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Local stem cell firm Cellular Dynamics receives $18M in funds

Todd Finkelmeyer  —  11/25/2008 7:53 am

The economy might be mired in a prolonged downturn, but that hasn't kept one local biotech company from raising some much-needed funds.

Cellular Dynamics International -- which is housed at University Research Park and is co-founded by stem cell pioneer Jamie Thomson and three other University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists -- announced Monday it received $18 million in a financing round led by Tactics II Stem Cell Ventures.

"I think CDI is something that investors can see the potential in, even in the current economic crisis that we're in," Chris Kendrick-Parker, chief commercial officer of Cellular Dynamics, said in a phone interview.

Kendrick-Parker said the financing will be used to help transfer the technology CDI has garnered during research into the product development and production phases.

Cellular Dynamics also announced it has merged with a pair of sister companies founded by Thomson -- Stem Cell Products, Inc., and iPS Cells, Inc. The new firm, which will retain the name of Cellular Dynamics International, now has more than 50 employees, according to Kendrick-Parker.

CDI currently is commercializing pluripotent stem cells -- which have the ability to transform into any cell in the body -- for use by the pharmaceutical industry as a superior way to test drugs for toxicity prior to reaching market. For example, one of the products Cellular Dynamics is marketing is heart cells derived from stem cells called human cardiomyocytes, or CMs. These could be used by drugmakers as a way to test medication on human heart cells before they are tried on real people.

Cellular Dynamics closed on its $18 million Series A financing round in early October. Tactics II Stem Cell Ventures LP led the round, with participation from Tactics II Ventures LP -- a Wisconsin-based venture capital firm -- and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which is UW-Madison's patent and licensing arm.

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Billions of particles of anti-matter created in laboratory

LIVERMORE, Calif. —Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear.

The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma “jet.”

This new ability to create a large number of positrons in a small laboratory opens the door to several fresh avenues of anti-matter research, including an understanding of the physics underlying various astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and gamma ray bursts.

Anti-matter research also could reveal why more matter than anti-matter survived the Big Bang at the start of the universe.

“We’ve detected far more anti-matter than anyone else has ever measured in a laser experiment,” said Hui Chen, a Livermore researcher who led the experiment. “We’ve demonstrated the creation of a significant number of positrons using a short-pulse laser.”

Chen and her colleagues used a short, ultra-intense laser to irradiate a millimeter-thick gold target. “Previously, we concentrated on making positrons using paper-thin targets,” said Scott Wilks, who designed and modeled the experiment using computer codes. “But recent simulations showed that millimeter-thick gold would produce far more positrons. We were very excited to see so many of them.”

In the experiment, the laser ionizes and accelerates electrons, which are driven right through the gold target. On their way, the electrons interact with the gold nuclei, which serve as a catalyst to create positrons. The electrons give off packets of pure energy, which decays into matter and anti-matter, following the predictions by Einstein’s famous equation that relates matter and energy. By concentrating the energy in space and time, the laser produces positrons more rapidly and in greater density than ever before in the laboratory.

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Resilient Technologies developing tougher tire for Army

Wausau - Getting a flat tire is never convenient. In a war zone, it can be deadly.

While Humvees have been loaded with extra armor to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tires remain vulnerable to attacks by improvised explosive devices. But an ingenious honeycomb design by a Wisconsin engineering company may be the key to a new airless tire that could keep military vehicles running faster and longer after an attack.

Resilient Technologies is in the middle of a four-year, $18 million contract with the Army to develop a tire that will continue running even after it has been shredded by roadside bombs or gunfire. Though Humvee tires are now outfitted with run-flat inserts, the Army wants to upgrade to an airless tire that's better at carrying heavier loads and can quickly move soldiers out of harm's way.

When engineers at Resilient Technologies began working on tire designs, they settled on one of the most resilient natural structures – the six-sided cells bees construct to hold their honey.

"Patterns in nature have gotten there for a reason. We looked to structures in nature that are sound, and that's how we came up with the honeycomb," said Ed Hall, vice president of business affairs.

Aside from strength, the design allows shrapnel and high-caliber bullets to pass through the tire. During testing, the tire has continued to run well - losing only a small percentage of performance - with much of the webbing removed.

Full story.