Now Fully Financed, Okyanos Is Poised To Start Mending Broken Hearts

By Ray Xerri

Jul 03, 2014 10:18 AM EDT

Following its $8.9 million Series B capital raise in March, Okyanos Heart Institute is rapidly approaching the day when it will be able to treat the first heart patient using autologous adipose derived regenerative cells (ADRCs) in the Bahamas. Adipose, or fat, is the richest source of regenerative cells in the body and the term "autologous" simply means that the cells are derived from the same patient undergoing the cell therapy treatment.

Okyanos, founded in 2011, is offering cell therapies based upon the technology of San Diego based Cytori Therapeutics. Cytori has a CE Mark in the EU for its Celution technology, including Intravase, a sterile, GMP-grade secondary reagent used with the Celution System to prepare the Celution cell output for safe intravascular delivery. The same technology is being used in Cytori's Phase II clinical trials for heart disease but is otherwise unavailable to patients in the U.S., if and until FDA approval is achieved. Thus, the opportunity to serve patients with few other options in the nearby Bahamas became an opportunity for Okyanos and its backers.

According to Matt Feshbach, Okyanos CEO and co-founder: "Okyanos has a very innovative business model in that it is bringing internationally-approved - but not FDA approved stem cell technology, developed by Cytori Therapuetics of San Diego, to patients in a near-shore, regulated jurisdiction, the Bahamas. It is in essence, regulatory arbitrage, which allows patients to gain access to scientifically validated stem cell therapy 5 - 7 years prior to approval in the U.S. For Okyanos and its investors, this affords the Company a significant first-to-market advantage in terms of not only marketing but patient data on outcomes that will be kept in the Okyanos Registry and published to support further progress in the science."

The Okyanos medical team is lead by Howard Walpole, MD, who serves as the interventional cardiologist and chief medical officer at Okyanos Heart Institute. Dr. Walpole is a prominent U.S. educated cardiologist. Recently, Okyanos recently hired Dr. Todd Malan as Chief Cell Therapy Officer and General Surgeon at Okyanos Heart Institute, overseeing the liposuction and stem cell isolation step of the Okyanos cardiac cell therapy process. A pioneer of fat-derived stem cell therapies, Dr. Malan became the first physician in the US to utilize stem cells from fat for soft tissue reconstruction in October, 2009, combining water-assisted liposuction, fat transfer and adult stem cell technologies.

Passion Group founder, Ali Shawkat, led the latest round of financing and is described by Okyanos as visionary entrepreneur-investor with success in a diverse set of industries including cellular services, telecom, media and healthcare. This funding brings Okyanos' total funding over $14 million.

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