UW Bioengineering’s Alex Jiao, who is a Ph.D. candidate in Assistant Professor Deok-Ho Kim’s lab, co-founded startup miPS with a novel idea: allow consumers to freeze their cells now, and be able to regenerate their bodies later.
The miPS technology centers around induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells. iPS cells are reprogrammed adult cells that function like embryonic stem cells with the ability to become any type of cell in the body. “Any organ, any limb of an adult can be grown by these iPS cells,” explained Jiao in a recent feature on Seattle’s KOMO TV.
Researchers are developing therapies that harness the capabilities of iPS cells to repair tissues and organs damaged by illness, injury or aging. However, as people age, their cells are susceptible to naturally occurring DNA damage, which can affect their ability to convert into iPS cells or iPS cell function. miPS seeks to provide a way to freeze and store younger iPS cells, then provide the opportunity to collect the cells at a later date as therapies become available.
The miPS team aims to make their technology affordable – pricing details have not yet been finalized, but the team currently plans to charge $300 to process and freeze the cells, then a modest $20 or $25 yearly storage fee. They have launched a closed beta through which they will offer the service at a reduced rate. Anyone in the Seattle area interested in the service can apply online, and if selected, miPS will send a noninvasive collection kit to their home.
The startup won the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition “Best Idea for the Future” prize in May 2015, and recently received $50,000 in initial funding and lab space on UW’s campus.