Evera, A Harvard Consumer Biotech Company, Brings Stem Cell Banking To You – Forbes

Posted: June 11, 2020 at 11:48 am

Throughout the past decade, consumer biology tests have been all the rage. Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry DNA have made their test kits accessible to every day Americans. One can screen for anomalies in their genetic code or identify their lineage. With recent advances in stem cell research, a new opportunity within the consumer biology market has appeared. Nabeel Quryshi, Michael Chen and Zeel Patel are three Harvard undergraduates who observed the unmet, rising demand of control over ones stem cells. They worked together to create Evera, the first at-home stem cell banking company. The three Harvard students are joined by the schools world-renowned biology professor, Dr. George Church. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company was incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab, and has former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly as a investor.

Evera cofounders from left to right: Nabeel Quryshi, Michael Chen and Zeel Patel.

Kelly says, "I did a lot of my independent research, consulted with NASA physicians and scientists, and experts in the stem cell for cancer treatment fields. All those discussions and research indicated that this technology has merit."

Frederick Daso: What led you and your team to identify that stem cells could be potentially used to prevent neurodegenerative disease?

Nabeel Quryshi: I wouldn't single out a focus on neurodegenerative diseases. However, over the last decade, there has been a flurry of research around the use of stem cells to treat conditions such as Parkinson's, Dementia, Alzheimer's, etc. People are working on prevention, but there are two main use cases of stem cells currently. One is for treatment (replacement of damaged or lost cells), and the other is disease modeling (being able to model diseases and test the effects of new drugs completely in vitro without having to get a biopsy).

Daso: In the same ways that blood banks function, how did you manage to apply that concept to the storage of stem cells over a long time?

Quryshi: Cord blood banks and academic stem cell banks that use standardized cryopreservation protocols have been around for a while. The main innovation behind Evera was developing technology around the collection and preservation of urine-derived cells.

Daso: Why don't more mothers store their children's cord blood in stem cell banks? Is it mostly due to a price issue, or is there some other factor at play?

Quryshi: From the countless interviews we've done, it seems to be a price issue. Additionally, it's hard to make a sale around the time of birth as families have countless other things to worry about that are more immediate to the birth of a child.

Daso: What would be driving the growth of this market both now and in the future?

Quryshi: The growth of new cutting edge cell therapies is certainly further demonstrating the need for personal cell biobanking. Furthermore, the success of the direct to consumer genetic testing industry (23andMe, Ancestry, etc.) is a significant driver of growth. From the research we've conducted and the customers we have spoken to, individuals who have already taken 23andMe or another genetic test and know what they are at risk for genetically are looking for ways to take tangible action. Evera is that next step. Instead of just understanding what your future genetic risk is, Evera allows you to make a real biological investment in your future health and wellbeing. While knowing you're at risk for saying Parkinson's is excellent, being able to set aside your youngest cells so that one day you may be able to combat the effects of such a disease is terrific.

However, one should note that although the growth and technology coming from the cell therapy and stem cell therapy industry is astonishing, these are still projections. We have yet to see a fully FDA approved therapy that utilizes the specific types of stem cells we use (induced pluripotent stem cells). Nevertheless, by the time such treatments make it to the clinic, your cells will have aged significantly, and thus it makes sense to save them away now.

Daso: Could you walk me through the thought process of figuring out how to extract stem cells from urine? (From what I know, stem cells usually come from other parts of your body!)

Quryshi: Until around 2011/2012, you would have been right. However, utilizing the fantastic technology that comprised Dr. Yamanaka's 2006 Nobel Prize, scientists have been able to convert any cell in the human body to a kind of stem cell called an induced pluripotent stem cell. This cell has the capability of being able to differentiate into any cell type in the human body. We have advanced tech around the conversation of urine-derived cells to these iPSCs.

Daso: How have you designed your D2C service to ensure that a customer's DNA and associated data are not at risk?

Quryshi: We take data and privacy extremely seriously. We are well aware of the concerns people already have to D2C genetics products. To ensure the confidentiality and privacy of your data and sample, we separate your personally identifiable information from sample information and simultaneously use multiple layers of encryption and cryptography. Your sample and associated data cannot be associated with you individually. Furthermore, our facility is monitored 24/7 with top of the line security measures. We believe that your sample is your property.

Daso: What was the turning point during your undergrad to pursue this idea?

Quryshi: Having worked at 23andMe, I was able to get the lucky opportunity to be a part of arguably the world's most successful consumer genetics company. I saw first hand the benefits of providing customers with their genetic risk. Yet, I discovered that merely providing such risk predictions may not be enough led me to found Evera on the notion that tangibly investing in one's future health and wellbeing through cell banking will propel us into the age of personalized medicine.

Daso: How do you leverage your advisory board to navigate regulations and moral hazards in this space?

Quryshi: We have assembled a dream team consisting of experts in stem cell banking and cell therapy. Our co-founders and advisors comprise of professors from Harvard and Stanford, executives from companies such as Verily as well as top grad students and postdocs in stem cell biology from Harvard and Stanford. We work collaboratively to make sure we adhere to all regulations and ensure the secure preservation of our customer's cells.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out my other work onLinkedInand my personal website,frederickdaso.com. Follow me on Twitter@fredsoda, on Medium@fredsoda, and on Instagram@fred_soda.

See the article here:
Evera, A Harvard Consumer Biotech Company, Brings Stem Cell Banking To You - Forbes

Related Post

Comments are closed.

Archives