Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells (HSCs) to Create Outcomes Improving Therapies with Christopher Kennedy, President at Elixell Therapeutics
Episode 495

Christopher Kennedy, President at Elixell Therapeutics

Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells (HSCs) to Create Outcomes Improving Therapies

Going further to advance stem cell sciences

Want to start your own podcast?

Do you want to record a podcast but just don't know how or don't have the time to manage it? Learn more about our turnkey podcasting solution.

Learn Now

Get The Latest In Your Inbox

SUBSCRIBE

Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells (HSCs) to Create Outcomes Improving Therapies with Christopher Kennedy, President at Elixell Therapeutics

Episode 495

Recommended Book:

As a Man Thinketh

Best Way to Contact Chris:

LinkedIn

Company Website:

Elixell

Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells (HSCs) to Create Outcomes Improving Therapies with Christopher Kennedy, President at Elixell Therapeutics transcript powered by Sonix—the best automated transcription service in 2020. Easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells (HSCs) to Create Outcomes Improving Therapies with Christopher Kennedy, President at Elixell Therapeutics was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket Podcast, where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the podcast. Saul Marquez’s here, and today I have the privilege of hosting Christopher Kennedy. He currently serves as the president of Elixell Therapeutics based in Kansas City. He’s recognized for his entrepreneurial efforts in pioneering innovative health solutions. Christopher has spent the last two decades in leadership roles within the biomedical biotechnology, med device, healthcare provider and specialty pharmacy sectors. He actively serves on multiple industry advisory boards and leadership councils, including the Missouri Biotechnology Association, URAC, NASP and the Kauffman Foundation Skilled KC Initiative. Most recently, Christopher was presented with the 2018 American Telemedicine Association President’s Award for Innovation for his efforts in developing a virtual care solution for the rare disease patients. He was also invited to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology “Hacking Medicine” Competition, where his new healthcare design was selected as an award winner by venture investment experts. Excited to dive into a conversation with Christopher on Pharmaceuticals. Where we going with them and opportunities within the space to do things differently. So with that introduction, I want to welcome Christopher. And Chris, if he can say hi and fill in many of the blanks of the intro that maybe I may have missed that you want to educate the listeners about.

Christopher Kennedy:
Great. Well, thank you for hosting this morning and I look forward to a really good discussion. Yes. So exciting time for us here in Kansas City, as you mentioned. Our office is actually at the Bioscience and Technology Center that’s housed on Kansas University Medical Center campus here in Kansas City, Kansas. So this area is essentially set up perfectly for a collaborative organization like ourselves. We’re really trying to pull in best in class researchers, best in class practices when it comes to the laboratories themselves, the clinical working etc. And so we feel like we’re kind of in a hub here in Kansas City, even though sometimes we don’t think of the Midwest of being a hub of innovation. Things are changing here in Kansas City. So I’m excited to represent the Elixell Therapeutics specifically, but then the greater community as well.

Saul Marquez:
Well, I think it’s awesome. And Christopher, the work that is happening outside of those traditionally thought of focal centers like San Francisco or Boston, where a lot of the efforts seem to be happening, there’s more happening in the fly over states and being in Chicago, a lot happening here that maybe doesn’t always hit the radar. So I’m glad you’re plugging in the word for your neck of the woods in KC. So what exactly inspires your work in health care?

Christopher Kennedy:
Yeah. So and just before we move on to that question, Saul, just to kind of highlight what you just mentioned there. Interest me enough, we have 13 patents and our IP actually comes from the Stowers Institute, which is based here in Kansas City. And before I moved to the area, I also was not as aware of all of the great technologies that have come out of this particular geography. But the Stowers Institute for listeners that aren’t familiar with it, is a global research institute. It’s a six hundred thousand square foot facility here in Kansas City. And this is one of the first license out license technologies that has come out of there that Elixell Therapeutics has the privilege of working on. But yet to your point as well, I mean, I grew up in the Chicago area. Also another great hub of innovation. And ironically, on this project that I’m working with, there’s actually a Chicago footprint as well as a Kansas City footprint. So, yeah, more than ever, my wave in the Midwest flag. So.

