California's SynGen Inc. gets $5 million to develop stem cell harvesting system

The Sacramento BeeApril 19, 2012 

Phil Coelho, president and CEO of SynGen Inc. in midtown Sacramento, is back in the regenerative medicine industry in earnest.

On Wednesday, he announced that his company has received $5 million from San Francisco venture capital firm Bay City Capital LLC to further develop what Coelho calls the next generation in stem cell harvesting systems.

Coelho said the funds will go toward development, marketing and regulatory approval of the company's SynGen-1000 product.

That product harvests stem and progenitor cells from bone marrow, cord blood, normal blood or fat/connective tissue. Harvested cells can be used for treatment of numerous medical conditions.

This is not Coelho's first rodeo in the industry.

He's the founder and former chief executive of Rancho Cordova-based ThermoGenesis Corp., leaving that company's board of directors in 2008.

ThermoGenesis has received international regulatory approvals of its systems for extraction, freezing and archiving of stem cells extracted from blood.

Touting SynGen's "next generation" system, Coelho praised BCC's "expansive knowledge of the global life science field and vast networking capability combined with a strong reputation as a top-tier venture capital firm."

Those factors, Coelho said, "made our decision easy."

Coelho said BCC has "already begun facilitating business relationships important for our accelerated growth and market expansion."

SynGen's immediate goal is making SynGen-1000 available to cord blood banks. Harvesting umbilical cord blood cells is a key component of the stem cell industry.

Coelho, who founded SynGen five years ago, said Wednesday that the company will proceed with the approval process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "and regulatory approval overseas."

He called the financing "pure working capital. The initial thing is to get all these regulatory filings and (commence) commercializing before the year is out."

Coelho said prospective segments for SynGen-1000 include "stem cell research centers, hospitals practicing cell therapy in surgical suites and stem cell clinical trials."

BCC, established in 1997, bills itself as a "life sciences venture capital firm investing in opportunities across the various life sciences sectors in companies at all stages of development." It has invested in nearly 100 companies.

Dr. William Gerber, investment partner at BCC, said he expects SynGen systems to "play a significant role in enabling clinical research and expanding the medical applications of regenerative medicine.

"Phil Coelho is an established innovator in the field of cord blood stem cell isolation and purification, and we are excited about expanding SynGen's product line to address novel applications for adult stem cell therapies."

Medical researchers worldwide tout stem cell therapy as a potential game-changer in disease treatments, including bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia.

Some researchers believe harvested cells will someday contribute to groundbreaking treatments of cancer, Parkinson's disease, traumatic spinal cord injuries, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and various degenerative muscle/nerve disorders.

Under terms of the deal announced Wednesday – involving Series A preferred stock financing – BCC will appoint two representatives to SynGen's board of directors.

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