Interview with Synova Life Sciences | Stem Cell Harvesting Device Project

Kindly tell us a bit about Synova Life Sciences?


Synova Life Sciences Team

Synova Life Sciences is a biotech company currently focused on enabling technologies for stem cells.  The big vision at Synova is to be able to restore a person to a young and healthy state from chronic and degenerative conditions that arise out of aging and injuries.  New discoveries are being made every day about the mechanisms through which stem cells are able to repair, replace, rejuvenate and regenerate.  We’re starting with making it possible for everyone to get access to their own stem cells quickly and safely, a major step towards removing the bottlenecks around scaling personalized regenerative medicine.

Tell me something about your project? (Just one project)

We’re currently developing a stem cell harvesting device that can quickly and safely extract a patient’s own stem cells from his or her own adipose tissue (fat).  Our system is completely closed and sterile, and would enable patients to be treated with their own stem cells, without surgery, by their own doctors, through a minimally invasive, same-day, office procedure.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of our device is that it doesn’t use any enzymes or chemicals to retrieve stem cells from a patient’s fat, which is the current gold standard.  Even more, our initial data suggests that we’re able to get more cells, 2 to 3 times faster than getting them with enzymes.  Initially, we’re looking at applications of these cells in osteoarthritis and cartilage regeneration, as well as for complementing surgical repairs for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.

Who is/are part of this project (people, company etc.)?

John Chi

BS Electrical Engineering, Stanford; MBt Biotechnology, Cal State Fullerton; he has served and led in corporate and academic environments. Prior to founding Synova, John led the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Cal State Fullerton as its expert IT analyst from 2004-2010. Before joining the University, John was CTO and co-founder of post-production company Digital Quest, Inc. until its acquisition in 2004.  John has directed stem cell differentiation to create both fat (adipocytes) and bone (osteocytes), and has also worked with recombinant DNA techniques in bacteria to splice and study genes for antibiotic resistance and drug discovery.

Ray Raven

BS Molecular Biology / Biochemistry, UC Irvine; MD, UCSF, MBA UC Irvine; Dr. Raven is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon with subspecialty fellowship training in Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery. He has Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in both Surgery of the Hand and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine - one of only a few surgeons in California with this distinction. He is an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.  He has 5 patents and has developed several medical devices used to treat hand and upper extremity fractures. As the Medical Director of Buena Vista Surgery Center, Dr. Raven oversees the quality and value of healthcare delivery for a large patient population within the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.

Mark Richman

BA English Literature, Stanford; MD UCSF; MPH Johns Hopkins; Dr. Richman is an Emergency Medicine Physician and Associate Director of Performance Improvement at the Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also the Medical Director of Northwell Health’s Health Solutions’ Disease Management Programs. Trained also in Internal Medicine, he was previously a Physician Innovator, Director of Primary Care, Patient Safety Officer, Performance Improvement Officer, Clinical Information Technology Officer, and Medical Director of Employee Health at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, while an Associate Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Before working for Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, he worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ Clinical Resource Management Program

What are the challenges you encountered to make this project successful? 

One of the biggest challenges we faced early on was to determine what the regulatory path for our project would be.  When we first started looking at the idea in 2012, the area of clinical autologous stem cell use was very poorly defined and was really a moving target.  So those conditions made it very challenging to nail down how we could bring a stem cell product to market quickly on a relatively small amount of funds and without having to go through the lengthy clinical trial process.  Part of the challenge was also about figuring out just exactly what that stem cell product would be.  We‘ve gone through many iterations of stem cell products and associated business models before arriving at where we’re at right now – the device.  Even now, it has still been evolving as we continue to dig deeper and refine.

How did you get the funding of this project?

We’re completely self-funded and haven’t taken any outside money yet.

What motivates you to create this project?

So much is about friends and family.  My dad is developing osteoarthritis in his hip and back and I don’t want him to have to suffer through chronic pain and have to constantly take painkillers like so many others that I’ve seen with more advanced cases.  I also have a lot of friends who have injured their joints in some way: torn ACLs, bad rotator cuffs, bad knees and other joints.  They would be able to benefit directly from what we’re doing.  We’re also looking ahead to the myriad of other applications that are being developed using stem cell interventions – nerves, brain, heart, lungs, tissue engineering – you name it.  We want to be able to extend human life along with the quality of life.  When I’m 1,000 years old, I want to be healthy and active, and I want to have some 1,000-year-old friends along for the ride who are also healthy and active – and for my parents too! 

What equipments did you use/are using? (If applicable)

3-gas incubator, biosafety hood, centrifuge, autoclave, 2˚C and -20˚C cold storage – to name a few.  We’re currently on the hunt for a flow cytometer because that’s a piece that we’ll be needing in some upcoming studies.

When did you started this project and when do you think it will be finished/when did you finished it?

We really got going on this particular project in 2014, and we made some major discoveries in 2015.  I don’t know that there’s really a state of “finished” – more like having hit major milestones, like having our device scaled-up and being manufactured and sold.  This would mean we’ve gone through lots and lots of testing, regulatory approvals, design and engineering, and market launch.  From our conversations with regulatory folks and contract manufacturers, that’s likely one-and-a-half to two years from now.

In what aspect do you think your project can help the people or the world?

In addition to extending life and improving the quality of life, there are so many people in the world suffering from inflammatory conditions, degenerative disease, damaged tissue and organs who would ultimately be able to benefit from easy access to their own stem cells.  Getting the stem cells is just the starting point.  What happens next once you have the stem cells is wide open.  They can be seeded into scaffolds for tissue engineering, or directed down different lines of differentiation to become other cells and tissue.  It could be certain growth factors that are extracted from the cells to promote healing in certain areas.  The cells could be modified or genetically engineered to perform specific functions.  Even though adipose tissue is an abundant source of stem cells, the separation process for getting stem cells from adipose tissue is right now quite tedious in the lab.  By making it quick, safe and easy, we could encourage more research using adipose-derived stem cells, which could lead to more therapies, applications and cures from this abundant source of stem cells.

What are your plans after this project?

After completing the device, we have plans to pursue some clinical applications of the stem cells we get from the device.  We have a few candidates identified, investigating areas ranging from tissue engineering to heart attack to fertility.  

Do you think your project would be successful and useful?

Absolutely.  There are pieces of it now that we are very close to completing and offering to people in the next couple of months.  In terms of being successful and useful, we’ll be able to start helping people very soon through our current endeavors – and monetize as well.  “Done” or not, that’s our project already being successful and useful.  Looking further down the road to a time when this particular project would be considered done, yes, it will be successful and useful.