Saul Marquez:
Love it represents a…

Christopher Kennedy:
To your question about what inspires health care, I find it interesting when I think of your title. So Outcomes Rocket. My career has been really focused on patient outcomes and I love the term. I know that it’s probably becoming more and more used, potentially overused in some regards. Now in the health care circle. But I love it because it really aligns with the scoreboard Right. like a performance scoreboard. Where are we at and where are we going? And Elixell Therapeutics was constructed on the premise of we can go further when it comes to stem cells, particularly the advanced stem cell sciences. And when I say stem cells, from our perspective, I’m talking about Hematopoietic stem cells with adult stem cells versus the embryonic stem cells that are in the media today. And so HSCs are the focus for us because there is so much potential around the therapeutic side of what can be in the future in a lot of our umbilical cord banks throughout not just the US but worldwide. And so outcomes are clearly our focus here as well as we feel that we can utilize new technologies to really impact the patient at the bedside here in the near future.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s a that’s interesting. And appreciate that differentiation there. Christopher, what would you say the business is doing specifically to add value to the healthcare ecosystem? Help us dive in deeper and understand what the value properties.

Christopher Kennedy:
Yeah. And I think this is a benefit to launching a company in 2020, to be frank right, that we’ve been able to capitalize and maximize the opportunities that exist now. And you mentioned earlier in the intro. Some of the work that I’d done, the telemedicine virtual care space and never is that more important in today’s, I think, clinical time, but also when it comes to clinical research. So we’re a global organization and we have ties to Asia, Europe and then of course, here in the US. But our researchers are really in a full term of collaborative research together. And so we’ve cut down, I think, a lot of the timeline that traditionally this taken to get all the parties set up and ready to go when it come up, you know, for clinical work, for example, or just on a project in general and working with academic institutions, large research institutions like the University of Chicago or Kansas, University of Kansas, and being able to transition IP out and then get the research up and running is really been something that we focused on early on and successfully. I feel that we are implementing that. And the proof point of that, right, the outcome of what they just mentioned would be our scientific advisory board. So traditionally in my experience, the scientific advisory board for big pharma, small farm, a biotech, med device and all those spaces is very critical in the direction organization takes. But just on our scientific advisory board, we’ve got six globally world renowned research academic type individuals who I think in years past without the, you know, the advent of some of our current technologies, we have taken a lot longer to get together and working on the same project. So institutions like Penn, Yale, we have University Chicago, University of Indiana, researchers from University of Kansas as I mentioned earlier, Stowers Institute, all sitting on our advisory board. And it allows for us to cut down the time it takes potentially to have a novel concept or an idea and then test it out in the laboratory to actually tested in our early clinical phase to see if it’s viable or not. And then to get feedback from a global perspective from the SAB, the scientific advisory board has been instrumental so that right now we know the two paths to run have the best chance to reach their outcome at the end for patients.

Saul Marquez:
So if you think about what makes what you and the company does different and better than what’s available today, what is it?

Christopher Kennedy:
So let’s talk about the technology. I think that happens to that aspect of this HSC stem cell topic is big. And there’s essentially what I feel is some sort of a race going on for getting a technology into the marketplace that allows us to really recognize all of the stem cell opportunities within a umbilical cords themselves, right.. So just as as a layman that I was entering into this project, really understanding of the DNA, MRNA, aspect of of how life is working and uncovering the researches that we have the privilege to interact with on our team published a really important and I would definitely classify this as a breakthrough paper. And this was specific to in-cell research the suppression of M6A reader, which is the

YTHDF2 that we’re focused on under these this category of an M6A reader and a M6A reader modulates is essentially an extreme expression of group of MRNA’s, right.. So when we talk about DNA in the communication channels within cells, there’s a communication that happens that really is specific to stem cell fate determination. And what we’ve done is uncovered that with YTHDF2 Professor Lynn Hingley and Schwann, he both uncovered the fact that when you knock out YTHDF2 all of the sudden we start to see a really successful stem cell expansion. So one becomes two to become a three and so on and so forth. And this stem cell expansion allows us to take potential umbilical cord banks that are out there today and really go head into the challenge of having limited cells that are available on these banks. So you’ve all of all these blood cord banks that are out there. But the issue is both uncovering the actual cells themselves. So how many cells are stored, right, within the blood cord and then getting them so that we can have more of them essentially. And what we’re learning now of what’s going on in our lab is how do we use this YTHDF2 knock out or blocking mechanism to then help those cells that we already have in a bank expand and they’d be more therapeutically viable for diseases. Let’s talk about oncology, for example, where one of our first pipeline products is currently underway. Also from an orthopedic application. When you think about cartilage regeneration so stem cells and set them themselves, allow us to have the potential to really impact in a really large number of different disease states. And I think we’re just on the cutting edge of being able to recognize how powerful discoveries like this can be. And that’s our big differentiation, Saul, as you know, at my stage, being a part of an early stage biotech, we peeve it off so where we’re starting right now, we’ve already moved a few places to the left, to the right to get you out early clinical work. But that’s our differentiation. Today is definitely the publication that kind of expresses what we’re doing under YTHDF2.

