New uni spin-out to focus on Alzheimer’s

A NEW stem cell company called StrataStem, which is able to study ‘Alzheimer’s disease in a dish’, has launched in Manchester.

Spun out of The University of Manchester by its technology transfer division UMIP, StrataStem was founded by stem cell research fellow Dr Lisa Mohamet and Dr Chris Ward, a reader in stem cell biology.

StrataStem’s patented technology accelerates the process of making neural cells from patients’ stem cells, while eliminating the need for the use of animal models for testing.   

This method is based on human cells, making it a better way to assess new drugs for the treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Mohamet said: “We are a stem cell based technology company that uses induced stem cells as a model to help us understand more about Alzheimer’s disease. We have chosen to focus our efforts on Alzheimer’s disease because there’s a huge unmet clinical need.

“There have been no new drugs in the past 10 years to effectively treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, let alone a cure. We hope to repurpose drugs that already work for other conditions that could provide us with a shortcut to new treatments.”

The founders are now looking for funding to take the company’s products to market and target researchers, pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies.

Dr Mohamet said: “The company is now entering an exciting growth phase and is seeking strategic investment to expedite its commercial activities.”

It has so far received funding from The University of Manchester, The UMIP Premier Fund (with support from UMIP and MTI Partners) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

StrataStem’s technology increases the chances of both understanding more about the disease and creating a drug both faster and cheaper, so that benefit can be passed to Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Dr Mohamet said: “This exciting technology allows us to transform any cell – such as hair or skin – from a patient with a disease into a neuron, creating a replica model of the patients’ cells in a dish, previously, this was only possible post-mortem.

“StrataStem’s patented technology has made the whole process quicker and more robust.”

She added that having this ‘better model to test drugs’ means failure is less likely.

“It’s an exciting time as we are bringing together stem cell technology and drug discovery, which can revolutionise medicine and how we treat patients. To be part of that is amazing in itself and if we get the right partner on board this will make a genuine difference to people’s lives.”