Southland startup competitor Vault Stem Cell wants to fight cancer with technology
I want to make one thing clear before we begin: Vault Stem Cell has nothing to do with fetuses. The company, which serves as a platform through which consumers can store their stem cells with various “cell banks” around the United States, gets those cells from someone’s teeth or fat cells. (Stem cells can also be gathered from blood cells, bone marrow, and umbilical cords.)
The company was founded after Adam Houtman, its chief executive, asked someone how he might be able to protect his children from debilitative disorders like cancer, to which he had recently lost his aunt. Their answer -- with some major caveats about experimental treatments and regulatory issues -- was that stem cells could have been used as a potential treatment. So he founded Vault Stem Cell, started making partnerships with cell banks and doctors, and is now trying to convince everyone that they should be storing theirs and their children's cells.
Vault Stem Cell is the quintessential middleman. It doesn't store the stem cells on its own, it hands them off to established banks around the country. It doesn't yank anyone's teeth out to get stem cells from their dental tissue, it partners with dentists to receive teeth that would've otherwise been tossed out as medical waste. It's focusing on stem cells, but really it's the same as other platforms handling the transfer of goods and trusting other groups with everything else.
That might actually work in the company's favor. My initial concern, when I first interviewed an early investor with the company, was that if Vault Stem Cell was handling everything itself it might end up mishandling or misplacing someone's stem cells. Trusting a startup with the connections between doctors and cell banks is one thing; trusting them with cells being stored to (maybe, eventually) treat life-threatening disorders is a far more terrifying thing entirely.
The company is currently seeking funding to expand its platform and hire more salespeople to evangelize the advantages of gathering and storing stem cells. It also pulled the biggest stunt of the Southland startup competition by offering to store the stem cells of every attendee and their families at cost, effectively turning its pitch into a guilt trip for everyone in the room. (What do you mean you aren't going to try to make sure your kids don't die of cancer?)
[image via Vault Stem Cell]