Saul Marquez:
Interesting. And so appreciate your honing in on that. YTHDF2. And it’s basically this isn’t my specialty, but it’s a protein, right, that basically encodes a gene and potentially is responsible for some of the diseases we’re seeing like cancer.

Christopher Kennedy:
Well, so what what what we know is the setback for stem cell therapies today is it’s hard to get the volume of a number of cells in in to the correct location to potentially do their job. And because of that, the limitation that it’s almost a self limitation of pure numbers. The race is on to find out, well, how do we unlock the potential for those cells that we currently have bank to become more. And so when you block YTHDF2, their allows it, particularly in the actual article that was published by Lynn Hingley and Schwann He that led to more than a tenfold increase in the expansion. So you’re looking and then when you look at measure..

Saul Marquez:
It’s inhibited?

Christopher Kennedy:
No…

Saul Marquez:
No.

Christopher Kennedy:
It is a from a scientific terminology standpoint, it’s an M6A reader, but there’s a modulation aspect of that, right? Because these MRNAs, when you essentially modify or work with the actual MRNA reader, then the results can happen like we’re seeing in this clinical work. Now we still have more, more work to do on this front, right? And so that’s where our research is currently going on and the human element of things. But in the animal models, it’s really impressive. And so where we sit today versus where we’ll set even 12, 18 months from now is exciting. And every day we’re looking at trends, right.. And so I feel like, you know, again, back to our term of outcomes. That’s the common language between laymen like ourselves that aren’t biochemist Right. or molecular biologist. And for us to hang in conversations with our backgrounds on more the business side of health care, what we all can agree upon is what are the outcomes that we’re looking for in the clinical work in what our objectives are overall. And so we’ve done that, I think, successfully here, at Elixell in the early stages to kind of keep us on track. And also, we’ve been very, very fortunate to sit on University of Kansas Medical Center’s campus where we are working with it’s called I Am U If You’re Here Locally. But the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation at k._u and this group is essentially a gold standard for what we’ve been talking about on this call so, so far. And that is taking best in class practices and taking a true collaborative approach to getting something that was discovered in a laboratory, getting it through clinical trial work, and then really getting it out to patient bedside where it’s driving these outcomes. So I think that’s been refreshing for me to see, not just like the theory of how do you launch a biotech company, but then to actually be in a place where these resources are already set up and it’s really helping our trajectory.

Saul Marquez:
What’s one of the biggest setbacks you’ve experienced? Christopher and it’s a key learning out of it?

Christopher Kennedy:
Sure. A specific deal accelerates. Let me just take this one from her from an overall perspective.

Saul Marquez:
Your call, I mean, Elixell, you guys are early on. So maybe a broader perspective would be interesting.

Christopher Kennedy:
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too, Saul. So, you know, I think wherever I have been within healthcare, there is that opportunity to really, I guess, champion something that well worth doing. But you know, you’re going to face some obstacles in doing, right. So change is difficult in health. I know you’ve experienced this yourself from our previous conversations, but change often times can lead to a tremendous impact for patients. And I think one of the things that I have seen consistently, whether I’m on in the biotech space, I’m in the health care provider space, it’s taking these new and great technologies that are out there that have this what looks like a clear potential to really improve things, but then actually implementing them Right.. So it’s like the old strategy vs. tactics issue. And I feel like in health care many times we are still struggling to get from the strategy or the whiteboard into actually actually implementing. And I saw that in the virtual care space, which you mentioned earlier, and I’ve seen it here in the clinical space as well. And that is here’s an idea. What are the steps that actually get us to try it on, see if it works before we scratch it or before we approve it? And on the entrepreneurial space, we would call that the minimally viable product. We would call it some for a pilot. I definitely gone through a number of times in which we were so slow to actually implement the basic element or a pilot, for example, that we either A, didn’t pursue because it led to a big breakthrough or we did go into the pilot, but we didn’t put all the resources in place to actually make that pilot successful. So one of my commitments I’ve made is really following what I learned with the American Telemed Association break through when around virtual care for rare disease patients is even though, let’s say a big word like reimbursement isn’t setup today doesn’t mean that it won’t be there tomorrow. And some of the great virtual care leaders, we’re seeing this charge happen right as we’ve seen a couple of significant mergers lately. And reimbursement as a key driver in health care for me has always been the thing that kind of delays true breakthrough and innovative technology. So I think that to answer your question a little more succinctly, that you have to be able to strategically find your vision, that you think can implement, right to actually make it become that that mission, and then you have to measure it. But you also really have to take a little bit of risk. And we can’t be so risk averse in health care because we’re focused on what the reimbursement model might be. And I mean, those stakes are very high right that the Elixell Therapeutics, because you’re talking about early investment dollars and we’re very cognizant of that. And so I think from my global perspective of health care, it is you have to be able to take a calculated risk, but you have to mitigate those risks by surrounding yourself with the right collaborative partners. And that’s what we have successfully done so far, I think in licensing technology, out of the Stowers Institute, the University of Chicago, partnering with the University of Kansas and Miami and then connecting, like I mentioned earlier, with the scientific advisory board, who has that clear vision, who helps us formulate our mission and who isn’t afraid to take some risk and fall down. And I think that’s more of a kind of a broad but also distinct answer to your question. I think it’s applicable probably to a lot of listeners.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and I appreciate that. And reimbursement is a challenge. And that’s the reimbursement plan is not in place. It could definitely be an obstacle. And telemedicine’s a great example of that. And things are evolving and it won’t always stay the same. And the timing is critical. Couldn’t agree with you more. Christopher, what would you say you’re most excited about today?

