awards Continue to Fuel Maryland’s Leading Cell Therapy Industry

The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission (The Commission) recently announced over $7M in Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (MSRCF) grant awards for its second round of 2020 MSCRF fund recipients. The MSCRF, which is a program of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), has awarded $157M in funding to BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) companies seeking to accelerate stem cell research, therapies and commercialization of products since 2007.

The $7M in new funding follows MSCRF’s announcement in September 2019 of over $1.3M in grants for the first cohort of 2020 recipients, bringing the total 2020 MSCRF award tally to approximately $8.3M for the year. The financial awards are delivered across a wide range of areas, including clinical, commercialization, validation, launch, discovery, and post-doctoral fellowships. The first cohort of funding included three commercialization and two validation awards; the second, larger recipient pool included one clinical, one commercialization, one validation, four launches, 11 discovery, and five post-doctoral awards. 

Notable BHCR MSCRF recipients included:

750K MSCRF Clinical Grant

Dr. Luis Garza of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) received a clinical grant to support clinical trials for his autologous volar fibroblast injection into the stump site of amputees. The trials are exploring ways to make the skin where a prosthetic limb meets the stump site tougher and less irritable to the wearer. Skin irritation is a major issue for those with prosthetic limbs and is often a cause for individuals to stop wearing their prosthesis. 

TEDCO - Leading Innovation to Market

300K MSCRF Commercialization Grant

Vita Therapeutics, a company that spun out of JHU, was awarded a 300K MSCRF grant to support the commercialization of the company’s satellite stem cell therapy for limb-girdle Muscular Dystrophy. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), “Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD) are a group of rare progressive genetic disorders that are characterized by wasting (atrophy) and weakness of the voluntary muscles of the hip and shoulder areas (limb-girdle area).” Vita Therapeutics is led by CEO Douglass Falk, who is a JHU alum. 

MSCRF Commercialization Grants (specific allocation amount per award undisclosed)

Jamie Niland, VP of Baltimore, Maryland’s Neoprogen Inc. received part of $892,080K in funding that was part of MSCRF’s first 2020 grant round. Jamie is the son of Bill Niland, Neoprogen’s current CEO and the former leader of Baltimore, Maryland life science community anchor Harpoon Medical, which was acquired by Edwards Scientific in 2017. The award was for Neoprogen’s neonatal cardiac stem cells for the heart tissue regeneration program.

Dr. Brian Pollok of Rockville, Maryland’s Propagenix, Inc., was also the recipient of a commercialization award for his Apical Surface-Outward (ASO) airway organoids, which is a potential novel cell system for drug discovery and personalized medicine. Propagenix “…develops innovative new technologies that address unmet needs in epithelial cell biology—for applications in life science research as well as in precision diagnostics, and next-generation therapeutics such as immune-oncology, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine,” according to the company’s website.

In addition, Dr. Ines Silva, R&D Manager of REPROCELL, USA received an MSCRF commercialization grant for its work on building a commercial neural cell bank from patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells. REPROCELL was founded in Japan in 2003 and acquired BioServe in Beltsville, Maryland in 2014. 

MSCRF Launch Grants

Dr. Sashank Reddy, the founder of JHU startup LifeSprout and Medical Director, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures Johns Hopkins University, received a portion of the $1,334,462 distributed for launch grants in 2020. The grant will go to support the launch of regenerative cell therapies for soft tissue restoration. LifeSprout recently closed a $28.5M seed round

Past MSCRF grant recipients include Frederick, Maryland’s RoosterBio, Inc. and Theradaptive, Inc., and Baltimore, Maryland’s Gemstone Biotherapeutics and Domicell, Inc., among others. 

TEDCO’s MSRF program continues to lend its deep support and ample funding to build and grow Maryland’s burgeoning and exciting regenerative medicine industry. We’ll be keeping a close eye on these companies as they grow and make future contributions to the thriving BHCR biocluster. 

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