Silene Biotech is freezing people’s blood cells when they’re young and healthy, in the hope the cells can be used to treat health problems in the future.
What if you had a heart attack and could get it repaired with a “heart patch” — a Band-Aid made of your own body tissue?
A Seattle startup is freezing people’s blood cells when they’re young and healthy, in the hope that they can be used to treat health problems like that in the future.
Silene Biotech is led by Alex Jiao and Jenna Strully, who met in a University of Washington biomedical entrepreneurship class while Jiao was a doctoral student in bioengineering and Strully worked as a medical doctor.
Funding: More than $400,000, including from the Techstars accelerator
Customers: About 55
Silene’s idea is that a person’s frozen cells could be modified, then injected back into their body as they age and health problems occur.
Every cell has the DNA information to be any other cell type, Jiao said, meaning blood cells can be converted back to stem cells, the most basic level of cell. The stem cells would then be changed into whatever type would be helpful to treat an illness.
“Really what we’re doing is turning cells back into other cells using pretty straightforward techniques,” Jiao said. “There are even kits to do that now.”
For now, the startup is just freezing cells as team members study what will come next. There are already clinical trials in the works elsewhere that are using stem cells to engineer human tissue, Jiao said.
Regrowing a human heart could be decades away, he said. But that “heart patch” is likely coming much sooner.
Silene, which is registered with the Food and Drug Administration, has partnered with Bloodworks Northwest to draw people’s blood, then concentrate and preserve the cells at a short-term cold-storage facility at the UW and longer-term storage in Indianapolis.
The startup is offering discounted pricing to its early customers, charging $300 for processing then $50 a year after the first year. Silene also offers a $1,000 package for processing and lifetime storage.