Stem cell business models

by Alexey Bersenev on February 12, 2009 · 15 comments

in business, career

A while ago I wrote about how to start a career in the regenerative medicine field. Also I was trying to encourage you and get involved in the business.

If some of you finally decide to invest your time and money in the so called “stem cell business” or related – “regenerative medicine” and “cell therapy industry“, today I’m going to highlight some directions to go. What business models do we have today? How to choose the right one? What is your niche? I invite you to discuss!

1. Banking
A. ESC and iPS lines – normal and genetically abnormal (after PGD) for research (UK Stem Cell Bank);
B. Adult stem cells and tissues – mobilized peripheral blood (NeoStem), adipose-derived stem cells (Cytori Therapeutics), teeth stem cell (BioEden), stem cells from menstrual blood (Cryo-Cell);
C. Perinatal tissues – cord blood, placental stem cells, umbilical cord, circumcised tissues, cells from amniotic fluid.

2. Creation and selling of ESC (Stem Cell Sciences) and iPS (iZumi Bio) lines for toxicology testing, drug screening, research (could be combined with banking 1A).

3. Contract manufacturing (read about it here).

4. Therapies
A. full therapeutic service (Regenexx);
B. creation and selling cell product to the clinic (Osiris Therapeutics);
C. creation and selling tissue-engineered product (Tengion)
D. antibodies and molecules, regulates migration and proliferation of normal stem cells (Genzyme ) and target cancer stem cells (OncoMed);
E. “stem cell tourism” (only service).

5. Devices
for bone marrow collection and stem cell enrichment (Harvest Technologies), for adipose-derived collection and stem cell enrichment (Cytori Therapeutics), HSC and progenitors enrichment (CellTraffix).

6. Cells, kits and reagents for stem cell research (Stem Cell Technologies).

7. Consulting (Cell Therapy Group).

I hope this information can help you navigate in choosing your own niche in the stem cell business. So, don’t wait, become a stem cell entrepreneur and get your start-up!
Let me know if I missed any other models.


also read: In search of a viable business model (Nature Reports Stem Cells)

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee Buckler February 12, 2009 at 5:48 am

Great start Alex to what is a much needed and valuable discussion. A few other businesses in the value chain here that occur to me are:
– collection services – cell & tissue acquisition (e.g., Cascade Biologics)
– logistics – transportation (e.g., AirNet Systems)

On the ‘therapeutics’ side the business models will be much different for an ‘off-the-shelf’ allogeneic product shipped in a vial vs products with more complex administration vs fresh autologous products, etc. Also the regulatory hurdle for a GTP product (like Osteocel) will be much different than a GMP product requiring a BLA (like Prochymal).

If we’re just limiting this to business models for commercial therapies (and not on the research side) then I suppose there is also the clinical business. Once can certainly imagine (and there are already in Germany, for example) clinical centers that specialize in cell therapies.



Jim H February 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

I think you’ve hit them all, although I think using adult SC for adme-tox testing, developmental pathway modeling is closer than using ES or iPS cells (maybe my bias). Also, don’t overlook the value of the rapidly growing veterinary SC business model.

I’d also probably put Lonza or Invitrogen/LTC ahead of Stem Cell Technologies in #6.

And what about adding Stem Cell Tourism? It’s only a matter of time before someone has the idea to start a Cruise line to take people into international waters to pump them up with stem cells. You can already gamble, right?


Alex February 13, 2009 at 2:17 am

Thanks Lee and Jim for your comments,
I’d definitely add in the list:
– veterinary cell therapy (yes it’s a separate new and rapidly growing business)

not sure that we should separate just collection and transportation (delivery) right now, because AirNet is not focus on “cells and related biological substances” only and Cascade Biologics belongs to “cells, reagents and kits for research” category.


Lee Buckler February 13, 2009 at 4:15 am

Re: collections your #6 is “Cells, kits and reagents for stem cell research”. I’m thinking of the Cascade, Lonza, Lifeblood Biological, NDRI etc companies of the world that are in the business of providing clinical-grade cell & tissue acquisition services for use in clinical products.

Re: transportation there is a whole category of companies creating shipping containers, temp loggers, quality systems, shipping services all related to the unique logistical needs of cell therapy especially the high demands associated with fresh autologous products.


Anders February 13, 2009 at 4:43 am

Great initiative!
I am not an expert in stem cells but I assume technology and IP licensing is commonly used business models perhaps implicitly included in several of your examples? And what about providing access to databases or access to research tools, already included?

TheBusinessModelDatabase (


Alex February 13, 2009 at 5:01 am

Lee, i didn’t know that there is a shipping service which developing preciously to “cell products” and grafts, thanks

in #6 i have some kind of list of companies, I was trying count only which sell cells in US and Canada and got about 5-8, reagents and kits – could be around 15-20 companies.

to Anders –
do you mean access to stem cells -lines/patents/reagents/centers…. databases for money? Is it separate business model?
in order to do that we have to create database first of all,
I know some examples ( of databases, but it’s not bringing any money


Anders February 13, 2009 at 9:24 am

With technology and IP licensing I mean a business model based on giving others the right to do things (or more correctly not exclude them from doing things). If you take the list of the 50 most important stem cell patents published in Nature Biotechnology I guess that some of the companies on the list are making money from IP licensing.

A research tool licensing example is that researchers at the University of Edinburgh have developed a new method of producing a neural tumour stem cell line. Applications can be for identification of therapeutic agents, genetic markers predictive of brain tumour development or identification of appropriate therapeutic regime for patient care.

The university is offering commercial partners to license the patented new method to be used as a research tool. They combine the offer with access to cell lines.

TheBusinessModelDatabase (


Alex February 14, 2009 at 3:20 am

Andreas – thanks for explanation.
so adding in the list:
– veterinary cell therapy;
– transportation/shipping services;
– IP licensing


For stem cell research June 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Informative article… thanks !


Laurence Briggs October 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for writing and posting this insight.
We are currently looking at two stem cell investment opportunities.
Have you any thoughts on these:
a. Children’s teeth – particularly storing them for future stem cell use for the future adult ( the tooth donor)
b. Medical tourism based on US and UK markets of people who want stem cell treatment and can only find it in other countries such as Mexico and Eastern Europe countries etc.

I will be most appreciative of any input.


Alex October 14, 2009 at 3:42 am

Banking is good one. Profitable. Good model. Teeth market not saturated yet.
SC tourism I don’t advice at the moment. Snake oil. Risky. Too much negative from SC community. Because it’s very immature compare with other kinds of medical tourism.


Jim H October 14, 2009 at 9:35 am

Which reminds me, I gave a talk at the NIH on the “Commercial uses of Stem Cells” which is essentially the same thing. I’ll upload onto slide share today.


Jim H October 14, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Link to slideshare presentation. I was waiting to lay the audio track over it, but will try to do that later.


Alex October 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Thanks Jim,
nice presentation! I’d like to share it in separate post


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