Mayo-Connected Regenerative Medicine Startup Inks Downtown Rochester Lease
A regenerative medicine startup led by a Mayo Clinic cardiologist is setting up shop in a downtown Rochester’s Minnesota BioBusiness Center, according to newly filed city documents.
The filing indicated Rion LLC, a Minnesota company registered to Dr. Atta Behfar of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, has signed a three-year lease for just over 2,000 square feet at the city-owned BioBusiness Center. The lease begins July 1.
The nine-story BioBusiness Center opened in downtown Rochester in 2007 as a center for innovation in biotechnology, promoting the linkages between the researchers and practitioners at Mayo Clinic; instructors and students at the University of Minnesota Rochester, and the biotechnology business community. It houses the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator among other tenants.
Behfar is an assistant medical professor and leads a laboratory at Mayo concentrating on applying regenerative medicine – the practice of using stem cells to regenerate damaged or missing tissue – to prevent and cure chronic heart conditions. Specifically, his group focuses on development and use of both stem cells and protein-based therapies to reverse injury caused by lack of blood flow to the heart.
The business direction of Rion, meanwhile, appears to be specifically geared toward a cutting-edge development in the field of regenerative medicine – the use of “extracellular vesicles” (EVs) in speeding and directing the growth of regenerating tissues in the heart and elsewhere in the body.
EVs, long brushed off by researchers as mere debris in the bloodstream, are membrane-enclosed spheres that break off from the surfaces of nearly all living cells when disturbed. They transport lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, and have now been found to be important players in cell-to-cell communication, influencing the behavior and even the identity of cells.
Their emerging role in regenerative medicine could potentially be huge. For instance, by bioengineering them to transport protein “payloads” from stem cells, they can be used to signal the body’s own cells to regenerate tissue instead of transplanting the stem cells themselves, thus eliminating the chance of host immune system rejection.
A patent application filed last year by Rion, Behfar, Mayo Center for Regenerative Medicine Director Dr. Andre Terzic and two other local inventors is aimed at adapting the healing properties of a specific type of EV into a unique kind of product that could have wide applications. It focuses on EVs derived from blood platelets, which are well known to stop bleeding, promote the growth of new tissues and blood vessels, relieve inflammation and provide a host of other benefits.
The patent describes a system of encapsulating platelet EVs derived from human or animal blood into a “platelet honey” and delivering it to target areas of the body, such as damaged tissues or organs. Its purported effect is to “regenerate, repair and restore damaged tissue,” with possible uses including treating heart disease; healing damaged bones or joints; wound treatment; and cosmetic skin applications.
A brief business description provided by Rion to Rochester city officials stated the company is “focused on the delivery of cutting edge regenerative technologies to patients at low cost and in off-the-shelf fashion. Building on initial research at Mayo Clinic, Rion LLC aims to develop and bring to practice products in the space of wound healing, orthopedics and cardiac disease.”
The statement also added the company is an enthusiastic backer of Rochester’s efforts to develop a local biotech business cluster, and is seeking to “participate in the realization of the Destination Medical Center initiative.”