WideCells Group PLC, which makes stem cell treatment accessible and affordable for families, is on the brink of launching its products into the market after raising £2 million by floating on the London Stock Exchange.
Based at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre (UMIC), WideCells Group has created the first global stem cell insurance policy which is anticipated to finally make stem cell storage services mainstream, and treatment, which is currently very expensive, affordable.
Stem cell storage enables parents to bank their babies’ umbilical cord blood so that in the future, should a member of their family become ill with a stem cell disease such as leukaemia, they can be treated using a stem cell transplant.
WideCells Chief Executive Joao Andrade, who co-founded the WideCells Group with Chief Operating Officer Lopes Gil, said: “We are a mission driven company and want to make stem cell treatment accessible and affordable.
“The problem in the stem cell industry today is that around three million people all over the world have paid around £2,000 to store their babies’ stem cells in private stem cell banks to protect family members against future illness and life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia.
“What most people are unaware of though, is that stem cell transplants can cost up to £300,000.
“Private health insurance today in national health care services worldwide is mainly focused on bone marrow transplant because it generally costs less than cord blood, and there’s no private health insurance that provides cover for umbilical cord blood stem cells on a global scale.”
Joao, 35, added: “Some families are facing the challenge of paying £2,000 to store their babies stem cells, plus a potential £300,000 bill.
“Now though, after four years spent building the first global stem cell insurance policy, CellPlan, it will cost families £2,000 to collect, process and store cord blood, plus an insurance policy that costs £150 per annum on average.
“For that £150 per year, families get a second medical opinion from the best stem cell specialists in the world, access to the best treatment centres and a policy which covers all the costs associated with treatment up to 1m Euros a year, including travel to the best stem cell transplant centre for that particular patient, the transplant procedure, accommodation and associated bills.
“We believe this will enable cord blood stem cell transplantation services to go mainstream, which is why we are currently building and will be opening a laboratory facility at our Manchester headquarters in the first quarter of 2017.”
Doctor Peter Hollands, Chief Scientific Officer of WideCells Group, will head up the laboratory at UMIC.
He said the IPO has allowed WideCells Group to further develop its ground-breaking insurance product as well as enter into a partnership with the University of Westminster.
“We are developing short stem cell e-learning courses, with the University of Westminster, for healthcare professionals,” said Dr Hollands.
“But we are entering this exciting commercialisation stage after four years of very hard work.
“The development of the insurance product has been an incredible amount of work.
“People have been talking about this concept for years but no one has actually achieved it. But we’ve done it and have become a public company too.”
He added: “I’ve been in stem cell technology for 30 years now in teaching, research and clinical practice.
“What I’ve seen over that time is the underuse of stem cell technology across the board.
“What we are doing here is my ultimate dream if I’m being honest.
“In Manchester, at the University of Manchester’s Innovation Centre (UMIC), we are creating a state-of-the-art clean room for stem cell processing and for stem cell research. We have a research project ready to start as soon as everything has been licensed by the Human Tissue Authority.”
WideCells is targeting around 100,000 clients to take out the CellPlan insurance policy within three years. The Group is also aiming for 5,000 clients to use the stem cell storage division over the next three years.
WideCells Group employs 30 people across its three divisions in Manchester, Madrid and Brazil.
Joao said the Group will initially sell storage services directly to parents looking to store their babies’ stem cells, in the UK, Portugal and Spain.
“It’s impossible to build a business such as WideCells – which has three divisions and seven products and has just been listed on the London Stock Exchange – without passion as problems come up every day which you have to tackle straight away,” he said.
“UMIC have been fantastic and very supportive in every aspect possible and it’s a pleasure for us to be based at UMIC and in Manchester.
“We have the benefit of being associated with the University of Manchester which is very well thought of around Europe and the world.”
- Age 35
- Born in Brazil, lives in Porto
- Has worked for UK-based stem cell banks for the past nine years and is mainly involved in international business development
- Co-founded WideCells in 2012 as Chief Executive of the Group
Doctor Peter Hollands
- Chief Scientific Officer, WideCells Group
- Peter carried out his PhD in stem cell technology in the early 1980s when modern stem cell technology was virtually non-existent
Peter trained at Cambridge University with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, who received the Noble Prize for the development IVF for infertile patients