Stemina Featured as an Innovative Madison-Area Business

In collaboration with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin State Journal produced, “From the The Next Big Thing: Highlighting innovation in the Madison area marketplace series [paid access required].” The article below about Stemina Biomarker Discovery was written by Elizabeth Donley.

Human cells, metabolomics fuel this mission

Stemina Biomarker Discovery is focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of biomarkers to improve drug safety and human health.

Our products arise from the strategic convergence of two cutting-edge technologies: human embryonic stem (hES) cells and metabolomics. Stemina opened its state-of-the-art facilities for cell culture and mass spectrometry in Madison in late 2007.

I grew up in Madison and find it to be a supportive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. I founded Stemina in 2007 with a professor from the University of Wisconsin. I have benefited from the strong angel network and the tax credits available to them for investment in our company.

Our university provides a strong and well-educated work force. However, we have work to do to fulfill the promise of our region and our state in building a technology-based economy. We need to continue to work on weaker elements, such as a lack of venture capital and difficulties in collaborating with the university.

Meanwhile, here is a brief look at the work we’re doing today. In its toxicology division, Stemina uses a human system to test chemicals for their potential to be harmful to a fetus if a pregnant woman is exposed. Not only does this method reduce animal testing, it is more predictive than rodent or rabbit models. Stemina offers the only test available to screen drugs and chemicals for their potential to cause birth defects in a human model.

Another test, currently in development, determines the safety of a chemical for the heart (known as cardiotoxicity). Customers and collaborators for Stemina’s toxicology products include government agencies, including the U.S. Army and the EPA, as well as members of the pharmaceutical, agri-chemical, cosmetics, and tobacco industries. Stemina’s work provides crucial information that helps companies develop safer drugs and chemicals.

NeuroPointDX, Stemina’s neurodevelopmental disorders division, has an autism research study currently underway. Eight sites across the country have enrolled more than 1,000 kids, 18-48 months old, in Children’s Autism Metabolome Project (CAMP). NeuroPointDX will commercialize a blood test that can identify metabolic differences that indicate a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or neuro-developmental disorder and point toward more precise and individualized treatment.

Understanding whether a child is deficient in certain small molecules or has too much of another set of molecules can help inform more precise treatment and some of those may be as simple as modifying diet.

Our work extends beyond autism to include other neuro-developmental disorders. For example, we have partnered with Ovid Therapeutics to identify biomarkers of response in its clinical trial of a drug candidate to treat a rare genetic disorder called Angelman syndrome. This approach will lead to more precise treatment of neurological disorders through greater understanding of who is a responder to a therapy (and who is not), and what treatment may be more effective based on the individual’s metabolism.

NeuroPointDX’s work aims to provide useful, actionable information to families to help them manage the symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders, which would ultimately lead to better lives for kids and their families.