“What if you start collaborating with nature instead of trying to harness it?” That is the question asked by Dr. Nina Tandon, co-founder of EpiBone. A New York based startup, EpiBone grows bone literally from your own cells.
"I’ve always been interested in the intersection of academia and industry...", says Tandon. After receiving a PhD From Columbia, Tandon returned to school to get an MBA. "When I applied for my MBA, people were like, “What are you doing?” On the application I wrote, “I want to transform myself from a biotechnologist to a biotech leader.”
Started in 2011, EpiBone aims to aide over 900,000 surgeries per year. After a round of investing, EpiBone was able to gain 66 interested investors including Peter Thiel. "I didn’t tell investors they would get a return. I said, “If you’re interested in WhatsApp, walk away. We’re slow and steady, we’re science nerds, and we are aiming to help humanity.”
Tandon began building human tissues while in her graduate studies at Columbia. She focused her PhD work on the heart, and was able to use stem cells to grow heart tissue in rats. Her colleague and future co-founder, was doing similar work with bone. After blood, bone is the most transplanted tissue. Since transplant surgeries are still carry concerns of disease and rejection, there was room to make a huge impact.
Their hard work is paying off. EpiBone has already grown a jawbone in a pig and is now starting to replace cheekbones. Next up would will be clinical trials in human patients. Tandon calls this Biology as Design. "Biology is becoming a design element, and we’re part of that trend..." she says. As a scientist, Tandon loves the idea of using our own biology to solve medical problems. Watch out world, there are science nerds here and they are aiming to help humanity.