Innovation begins with curiosity – a desire to learn all that there is to know about a topic and then apply that knowledge for the benefit of others. Dr. Chris Xu, the CEO of ThermoGenesis Holdings Inc., is someone whose life-long curiosity has led to a mission of making life-saving therapies accessible to patients around the world. As part of the celebration of ThermoGenesis’ 35th anniversary, he was interviewed to give an insight into his background, his passion for immunology, and his vision for the future of cell and gene therapies.
A Lifelong Fascination With Cell Therapy
For most of his life, Dr. Chris Xu has been fascinated by the cell and its ability to be many different things. From a young age, he would spend time in his father’s lab learning about biology and physiology and that experience led him to pursue an education in biochemistry. He later went on to study organ transplantation and became a trained immunologist, specializing in tissue and organ transplantation. This eventually led to a desire to investigate the capacity of the cell and its application in the medical field.
A Career in Immunology
For the first ten years of his career, Dr. Xu focused solely on immunology and organ transplantation. His desire to help people receive treatment for diseases eventually led to his working with major pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, where he led the discovery team. He joined Pfizer at the same time as Phil Needleman, who at the time had “discovered a new pathway for drugs to be developed, many of which are still on the market, including Celebrex.”
During this time, he says, he received an education in the “lengthy process and rigidness of turning a concept into a very solid drug.”
In today’s world, scientists and medical professionals now know that drugs have many different forms – molecules, antibodies, cell-based – and what Dr.Xu knows well is that no matter the form, each drug goes through a similar path to become accessible to patients. His mission is to help facilitate that process in a way that lowers costs for patients to receive the life-saving therapies they need.
Driven Into Entrepreneurship
As a graduate student, Dr. Xu never envisioned becoming an entrepreneur. However, he says “When knowledge accumulates to a certain point, there are certain areas that no one has addressed enough and the only way to do that is to do it on your own. You’re driven to entrepreneurship.’’
Cell and Gene Therapy
There are three entities in which Dr. Xu is a leader – ThermoGenesis Holdings Inc., Healthbanks and Boyalife Group. In his own words, Dr. Xu says that “if each entity is a pearl, with its own function and focus, I am the string that brings those pearls together into a necklace.” Essentially, each of these entities works to create a well-rounded impact on the cell and gene therapy industry. ThermoGenesis Holdings Inc. provides the tools to manufacture and store immune cells, Healthbanks provides immune cell and stem cell banking, and Boyalife Group serves as the alliance to further research in different areas of the industry such as clinical biobanking, genomics and drug discovery.
The Future of Cell Therapy
Immune cell banking is viewed today in the same way that stem cell banking was viewed 30 years ago – it presents the future. “People are being cured with Immunotherapy,” Dr. Xu says. CAR T-cell Therapy can use someone’s own modified cells to fight their cancer, and has an efficacy rate “as high as 94% in chemo and radiation-failed patients.These are “people who have exhausted every resource,” says Xu. The growth of cell therapy is only expected to continue. Dr. Xu explained that from 2017 to today, there have been 5 FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapies, and the expectation is for 5-10 more to be approved each year until 2030.
How ThermoGenesis Can Help
Cell therapy is expanding rapidly and in every direction. Therefore, ThermoGenesis is focused on addressing critical needs, providing cell banking and manufacturing products with low costs and high efficiency. The goal, Dr. Xu says, is to “be the preferred choice for the manufacturing of cells efficiently and with low cost.”
ThermoGenesis Holdings Inc., is a pioneer and market leader in the development and commercialization of automated cell processing technologies for the cell and gene therapy fields. We market a full suite of solutions for automated clinical biobanking, point-of-care applications and large-scale cell processing and manufacturing with a special emphasis on the emerging CAR T-cell immunotherapy market. We are committed to making the world a healthier place by creating innovative solutions for those in need.
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