OvaScience Uses Stem Cells to Revive Fertility

10/12/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Boston-based OvaScience is emerging from stealth mode with a technology designed to improve in vitro fertilization by rejuvenating tired eggs. Yesterday the company unveiled its technique, which is based on technology it licensed from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. OvaScience co-founder Jonathan Tilly—director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at MGH—will talk in detail about the company’s science on October 19 at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Orlando, FL.

OvaScience’s startup team has plenty of experience in the field of rejuvenation. The company’s CEO and co-founder is Michelle Dipp, previously vice president of corporate development at Sirtris—which was famously developing compounds based on the anti-aging supplement resveratrol before it was acquired for $720 million by GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) in 2008. OvaScience co-founder Christoph Westphal was Sirtris’s founder and CEO. Dipp and Westphal are now partners at Longwood Founders Fund, which took part in OvaScience’s $6 million Series A round in July. Bessemer Venture Partners also participated in that round.

What’s more, one of the two key technologies behind OvaScience’s product was developed by none other than David Sinclair, the Harvard scientist who discovered resveratrol’s role in promoting longevity. The compounds that OvaScience licensed from Sinclair’s lab activate mitochondria—tiny power plants in cells that provide the energy for them to divide and grow.

The crux of OvaScience’s technique comes from MGH’s Tilly, who in 2004 discovered a type of stem cell in the ovary that matures into eggs. OvaScience’s approach involves isolating these egg stem cells from the patient, taking mitochondria from those cells, and then injecting … Next Page »

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