Q&A With Jon Rowley of RoosterBio
On Tuesday, May 8, the Center for Biotechnology Education will hold its 13th annual research symposium. During the event at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus, biotechnology students – as well as some high school students – will participate in a poster session devoted to their research.
Following the poster session, Jon Rowley, founder and chief technology officer of RoosterBio, will deliver a keynote address entitled, “Why Stem Cell Manufacturing Matters: How Cell Therapy Manufacturing Innovations are Laying the Foundation for a Sustainable Regenerative Medicine Revolution.”
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Hopkins Happenings asked Rowley to discuss his upcoming speech and the importance of regenerative medicine in the future.
Hopkins Happenings: What will be the focus of your keynote address at the research symposium?
Rowley: I will focus my talk on how stem cells are the microchips of the regenerative medicine revolution that is currently unfolding, and that it will be cell manufacturing advancements that drive the widespread commercial adoption of tomorrow’s medical innovations. Stem cells are essential components of tomorrow's regenerative medicine products. They will be active ingredients in pharmaceuticals, the building blocks of engineered tissues and organs, and gene delivery vehicles for synthetic biology/gene editing therapeutic strategies. These critical raw materials will need sophisticated bio-manufacturing and production technologies to create sufficient supply for this exploding market.
My talk will focus on how cells are produced in research labs today at "bench scale,” and contrast with the technologies that will be needed to full scale production, and the steps that will need to be taken to migrate these new living and breathing products to scalable production technologies without losing the critical biological properties that make these cellular technologies therapeutic in the first place. The stem cell manufacturing platform will have a major impact on the economics of stem cell supply, with tremendous economies of scale that will help establish a cost structure that will support a sustainable industry.
Hopkins Happenings: What do you hope the audience learns from your remarks?
Rowley: I hope the audience comes away from my talk with the understanding that biology is the technology of tomorrow, and that stem cells are pieces of technologies just like transistors or microchips. As the research field gains better understanding of these technologies, it will be crucial to invest in manufacturing sciences to make stem cells robust, reproducible and cost effective.
Hopkins Happenings: What is RoosterBio? What does the company do, and why is it important?
Rowley: RoosterBio sells human mesenchymal stem cell bioprocessing systems to customers developing regenerative medicine. By purchasing our products, our customers gain 15 years of stem cell manufacturing experience, and turn into experts overnight simply by implementing our systems. The stem cell components that we sell are delivered in a format that simplifies incorporation of these pieces of technologies into a final product. Our goal is to have the same impact on the regenerative medicine industry that Intel had on the computer industry.
Hopkins Happenings: JHU just launched a new concentration in regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies. Why is this such an important field?
Rowley: Regenerative medicine will help to solve most of the medical needs that have not been addressed with traditional drugs. I see it as the final frontier in medicine.
Hopkins Happenings: Where do you see regenerative medicine going in five years? In 25 years?
Rowley: In five years there will be a few new products on the market, and a tremendous amount of new products undergoing clinical testing. The first generation products will be very expensive to manufacture and deliver, and there will be insurance issues – and potentially we will have therapies that only the very wealthy can access. However, over the next 10-20 years, the manufacturing advancements will enhance scale and work out costs, and I see widespread use of regenerative medicine therapies -- even making it into the third world over time.