Incepted in 2004, LifeCell International is India’s largest stem cell solutions provider involved in research, therapy, banking and clinical applications. LifeCell International started operating in India when very little was known about the importance of stem cell banking. Therefore, since day one its main aim has been to educate people about it. Today, it has more than 12,000 clients who have stored their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells with them. Currently, LifeCell offers two primary services, one being umbilical cord blood stem cell banking and the other being stem cell therapy solutions for needy clients.
In an interview with eHEALTH, LifeCell’s Executive Director Mayur Abhaya tells about the latest developments at LifeCell.
Q. What is the present and future potential of stem cell technology for clinical and non-clinical applications?
A. Stem cell therapy is already being used by hemato-oncologists for treatment of blood-related disorders. With new frontiers emerging in stem cell therapy with the advent of mesenchymal stem cells, their potential use is being investigated in tissue regeneration too for ailments such as diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, heart stroke, cardiac arrythymia, COPD, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, critical limb ischemia, etc. Apart from the clinical applications, the stem cells are being used to better understand mechanisms of action of various diseases, and also to explore liver and cardiac toxicity of new investigational drugs.
Q. How LifeCell is positioned to offer clinical, R&D and consumer services in this domain?
A. LifeCell has an operational stem cell therapy center at Sri Ramachandra Medical College, and is working with global leaders in this space to bring the best offerings to India. A case in point is our clinical trial with Harvest Therapeutics on Critical Limb Ischemia. A few more clinical trials are being planned in other disease settings. Also, LifeCell in collaboration with Cryo-Cell plans to launch the menstrual blood stem cell banking service very shortly in India.
The Harvest stem cell therapy procedure uses a point-of-care device to isolate autologous stem cells from the bone marrow within the operating room, so the same could be used by physicians in hospital settings. LifeCell has exclusively partnered with Harvest to promote this in India.
Further, LifeCell has also assembled a reputable R&D team with decades of experience in the field of cutting edge stem cell research. The development of a process to isolate, process and cryo-preserve mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord tissue was a complete in-house work. Also, we are trying to improve the expansion efficiency of these stem cells and to evaluate their efficacy in clinical setting. With these credentials, LifeCell is a preferred partner for leading players, and also the preferred service provider for clients wanting to preserve their vital stem cells or seek therapy.
Q. LifeCell is known to be the first and largest stem cell banking service provider in India. What is the current market size for stem cell banking in India? What is your present customer base in the country?
A. The estimated market size for stem cell banking in India would be approx Rs 100 crores. Our current customer base is 20,000.
Q. What is your current R&D capacity, infrastructure facility and team strength in India?
A. Our R&D team has three doctorates, five research assistants, and three junior scholars and other support staff. The facility is about 2500 sq ft with clean rooms to process stem cells, and lab area for downstream analysis and storage.
Q. LifeCell announced the introduction of Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate (BMAC) technology in India in association with Harvest Technologies of USA. What are the benefits of this new technology?
A. The most remarkable feature is the ability to isolate autologous stem cells by 15 minutes of aspiration. This way time is considerably saved, as one doesn’t need to take it to a lab and wait for 4-6 hours while it gets processed. This saves the patient from an additional procedure, and from a clinical perspective there is a much higher yield of stem cells from a smaller volume of the bone marrow. It has made it simple and easy for physicians to include stem cell therapy in their practice without large investments and skilled manpower.
Q. How do you plan to increase R&D and service capacity in future? And, what is the percentage of revenue and market share that you foresee in the short and long terms?
A. Future plans for R&D would be investments in clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells from cord tissue and menstrual blood.
Also, we would be expanding our footprint in 25 additional cities in India. We expect revenue to grow 50 per cent year on year, and see ourselves maintaining market leadership.