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Early-stage SA biotech developing new uses for stem cell technology, including organ transplants
March 29, 2018

Ramon Coronado, who earned his doctoral degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, said his early-stage company is writing a new playbook for stem cell research. COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO

W. Scott Bailey, Senior Reporter, San Antonio Business Journal

A San Antonio-based, developmental-stage research company is looking to use stem cell technology in new ways, including as a means for improving outcomes of organ transplant recipients and as another tool in fighting cancer.

The Lester Smith Medical Research Institute, named for a Houston wildcatter and philanthropist, is pioneering a path that uses stem cells to teach the human body to accept foreign objects, such as donor organs. The process could provide an alternative to the current practice of suppressing the immune system, which can make patients more vulnerable to infections.

“In transplantation, you want to deactivate the immune system to accept the organ as its own. That’s one application that we have,” said Ramon Coronado, co-founder and executive director of the new institute.

The institute, whose success could further the Alamo City’s emergence as a global center for stem cell research, is also working on technology that uses stem cells to teach exosomes, which can change the genes and physiology of the body, to stimulate the immune system to “attack what it should attack” and “stop the progression of a cancer tumor,” said Coronado, who earned his doctoral degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2016.

San Antonio is home to multiple companies working with stem cells. Many of them, Coronado said, are focused on growing stem cells.

“Our approach is different. We are designing the whole playbook around how to use the cells for commercially viable products,” he said. “The next step is to validate some of our technologies in human trials and with some of our animals trials so we can start licensing the technologies we have to other companies.”

Some of those interest parties are other stem cell companies seeking new technologies and an opportunity to expand their commercial portfolios.

The privately held research institute has its headquarters at the San Antonio Technology Center near the South Texas Medical Center.

Coronado said the company is moving closer to commercialization.

“We are building our own animal facility. We’ve finished two animal trials and are working on a human preclinical trial,” he said. “We are still early stage. We are in the discovery phase. But we’ve already found technologies that are novel. We have good candidates for solutions to new therapeutics.”

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