Xcell Therapeutics is a Seoul-based life sciences company that offers a novel nutritional medium to support cell therapy development and production. This is the first of three articles introducing Xcell. Xcell is a co-organizer with Lighthouse for Adventures 2019.
Xcell manufactures CellCor, proprietary serum-free chemically-defined media, to helps researchers and clinicians culture human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC). Fetal Bovine Serum, the conventional standard, is harvested from livestock, and each batch presents wide variations in composition due to genetic and biological variances. In contrast, CellCor is a synthetic formulation that provides greater consistency since it is produced in a controlled environment using ingredients that are perfectly well known (that's what it means to be "chemically defined". When FBS is replaced by CellCor, the cell culture yields increase, thereby improving lab productivity.
Xcell screened more than 50,000 compounds to find the optimal growth conditions for hMSCs, and the proprietary formulation contains a final selection of 200 compounds that provide a significant boost to efficiency over FBS, and this allows scientists and researchers to allocate their time and funds to other parts of their research pipeline.
Uri Lee, the founder and CEO, has twenty years of experience in health, personal care, and biotech business development. He founded Xcell Therapeutics in 2015, building on the work of Prof. Sang-gyu Park of the College of Pharmacy at Ajou University. The company headquarters are located in Guro, a neighborhood in southern Seoul that is becoming a hotbed of innovation for life sciences and biotech. To date, Xcell has recruited a team of 28 researchers and business personnel to work with laboratories and pharmaceutical companies that are producing novel cell therapies.
In January 2019, Xcell received 4.5 million USD in Series A funding, with Korea Investment Partners as the lead investor, and the company will open a Series A2 funding round in June, 2019. Currently, the company can produce chemically-defined media for research use (RUO grade) at 100 liters per month at the Guro headquarters and 500L per month in a new production line in the city of Yongin. The Yongin facility is currently undergoing upgrades until June 2020 to reach a production capacity of 1,000 liters per month of clinical-grade GMP media (510(k) approval).
In addition to CellCore, Xcell has also built partnerships with innovators across the clinical pipeline and personal health markets. In one such case, Xcell developed STEMEDIA, a custom solution for the functional cosmetics company JDHL. JHDL uses STEMEDIA as a base to produce facial masks and cleansers that use a drug delivery system to deliver nutrients to skin cells and provide anti-wrinkle, whitening, and moisturizing benefits. These functional cosmetics have been approved by the KFDA for over-the-counter sales in Korea, and they are also currently available in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.