Liver disease kills millions of people every year. Although organ transplant is a viable option to treat disease, many patients are not candidates for this type of treatment or die on the transplant waiting list.
Stimuliver, a company admitted to BioInnovation Institute’s Venture Lab program, is developing a disruptive liver implant to treat critically failing liver function in humans. We had a chat with Co-founder Dagmara Szkolnicka to learn more about the company.
What is the idea behind the company?
Stimuliver is developing disruptive liver implant technology to treat critically failing liver function in humans. Many people suffer from chronic liver disease. By supporting the liver with our 3D implants, it will help patients sustain critical organ function levels. The implant will be placed underneath the skin to ‘top up’ the patient’s reduced liver function. The lab-engineered tissue will be produced from human stem cells, a scalable and renewable clinical resource.
What is the key driver for Stimuliver?
We believe that we will be able to help patients recover from their disease. Currently, organ transplant is the only viable treatment option, but many patients are not candidates for this type of treatment or die waiting for a transplant. We have seen promising results in pre-clinical studies made in mouse models and have already established a semi-automated platform to turn stem cells into 3D liver implants at scale.
What are you focusing on in the Venture Lab program, and what would be the optimal outcome after 12 months?
Scientifically, we want to create high-grade 3D liver organoids for pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies. Furthermore, this program will help us shape the business idea and equip us with valuable business skills, such as pitching, approaching investors, and developing our network. Focusing on Stimuliver as a company and promoting its commercial potential is entirely new to us, as the founder team comes from academia. We believe that the excellent facilities, mentoring program and business development experience within the BII provide the ideal environment to build and grow the company.
What does the market look like in this field?
Liver disease accounts for approximately two million deaths per year worldwide. If we focus only on the UK, over 40 people die from liver failure every day. Since the 1970s, there has been a significant increase in deaths due to liver disease. In contrast, the opposite has been observed for other conditions, such as heart and cardiovascular diseases.
The only effective method to treat a failing liver is the whole organ transplantation. Although successful, it is invasive, limited in scale, expensive and requires patients to take lifelong immunosuppression. Stem cell-derived liver offers an alternative to whole organ transplantation. Although many stem cell therapies are in their infancy, the global stem cell therapy market has significant growth potential.
How do you differ from your competitors?
Currently, we have no direct competitors generating subcutaneous liver tissue implants for liver disease. Although our technology is promising, we still need to further develop and optimize it for clinical studies. Therefore, to achieve that, we have built a strong founder team. The CEO of Stimuliver, David Hay, has more than 20 years of experience working with stem cell biology. I also have a strong track record in stem cell research, with more than ten years of research experience. What’s more, our company is advised by several leading experts within industry and academia.
Giles Dudley, Portfolio Manager at BioInnovation Institute, says the following about Stimuliver:
“Stimuliver is built on world-class research, and we are delighted to work with an international team who are now located here in Copenhagen. What is already clear is that the company isn’t just benefiting from BII support, but also key stakeholders in our local ecosystem who have significant expertise in the cell therapy space. This demonstrates that young companies can benefit in multiple ways when playing an active part in the BII community.”
Meet the start-ups: Pephexia Therapeutics
Meet the start-ups: HEI Therapeutics
BII launches Venture Lab program with intake of innovative early-stage companies