This Israeli scientist's startup is producing industrial red blood cells to save lives, encourages founders to be patient
Dr. Ari Gargir decided to leverage his knowledge of biotechnology to create universal red blood cells through Red C Biotech Ltd. It aims to reduce blood shortages around the globe.
- Meet Dr. Ari Gargir, CEO & Founder of Red C Biotech Ltd. - which is developing an industrial process for the production of red blood cells from stem cells.
- He learnt the value of blood when a blood transfusion helped him survive a fatal paragliding accident.
- Despite nearly 120 million blood units being donated every year, there is a constant shortage.
- The Biotechnology Market Size is expected to reach approx US$ 3,102.94 billion by 2030, according to a Growth Plus Report.
Back story: Foraying into the biotech industry
My journey into science started as a child infact even before I got into school. I would gather fossils on walking trips and then go research them (yes, my friends laughed at me!).
It was a given that I am going to be a scientist.
Fast forward I did my university studies at Tel Aviv University, one of the largest research universities in Israel.
It was during my BSc studies in Biology, that I understood 'Biology is not just about chasing butterflies with nets, it’s also about the industry, production, and providing medicine to society.'
So, I pursued further studies doing an MSc in Biotechnology and a Ph.D. in Microbiology.
In 2000, I started my career in the biotech industry.
Over the years, I worked with various companies of all sizes including startups. I did a lot of product development, served as an R&D leader, delivered technologies and dozens of products through development programs, from conception to commercialization with over $250M in sales.
I also got first-hand exposure to the commercial side of things like how products have to go to the market, regulatory, product management and marketing, R&D legal issues, budgets, and grant raising.
As I worked in a lot of product development processes, there was an urge to lead the same... I was on a constant lookout to solve a big problem for humanity!
How the idea of RedC Biotech came about
In 1990, I went paragliding one of those days during my Bachelor's. Unfortunately, I met with an accident and lost a lot of blood in the process... Blood transfusion saved my life.
Then a thought occurred to me, “I got off easy when I needed a blood transfusion to survive. But how could I help the ones who are unable to survive because of blood loss-related emergencies or diseases?”
At that time, I didn't have a lot of knowledge of blood transfusion safety, or how red blood cell transfusion worked but I started learning more about it.
To my surprise, I learned that in spite of nearly 120 million blood units donated every year the blood donation practice is not sustainable because of several reasons; bad weather, unlucky circumstances such as pandemics, and so on.
In fact, every year millions of people die because of trauma, surgery, chronic illness, and cancer treatments.
After quite a bit of researching, I got to know about a special technology through Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. It allows you to produce product cells from stem cells, at an industrial level, and similarly, red blood cells.
We recognized the technology’s potential to meet the needs of the blood donation industry.
That's how the idea of RedC Biotech came about.
In simple words, we're producing red blood cells, which are identical to the red blood cells that are produced naturally in our body. We're going to create red blood cells using patented technology in state-of-the-art Bioreactors. It will fit almost all blood types on earth since it’s pathogen-free and has a very precise shelf life.
People have been producing red blood cells from stem cells for almost two decades now, but it never left the lab because of its sky-high cost.
We are committed to breaking the cycle and producing in large volumes that would lead to an economy of scale.
The flourishing startup ecosystem in Israel also worked as a catalyst for my entrepreneurial motivation.
Funding and a long journey ahead
To get going with the research, I got our first round of investment from friends and family. We also raised money from a popular crowd investment platform in Israel called PipelBiz.
Very recently we won a $500,000 prize at the “Aviram Awards – Tech For Humanity”, an event and pitch competition in Dubai, hosted by The Aviram Family Foundation, and Forbes.
So far, we have raised about $1.4 million... but this is not enough. We will need a lot of investment.
Everything is divided into milestones for us. So at this point, we're looking for investments that will help us develop the product and bring us towards preclinical testing.
(It will take about two to three more years before we could start our preclinical testing!)
The next step would be renting additional lab space.
Then comes the cost of materials.
The third chunk of the investment will be going into clinical trials, which also cost a lot. (More or less in about five years, we should be able to register our product with the regulatory groups and be ready for commercialization).
Commercializing our product will also require lots of money.
The idea is to have a structure of licensing for the technology so that production can take place in different regions around the world.
As we move forward and develop more and more technologies, more patents will be associated with industrial groups or medical pharmaceutical companies in different regions.
Every one of these companies or groups that will get licensed, will have to deal with the regulatory requirements and authorities in their countries. They will also need to establish local production sites.
In terms of competition, there is EryPharm, a Paris-based Biotechnology company producing red blood cells using a different strategy.
But the bottom line is we are all on a mission to end blood shortages around the world and save people, which is all that matters.
The Biotechnology Market Size is expected to reach approx US$ 3,102.94 billion by 2030, according to a Growth Plus Report.
Before venturing into the pharmaceutical or medical space, make sure that you are in this to do good for humankind and bring positive change to the world.
You need to take human health and sustainability into consideration.
Being patient is the key, especially when you're developing a product in the life sciences domain.
And in this domain, it takes, sometime, years to reach the final stage of a product that meets all the requirements of the targeted market.
All of these are extremely important when you are thinking about starting up.