Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating neurological condition with limited therapeutic options. In the United States alone, there are more than 250,000 people living with SCI; approximately three million worldwide are affected.
Because SCI is so debilitating, patients require extensive care and lifetime support. Estimates in the US alone indicate that more than $7.7 billion is spent annually to treat and care for affected individuals.
James M. Golubieski, president of Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC, (FVCG) is hoping to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic spinal cord injuries around the world with its latest investment in Celvive, a start-up company working to develop technology that would treat patients with chronic spinal cord injuries with their own adult stem cells. FVCG has made an initial investment of $175,000 in Celvive, which can go up to $500,000 pending completion of certain milestones.
"Although patients with SCI have sympathy and support from the medical community, very little real progress has been made to improve the long-term prognosis for these patients," explained Dr. Hatem Sabaawy, founder of Celvive and an assistant professor of medicine in the division of medical oncology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
Dr. Sabaawy wants to change that with his new method for treating patients with chronic SCI using adult stem cells that possess the ability to enhance regeneration of spinal nerves. Through Celvive, he has developed technology to deliver bone marrow cells from the hips of SCI patients by passing them through a sealed multiple-bag device and delivering the cells directly to the patient's injury site.
"There are approximately 12,000 new patients with spinal cord injuries each year in the US, with more than 75% of them male," explained Dr. George F. Heinrich, vice chair and CEO of Foundation Venture Capital Group. "If Dr. Sabaawy's methods progress successfully in preclinical and clinical studies, he would help ease the suffering of millions of patients and families worldwide as they struggle with this devastating injury."
Dr. Sabaawy hopes to quickly advance to a point where he can embark on FDA clinical trials.
Foundation Venture Capital Group, an affiliate of New Jersey Health Foundation, was founded in 2006 to invest in commercially viable new start-up companies developing technology by faculty at UMDNJ. Since that time it has invested in five companies including:
- Actinobac Biomed Inc., developing a therapeutic agent targeting blood cells for the treatment of hematological malignancies;
- CellXplore, Inc., engaged in the development of biomarker-based in vitro diagnostic assays for cancer;
- Longevica Pharmaceuticals, Inc., developing a chemoprotective agent that may keep normal cells healthy during cancer treatments (FVCG's equity interest in Longevica was recently sold to Rostock International, LTD, a subsidiary of a Moscow (Russia) based global investment firm);
- Snowdon Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery company focused on several major therapeutic areas, and;
- Durin Technologies, developing a test that requires only a drop of blood to identify risk and diagnose Alzheimer's disease.
Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC