A diverse mix of approximately thirty EiRs representing leaders in business, biotech, healthcare, and technology attended a presentation by SMSbiotech, a startup led by Dr. Abdulkader Rahmo, Ph.D. Dr. Rahmo holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, a Ph.D. from USC, and performed postdoctoral research at a major clinical laboratory in Munich, Germany. In 1995, Dr. Rahmo established and supervised a large private clinical laboratory specialized in molecular and genetic diagnostics in Damascus. In 2001, he became a faculty member in Medicine at the University of Damascus and established their laboratory for genetic research. In 2004, Dr. Rahmo co-founded the National Commission for Biotechnology, where he served as head of the Medical Biotechnology section. In 2013, he moved to the United States and served as a visiting scientist at Western University of Health Sciences. Additionally, Dr. Rahmo has taught molecular biology and medical genetics at the International University for Science and Technology (IUST), and molecular epidemiology at the Ecole Doctorale of Lebanese University. As part of the Connector series, UCI Applied Innovation serves as a bridge to connect startups, such as SMSbiotech, and EiRs to build meaningful relationships in the Orange County entrepreneurial ecosystem. The event was a momentous occasion, as it was SMSbiotech's first presentation to the public. Some attendees came from as far as San Diego to hear Dr. Rahmo discuss his promising technology platform and startup.
Dr. Rahmo shared the following goals for the presentation: "We have two major goals since we are a new startup approaching its first year. The first goal relates to expansion, as we need to grow our team and are eager to bring on people with relationships in the business world and who are also familiar with government regulation. This will help us move into the next stage of our development. The second goal relates to raising money. We have passed the seed stage and are now looking for angel and VC investors." He went on to express his enthusiasm for Orange County's expanding biotech presence and the opportunity at this event to develop SMSbiotech's relationship with the local community.
The presentation began with Dr. Rahmo sharing SMSbiotech's mission which is to revolutionize how the life science industry explores, examines, assesses and manipulates cells, drugs, and toxicity by providing a novel, patented approach to manufacturing extracellular matrices (ECM). Their approach to this revolution centers on the unique properties of small mobile stem cells. (SMS cells).
The goal of their technology is to both disrupt and penetrate the following fields: cell and tissue-based testing, regenerative medicine, and biomanufacturing. As a key component of research for both the medical and life sciences industry, cell matrices serve as a supportive gateway between cells. Native ECMs encapsulate cells, providing the flexible but strong structural support of tissues while facilitating the transport of nutrients and chemical information or cues between cells. Many acute and chronic illnesses have been shown to relate to deficient ECM. In regenerative medicine, acellular matrices or scaffolds are proven effective in chronic wound care, acute wound care, soft tissue and abdominal wall repair, internal implants, and reconstructive surgery. For example, 12% of diabetics who suffer from ulcers cannot heal, with ulcers remaining for more than a year; in this case, acellular matrices are used to help in the care of this issue.
The demand for high-quality and ethically-sourced human ECM is substantial; currently, human ECM is hard to come by and very expensive. Artificial ECM have been synthesized in the lab, but to-date have not been shown to closely mimic natural structures, and as such, have had limited success in human tissue and organ implants. Dr. Rahmo’s research has demonstrated that culturing small mobile stem cells is a promising method of generating natural ECM. These cells are advantageous for this application because (1) they are relatively easy to culture and proliferate outside of the body, allowing researchers to produce great quantities, and (2) because they are stem cells, they can be differentiated into many tissue types to generate a variety of tissue-specific ECMs. These features make this technology capable of adequately addressing the high and unique demands for different medical applications.
After providing context on the applications of their innovation, Dr. Rahmo continued the presentation by sharing whom they determined as their target market and how ECM is currently extracted for use. He shared the following industries comprised the addressable market for SMSbiotech: Cell Culture, 3D Cell Culture, Global In-Vitro Toxicology, FDA Drug Testing & Approval, the global wound care market and the global tissue engineered skin analogs--many of which are multi-billion dollar industries. With a current average approval rate of twelve percent by the FDA, SMSbiotech wants to ensure more accurate, reproducible assaying using human SMS technology to increase the chances of approval. The current approach to ECM extraction involves volunteer animal or human cadavers which yield a potential for contamination and as a source, has limited scalability. SMSbiotech's alternative solution is a human cell line obtained from regular blood in small quantities. Compositions are prepared in optimized, controlled lab conditions, and production is scalable and cost-effective since the cell line can be produced in suspension. ECM can also be stored and transported in low-cost conditions.
Dr. Rahmo concluded the presentation with various methods of generating revenue early with target customer segments such as the growing R&D market. Indicating that there were no regulatory issues of significance for initial products to serve this segment, he shared SMSbiotech's goal of going to market sometime next year with milestones set for MVPs and regulatory frameworks.
With an overall positive response from attendees, the presentation ended with questions from EiRs and other investors from the community. Patents on the process and application of the product are pending. To learn more about SMSbiotech, contact a.rahmo@SMSbiotech.com.
Hai contributes to the Cove as a content writer for both the Currents newsletter and blog. As an alumnus of UCI with a degree in English and a co-founder of a local creative agency, Hai's focus is centered on spotlighting events, stories, and startups within the Orange County community. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and has participated in fast-pitch competitions through the UCI Antrepreneur Center and has co-organized local business and startup groups such as 1 Million Cups and Orange County Young Entrepreneurs.