The article below featuring our client InoCells was originally futured in the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus Glossy about 2021. Download the full glossy.
The six-strong InoCells team is united behind the invention of IVF pioneer Professor Mehdi Akhondi and stem cell expert Professor Jafar Ai: a unique stem cell therapy that allows previously infertile women to improve the quality and quantity of their eggs. This means that these women have a chance of becoming pregnant with their own biological child.
Bahareh Beyk, chief business officer of InoCells, would like to start with facts and figures: ‘Worldwide, about one in six couples who want to have children have problems getting pregnant. This affects about 80 million couples globally each year. The number of fertility treatments grows by 5-10% each year. Some of the patients can be helped by artificial reproduction techniques such as IVF and ICSI, but 37% of patients are unable or practically unable to become pregnant with their own biological child. The main reason is that many women do not want to have children until later in life. However, the quality and quantity of their eggs decreases with age. Alternatives such as egg donation or adoption have emotional consequences as well as legal, judicial, and financial ones.’
“Our eureka moment? The moment we decided to bring our invention to the market ourselves”Bahareh Beyk and Saber Mehdi Akhondi
Bahareh Beyk worked in a fertility clinic for a long time. She saw, first hand, the enormous impact of not being able to fulfil one’s wish to have children. ‘There is unbelievable sadness and heartache. You can see this very clearly in the profound documentary “Heb je kinderen” (Do you have children) that filmmaker Inés ten Berge made about her own unintentional childlessness.’
InoCells is working on a stem cell therapy to greatly improve the quality of egg cells. Bahareh speaks of an improvement of up to 85%, based on concrete preclinical and early clinical findings: ‘This would allow possibly 48% of women who are considered to be infertile to have a biological child of their own, either naturally or through IVF. How do we do that? ‘By treating stem cells from women who want to become pregnant in a clean room and then multiplying them. At a later stage, the treated stem cells are reinjected.’ InoCells is not taking any chances.
They have been working on perfecting the method for 12 years and have published between 30 and 40 scientific articles. Two years ago, we decided to bring the product to the market ourselves. Patients and IVF doctors are already spontaneously reporting to us. However, we are not that far along in the process yet. We have applied for the first patents and more will follow this year. Prominent IVF doctors sit on the advisory board of InoCells. The Phase I clinical trial has been completed. InoCells has submitted a request to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to facilitate a rapid market launch. In 2022, InoCells hopes to start phase II clinical trials in 40 patients in collaboration with the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Maastricht UMC+.
At the moment, InoCells is working from Medace and they are gratefully making use of everything Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus has to offer. Mehdi explains, ‘The ecosystem here is very helpful. We are given support on all fronts. We obviously receive support from Medace, as well as from Brightlands Venture Partners, and the contacts with LIOF. We have also learned a lot from the experiences of other companies in the region. The plan is for InoCells to start serving the European fertility centres from Limburg as of 2025. Afterwards, we aim to conquer the rest of the world. After all, the desire to have one’s own biological child is universal.’