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Investment Fund Launches to Support Stem Cell Ventures

Induced pluripotent stem cells cluster

Induced pluripotent stem cells cluster (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

29 September 2014. ReproCell Inc., a developer of stem cell lines for research and therapies in Yokohama, Japan, is starting an investment fund that aims to back new biotechnology companies bringing stem cell research to market. The fund, called Cell Innovation Partners, begins with ¥800 million ($US 7.3 million) in capital, provided by Shinsei Corporate Investment Limited, a division of Shinsei Bank in Tokyo.

Cell Innovation Partners plans to support enterprises developing commercial products and services based on research in induced pluripotent stem cells and regenerative medicine. Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult stem cells, genetically reprogrammed to a similar state as embryonic stem cells, expressing genes and factors that enable them to grow and transform into various cells in the body. While basic research on regenerative medicine from induced pluripotent stem cells continues, they have already shown value as tools for drug discovery, development, and testing.

In a discussion on the fund’s Web site, ReproCell’s CEO Chikafumi Yokoyama says the market for regenerative medicine is expected to grow substantially and new companies in the field are being formed, but “in reality, sufficient risk money is not available to stem cell and regenerative medicine venture companies both domestically and overseas.” Cell Innovation Partners, says Yokoyama, aims to provide financing for companies in the U.S. and Europe, as well as Japan, commercializing these technologies.

In the partnership, ReproCell says it brings expertise in stem call science and biotechnology industry, while Shinsei Corporate Investment provides its finance and fund management experience. Cell Innovation Partners expects to evaluate funding candidates by not only their scientific bases and intellectual property, but also their business models and plans. Shinsei Corporate Investment’s CEO Ippei Matsubara says the candidate’s growth potential over the next 5 to 7 years, competitive advantages, and leadership will also be assessed.

ReproCell was founded in 2003 to commercialize research in stem cells by Norio Nakatsuji at Kyoto University and Hiromitsu Nakauchi at University of Tokyo. The company provides reagents for research on stem cells, as well as stem-cell derived precursors for heart, liver, and brain cells. ReproCell also provides animal cell models for diabetes research.

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