UW Bioengineering Ph.D. program alumnus Alex Jiao’s startup Silene Biotech wants to help you to grow a new heart or liver – in case those organs fail later in life. Jiao, who completed his Ph.D. in Assistant Professor Deok-Ho Kim’s lab, co-founded the company with a novel idea: offer consumers a way to store their cells, and retrieve them to use later for regenerative medicine applications and personalized medicine.
Silene Biotech, which was initially named miPS Labs, focuses on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technology. These cells are engineered in the lab from an adult’s white blood cells. Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can become any type of cell in the body, from tissue to whole organs.
However, as people age, their cells become vulnerable to damage, which affects their ability to convert into iPS cells. The startup aims to help people collect and store their cells earlier in life, and use them decades in the future as new treatments become available.
The startup has partnered with Bloodworks Northwest to collect samples of customer’s blood. The blood will be processed by Bloodworks and stored at a facility in Indianapolis – far from Seattle’s threat of earthquakes.
The miPS team won the second place prize in the 2016 UW Health Innovation Challenge and the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition “Best Idea for the Future” prize. The startup is a member of the 2017 TechStars Seattle class.