Christopher Kennedy:
Yeah, hopefully my passion is coming through on this podcast regarding the pioneering breakthrough element of what I get to be a part of. And I’m very fortunate and blessed to even be in this opportunity. I definitely didn’t think even twelve months ago that I would get to work so closely with global scientific leaders like this. And so it’s amazing when you’re with individuals that from my perspective, thinking an entirely different level that I have to just sprint and run to catch up with. As you and I tried to talk through M6A readers, for example, and demand a technology to be around. People like that is so inspiring and it really is uplifting knowing that we are just from their perspective, just starting to uncover a lot of the potential that exists when it comes to hematopoietic stem cells. But then the overall category of science, right.. So as much as sometimes in the news, in the media and social media, it seems like we’ve almost uncovered everything. Some days from my feeds anyway, when you’re in these cutting edge facilities to learn that we’re really just starting to understand a lot of life itself. It’s amazing. So I’m most excited to continue to be around of folks in this atmosphere and this inspiring environment. And then I’m really excited about championing the Midwest, as you mentioned, as a true destination and to build off of what institutions like the Stories Institute have done to say, listen, there is great science on the coasts, but here in the Midwest is the great opportunity to invest in what I think is a true collaborative advantage where we’re able to pull folks not just physically, but also virtually in and really compete towards outcomes, whether it’s financial outcomes, patient outcomes or just mission oriented outcomes. We feel that we can compete here. And I think that there’s something to be said to be a part of that as it continues to grow across the Midwest here.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it’s exciting the power of stem cells to create therapies for various diseases and disorders. It’s the beginning. And so the work being done at Elixell Therapeutics is certainly inspiring. And there’s a ton of diseases and disorders out there that could benefit from having this this focus. So what are you reading out there, Christopher? And anything that’s inspiring your work on the business side of things?

Christopher Kennedy:
Yes. So the market is definitely watching, right.. And I’m also fortunate enough that the chairman of our board here at Elixell and the co-founder, Frederick Jiang, spent his entire career in the actual investment world and managing a very successful fund manager and understands those complexities. So when we talk about the scientific side of things, I think I’ve definitely highlighted the fact that we’ve assembled this really dynamic team around the science piece on the investment side and then also just the financial performance side. I’ve probably learned just as much on that front working with someone that has been looking with the lens from the outside for so long, so we are in a space here, specifically on the business front where when and this is the perfect marriage Right. that when you win the race for improving patient outcomes, the business reward will follow. And I have definitely identified that for my personal career as a place that I love to be. So when you can be competitive clinically and you’re running towards a mission that helps the patient and we all can relate to that patient experience, right. because we’re all patients. And when you when you get into a scenario where you’re competing for a better patient outcome and the financial rewards follow that, then for me personally, there’s nothing more rewarding. It’s very hard to get out of health care. As you know Saul, right, In particular roles that you’ve had as well. Hard to leave something like that when it’s such a great marriage between those incentives. But what we see there in the competitive space, we’re one of a few that are working towards a similar mission. That being said, our mechanism, if you will, and what I’ve highlighted here regarding our scientific discovery and our 13 patents is unique and novel. So as we pursue this, we will see if we become one of the people at the top of the charts, which we’re very confident that we will be. But there’s definitely an eye in this space. And you’ve seen this as well. But from a reading perspective, or most of my reading has been is really in this. What is the market looked like in the blood court banks? Right. So there was over. And if you look at the numbers, they vary from journal to journal, but hundreds of thousands of umbilical cord units that are stored in a 160 public banks in 36 different countries, Right. flats, an overall number that’s utilized no matter which journal you go to. So if you think about seven hundred thousand units of anything and the ability to start to maximize and actually use those units, that to me seems like a legacy. So we’ve been storing umbilical cord units for years, but we truly haven’t been able to therapeutically use them all the places that can benefit. And I think you’re going to see companies like either cell therapeutics in a number of others continue to really open our eyes to what can be done with that potentiation there.

