Ottawa biotech startup Spiderwort, which has raised more than US$15 million to develop technology that regrows spinal cord tissue and other body parts, has joined one of the largest innovation hubs in North America as it looks to scale the business.An Ottawa biotech startup that has raised more than US$15 million to develop technology that uses cellulose-based biomaterials as scaffolds for regenerative medicine has joined one of the largest innovation hubs in North America. Spiderwort said this week it has been accepted into the Toronto-based MaRS Discovery District’s health science division. “As a member of the MaRS Health Science portfolio, we have a new opportunity to access more resources and services that will help us accelerate initiatives and scale the business,” Spiderwort CEO Charles Cuerrier said in a statement. “We are grateful to be a part of this ecosystem as we work toward our vision of improving the quality of life for patients and changing how the medical field approaches acute spinal cord injuries.” More than 50 organizations are part of MaRS Health, which provides resources and mentorship to companies specializing in health-care and medical technology. Its portfolio features ventures such as telemedicine provider Maple Corp., a Toronto company whose high-powered financial backers also include Loblaw Companies and RBC. “Our membership in the program is a reflection of the commercial potential of innovation coming out of our lab,” Spiderwort director of business development Stephen Hanson said. “We look forward to working with and learning from industry experts, investors and partners within the MaRS ecosystem.” Founded in 2015, Spiderwort sprouted from co-founder Dr. Andrew Pelling’s lab at the University of Ottawa, where students experiment in “biohacking” exercises that include carving apples into the shape of an ear and growing human tissue on them. The company was a member of Invest Ottawa’s accelerator program and in 2019 became the first tenant at La Cité’s state-of-the-art research facility. Over the years, it has attracted the attention of some big-name local investors, including Mark Zekulin, the former chief executive of cannabis powerhouse Canopy Growth, MindBridge founder Solon Angel and Assent CEO Andrew Waitman, who called Spiderwort’s approach to regrowing limbs “life-changing.” Spiderwort is working on two different but interrelated products – CelluBridge, a proprietary cellulose-based material that helps repair and regenerate spinal cord tissue; and CelluJuve, a cellulose-based substance that serves as a “scaffold” to help regenerate soft human tissue in other parts of the body for injury repair or cosmetic purposes. Cuerrier told Techopia last year it’s too early to predict when CelluBridge and CelluJuve will hit the market. He said it will likely be “many years” before the products get the green light from regulators such as Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But Cuerrier said he’s encouraged by the company’s progress so far, adding he’s confident that its efforts will yield treatments that will improve the quality of life for patients suffering from catastrophic spinal cord injuries as well as a host of other issues.
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