Winston-Salem’s RegenMed Hub Attracts Diagnostics Companies, Starts New Clinical Trials Program
Winston-Salem is adding three healthcare diagnostics companies and a new clinical trials program to its growing regenerative medicine community, marketed as the RegenMed Hub.
Tokyo-based PHC Group, a diversified diagnostics, life sciences and medical device conglomerate formerly known as Panasonic Health Care, will have a presence in the city along with two related companies, Epredia and Aiforia Technologies, specializing in advanced pathology tools.
The companies will move into space in the RegeneratOR Innovation Accelerator, a technology incubator in the city’s Innovation Quarter district that provides access to biomanufacturing equipment, industry expertise and talent to support novel prototyping and commercial product development in regenerative medicine.
Their research will be aimed at improving anatomical pathology through digital microscopy imaging, artificial intelligence and other technologies that can give researchers and clinicians more information about disease states than can be seen by the naked eye looking at specimen slides.
Epredia, a precision cancer diagnostics company owned by PHC, provides instruments, microscope slides, dyeing reagents and other tools that aid specimen collection and analysis. The company was established through the acquisition of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s anatomical pathology business by PHC Holdings in 2019.
“As a global leader in anatomical pathology, Epredia is committed to providing precision health care tools and information, and expanding our presence in the ecosystem of the RegenMed Hub just makes sense,” said Steven Lynum, president of Epredia. “We are excited to grow our partnership to more directly engage with leading scientists and innovators, to potentially speed up clinical translation endeavors and have a greater impact on health.”
Aiforia, based in Helsinki, equips pathologists and scientists in preclinical and clinical labs with artificial intelligence software for translating images into discoveries, decisions and diagnoses. In 2021 Aiforia completed a €17.5 million Series B funding round that was led by Epredia's United Kingdom entity.
The addition of PHC, Epredia and Aiforia was announced by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and the Regenerative Medicine Development Organization (ReMDO) at a Jan. 18 event at WFIRM’s headquarters in the Innovation Quarter. The two nonprofit organizations are main drivers of Winston-Salem’s RegenMed Hub, an ecosystem of collaborating companies and institutions.
“There’s no better example of industry-academic collaboration than the relationship between WFIRM, ReMDO and the PHC Group,” said Gary Green, Ed.D., chief operating officer of ReMDO, noting that PHC Group has been part of ReMDO’s programs since their beginning. “Today we take the next step in that relationship to bring it to a new level.”
New ‘Clinical Trials Catalyst’
WFIRM and ReMDO also announced the creation of a new program, the RegenMed Clinical Trials Catalyst.
“The Catalyst will enable research teams and regenerative medicine companies with potential therapies to conduct FDA human clinical trials,” Green said.
The program will also help diagnostics companies such as PHC, Epredia and Aiforia test and commercialize new technologies for assessing cancer and other diseases.
“In pathology we’re undergoing a digital transformation right now, and everybody is trying to figure out how to position themselves,” said Eric Hsi, M.D., chair of the pathology department at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “This kind of partnership in clinical trials allows us to get into this space quickly, gain experience and quickly bring these new innovations to our patients.”
As part of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine -- the academic core of the newly merged Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health systems -- the Catalyst will have access to 5.5 million patients at 67 hospitals in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
“That gives us an unprecedented outreach to patients who can actually benefit from clinical trials and technologies,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM.
Javara, a Winston-Salem company that integrates clinical research and clinical care, will also be involved in the Catalyst. Javara connects patients with clinical trials as part of their routine healthcare experience, expanding access to treatment options that otherwise would have been unavailable.
“It is exciting to see how clinical research as a care option might further accelerate innovation and promising regenerative medicine therapies,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Piedmont Triad Office. “The RegenMed Hub is successfully bringing together academia and industry to further advance the promise of positive patient outcomes through innovative clinical care approaches and technologies.”