The Silicon Review
“SpinalCyte was formed to develop a regenerative medicine cure for degenerative disc disease using human dermal fibroblasts to regrow the disc nucleus.”
Chronic Lower Back Pain afflicts an estimated 33 million people annually in the U.S. Over seven million of those people suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease. Aging baby boomers may double those numbers in the next two decades.
Back pain is strongly associated with degeneration of the inter vertebral disc. Disc degeneration, although in many cases asymptomatic, is also associated with sciatica and disc herniation or prolapse. It alters disc height and the mechanics of the rest of the spinal column, adversely affecting the behaviour of other spinal structures such as muscles and ligaments. In the long term, it can lead to spinal stenosis, a major cause of pain and disability in the elderly. Degenerated disc incidence is rising with current demographic changes and an increasingly aged population.
In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present SpinalCyte, LLC.
SpinalCyte’s invention provides a new and unique patented regenerative cell therapy for repairing the cartilage of the intervertebral disc (or any other articular cartilage). The method is based on using Human Dermal Fibroblasts (HDFs) which are forced to differentiate into chondrocyte-like cells in vivo through mechanical force, and the Intermittent Hydrostatic Pressure (IHP) critical for chondrogenic differentiation of fibroblasts.
SpinalCyte is a regenerative medicine company developing an innovative solution for spinal disc replacement using human dermal fibroblasts. Currently, SpinalCyte holds 57 U.S.and international issued patents and has filed for an additional 100+ patents pending. The company holds 157 U.S. and International Patents pending and issued across a variety of clinical pathways, including Disc Degeneration, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Diabetes, Liver Failure, and Heart Failure. Funded entirely by angel investors, SpinalCyte represents the next generation of medical advancement in cell therapy.
The company was incorporated in 2008 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Pete O’Heeron, SpinalCyte, LLC CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
SpinalCyte was formed to develop a regenerative medicine cure for degenerative disc disease using human dermal fibroblasts to regrow the disc nucleus. The human body has two cell sources which can regenerate into other tissues or organs, stem cells and fibroblasts. Through continued discovery and development in the lab, SpinalCyte has become a world leader using fibroblasts for a number of chronic disease pathways. Current pipeline products include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Diabetes, and CTE (Football Head Injuries).
Q. Can you brief us about the history of your company?
We began the company with one provisional patent to treat Degenerative Disc Disease using dermal fibroblasts to regrow the disc. We spent years in the lab and multiple animal trials before we were ready to advance into humans. Our first-in-human trial was a success and we saw 83% of the patients experience significant pain reduction. Over the years, our research developed other uses for fibroblasts and we’re currently developing a pipeline of clinical pathways including Diabetes, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and CTE.
Q. What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
I always believe curiosity and determination are the most important factors in our success. We try to keep updated on all new clinical data being published. As you can imagine, the amount of innovation is growing both domestically and internationally. Staying at the forefront of scientific discoveries is focus for us. It’s curiosity and determination that takes us in new and promising directions.
Q. What are your three biggest accomplishments?
My three biggest accomplishments are developing a proprietary surgical access system, developing a full cell platform for regenerative medicine, along with drafting and passing tort reform legislation for personal responsibility in ice arenas. These all required different skill sets and disciplines which ranged from science and biology to mechanical engineering and politics.
Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?
So far, I would have to say the human trial results from using fibroblasts to treat Degenerative Disc Disease. The improvement we made in those patients’ lives is such a motivating factor to commercialize this product and offer a cure to individuals suffering from lower back pain.
Q. What other CEOs do you look up to?
Instead of looking up to operational type CEOs, I find myself gravitating to the more creative CEOs like
Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and even Thomas Edison. These CEOs possess the broad skill set that I strive to develop. Each one defined their generation through science, technology and even politics.
Q. If not a business leader/CEO, what else you want to be?
I would probably be a marine biologist or a geologist. I have always been interested in science and biology.
Q. Give me one word that describes you the best.
The one word that describes me the best is ‘determined’.
Pete O’Heeron: A Formidable Leader
Pete O’Heeron serves as the Chief Executive Officer of
SpinalCyte, LLC. With more than 20 years of medical technology development experience, Mr. O’Heeron brings together the resources necessary to commercialize unique technologies. His expertise covers a broad range of disciplines, from business start-ups and biologics to medical devices and patient-centered healthcare delivery. Prior to founding SpinalCyte, LLC, Mr. O’Heeron founded and still serves as the CEO of an operational investment group, Advanced Medical Technologies, LLC, which identifies early-stage opportunities in the medical field with strong intellectual property potential. Mr. O’Heeron’s previous experience includes the founding of NeoSurg Technologies to develop a minimally invasive access system. As a result of his efforts, NeoSurg Technologies was successful in launching the T2000 Minimally Invasive Access System, which reduced surgical equipment cost by over 60 percent. Mr. O’Heeron completed the sale of NeoSurg Technologies to CooperSurgical. Mr. O’Heeron was employed by Christus Health Care Corporation in a variety of executive-level positions. He has provided strategic advisory services to healthcare companies in the areas of biologics, surgical instrumentation, and telemedicine.
Mr. O’Heeron earned a Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Houston. He completed Executive Management Certification in Mergers and Acquisition from the University of Chicago and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration with a minor in Business Administration from Texas State University.