Saul Marquez:
Their dad not appreciate that. What book would you recommend to the listeners?

Christopher Kennedy:
Oh, man, that’s a layup for me. So those that that I have already spent time with or any of the listeners that have met with me have probably heard me talk about James Allen. Are you familiar with James Allen. I am not. So in 1902 I wish I’ve done the research. He died at a young age. Brown 1902 – 1908. He wrote a book called As a Man Thinketh and it is hands down. It’s my quarterly go to read. So whenever I get the opportunity to champion the book, I always do. And it’s a book that takes about 70 minutes to read all the way through. But it was written back then and it’s so appropriate today for men and women. It should be it could be rebranded very easily, retitled As a man or woman thinketh. And it really talks about how we as humans, our experience and how really to maximize ourselves in a lot of these big missions that we’re on. And whether you’re in health care or any other industry, right., we all know that we’re working towards a specific legacy. This book is as a great reflection point to sit back and say, wow, how do I really self-actualize and become the best version of myself that will ultimately lead to the best version of science in this case or the best version in business and the best outcomes right for Outcomes Rocket. And so so I’ll send you a copy as well. I actually have a book right here that I’m getting ready to send out to another colleague, but that book would be a gift for anyone. So my favorite quote from there is essentially no, it’s I’m not perfect on my quote, but the fact that circumstances don’t define the man, they reveal him to himself. So ponder that one if you’re a listener and you as well, Saul, that one’s a pain point from you. So it’s not you know, we find ourselves in these circumstances for you and I today we’re on this podcast and then after this we’ll go into our workday and a lot of things will come our way. We’ll be in different scenarios of circumstances. And to really use those moments to reflect back on to evaluate how we handled them and then to measure them and to truly do it, clinicians do to unbiasedly look at the outcome and say, how could I have done better? So anyway, that’s my gift for the audience and hopefully for you as well.

Saul Marquez:
Great recommendation, Christopher. And as we wrap this one up. What closing thoughts would you give to us? And and what’s the best place for this series to get in touch if they want to learn more?

Christopher Kennedy:
Yeah. First of all, thanks so much to somebody like yourself from a entrepreneurial standpoint, also from a trailblazing standpoint, to go and create a podcast, focus on outcomes in different ways to get to these different things that we’re measuring, I think, and having a chance to really get to know you and also the entire podcast series. I mean, what a dynamic group of listening opportunities for us to have. So you’re on my on my iPod when I’m rowing in the morning, though, that’s all. And thanks for your efforts there. So that’s part of my closing thoughts. But I will tell you that we’re more than open to collaborations, and so we’re not using that term from a marketing standpoint, but truly to bring together some of the best and the brightest in on our website – elixelltherapeutics.com So or just elixell.com as well. So ELIXELL.com there’s an area to connect with us and we’re more than more than willing to meet with whoever might be interested to learn more about what we’re doing. And you just never know where some partnerships and future collaborations can go. But again, I thank you for the opportunity to really explore what we’re doing. And I really like your format. Also, keep doing what you’re doing out there.

Saul Marquez:
Hey, thanks so much, Christopher. It’s definitely exciting to hear about the progress in stem cell research and what that could mean for all of us. As far as outcomes. So I want to thank you again for your insights and the time here today. Thanks.

Christopher Kennedy:
Cheers.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration and so much more.

Quickly and accurately convert audio to text with Sonix.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Thousands of researchers and podcasters use Sonix to automatically transcribe their audio files (*.mp3). Easily convert your mp3 file to text or docx to make your media content more accessible to listeners.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2020—it’s fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your mp3 to text, try Sonix today.