Startup Profile: MesoFlow
MesoFlow manufactures a device that prepare biological cells for use in medical procedures like bone marrow transplants and to treat disease like sickle cell anemia. The company is based on scientific discoveries by the University of Minnesota’s Allison Hubel, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering with the College of Science and Engineering.
Blood cells and stem cells, generally obtained through donations, are an important resource for biotechnology, disease treatment and advancing medical research. After collection, cells are stored for future use by a freezing technique using chemicals to help cells survive the process. When the cells are later prepared for use, the chemicals have to be removed, as they can be harmful to humans.
MesoFlow’s technology uses a first-of-its-kind approach to remove these chemicals by funneling the cells through a saline wash. At a microscopic scale, the cells separate from the storage chemical as they flow through the device. The technology makes the process of cell preparation automated, disposable and inexpensive, while minimizing the number of cells lost in the process.
Conventional methods of preparing stored cells for use face several problems. They are labor-intensive, requiring a specialist to separate the cells from their storage chemicals by spinning the materials at high speeds. Even when handled by a skilled technician, the process can waste a large portion of the cells, destroying some and discarding others with the cleaning solution.
MesoFlow’s technology improves the process of cleaning cells by lowering the cost of the equipment needed, eliminating the need for a specialist to operate it and increasing the number of usable cells that remain. The technology is also more thorough in removing chemicals from cells, making transfusions and transplants safer for the patient.
Going forward, the technology will allow red blood cells to be stored for a longer period of time, which could solve the two central challenges in blood banks: blood supply shortages for rare blood types and the need to discard more common blood types that reach their expiration. The low cost and disposable nature of the device could also make medical procedures that rely on stored blood or stem cells more widely available to developing countries.
“This technology will help us get the most out of our stored blood and stem cells, but it can also make a difference in the places where access to these cells has traditionally been limited. By cutting the cost of cleaning cells and eliminating the need for a highly skilled specialist, we are opening new doors for stored cells to reach places where they are typically unavailable. It’s exciting to anticipate how this technology can provide vital blood transfusions or stem cell transplants to those in developing countries as well as those in combat situations, where the need is great but the supply is short.” — Allison Hubel, MesoFlow founder and CEO
- Before MesoFlow’s official launch, the technology behind company was named a 2013 Minnesota Cup finalist in the statewide entrepreneurial competition’s Life Science and Health I.T. division.
- Cofounders Allison Hubel and Kai Kroll finished the licensing process for the technology behind MesoFlow and launched the company in May 2014.
- LifeScience Alley, a Minnesota-based business association, named MesoFlow to its 2014 New Technology Showcase, which recognizes groundbreaking achievements in health care technology.
Allison Hubel, Ph.D., Founder and CEO
Allison Hubel earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently a professor of mechanical engineering with the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering. With almost 20 years of experience, Hubel is a recognized global leader and innovator in cell and tissue preservation. She is director of the U’s Biopreservation Core Resource (BioCoR), which advances the science of storing and preserving biospecimens — living molecules like DNA, cells and tissues — and serves as a national resource for hospital, companies and academic institutions. Hubel also serves as deputy editor for the scholarly publication Biopreservation and Biobanking.
MesoFlow was launched in May 2014 and is located in Minneapolis.
Each month Inquiry features a startup company launched by the University of Minnesota based on U of M technology. To learn more about university startups, visit the Office for Technology Commercialization.