MADISON – Stemina Biomarker Discovery, a company with ties to the world-renowned human embryonic stem cell research program at UW-Madison, will begin operations early in 2007.
The company will be led by Chief Executive Officer Beth Donley, former executive director of the WiCell Research Institute and general counsel of the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation (WARF). UW-Madison stem cell researcher Gabriela Cezar is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer.
The company will work at the intersection of stem cell technology and metabolomics, using human embryonic stem cells as a source of “biomarkers” for preclinical safety testing of pharmaceutical compounds and disease diagnostics. In addition, cancer stem cells should provide translational biomarkers for early detection of cancer and personalized medicine.
Scientists are excited about the potential for using biomarkers from stem cells and derivatives as a means to predict safety liabilities of compounds during drug discovery and preclinical development. Stem cells are the body’s building blocks, with natural abilities to differentiate into many different cells types in the body, such as heart cells, fat cells and neurons, to name a few.
“Stemina is an early innovator of stem cell metabolomics – using biomarkers expressed in the metabolic pathways of human stem cells to predict and diagnose disease and screen and develop drugs,” Donley said.
“We’re using stem cells as the source of predictive biomarkers,” added Cezar, who has applied through WARF for three stem-cell patents.
Since returning to UW-Madison in August 2005, Cezar has run the Stem Cell Safety Sciences Lab in the Department of Animal Sciences of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Her lab focuses on birth defects and cancer. By using human embryonic stem cells as a way of understanding non-genetic birth defects, Cezar and her team of researchers hope to learn how these defects arise and what biological pathways are involved during their development.
Cezar earned her doctorate at UW-Madison in 2002. Dr. James Thomson, the first in the world to isolate human embryonic stem cells, was a member of her Ph.D committee. She conducted research as Scotland’s Roslin Institute with the team that cloned “Dolly” the sheep. Dr. Cezar later created in vitro models of obesity, Parkinson’s disease and cardiotoxicity for Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant.
Donley held a number of key posts at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, including general counsel for eight years. At the WiCell Research Institute, Donley coordinated work with the National Stem Cell Bank, which is hosted by WiCell, and other projects related to stem cell patent protection. She holds a law degree and a masters of science in bacteriology from the UW-Madison, and a masters in business administration in finance from the UW-Whitewater.
“Wisconsin is a world leader in stem-cell research, so it’s only natural that companies tied to those breakthroughs would be located here,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “We see Wisconsin as a logical launching pad for stem-cell companies – and a great place for stem-cell companies that may currently be located elsewhere to land.”
Contact: Beth Donley 608-577-9209 or Dr. Gabriela Cezar 608-263-4307