During his stint as a researcher at a pharmaceutical company for about 20 years, Kazuo Miyazaki had worked on new drugs for many years using stem cell technologies, but his eureka moment came in 2013. He was posted in India to work on infectious diseases. “Many of my colleagues also contracted infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, which made me realize the magnitude of the problem and the need for new solutions,” recalls Miyazaki. At that time, the idea of using cutting-edge technologies, such as regenerative medicine, clicked in his mind. This was the thought that ultimately led to the foundation of MiCAN Technologies Inc. in 2016, to contribute to the health of people everywhere, by providing blood cells for research using regenerative medicine technology.
Today, MiCAN Technologies Inc. has developed three products: cells for young red blood cells for malaria research, immature dendritic cells for virus research, and immature dendritic cells modified for new coronavirus research. All blood cell products are young and immature cells, and the production technologies around it have been developed at universities and applied to commercialization. “A lot of blood is produced in our body every day. Therefore, there are many young and immature blood cells in the body. Some external enemies (such as viruses) feed on these cells. However, while mature cells can be obtained from blood donations, it is difficult to obtain immature cells. Therefore, we provide such blood cells for research,” says Miyazaki, the CEO at MiCAN Technologies Inc.
The company has been able to provide such specialized cells in large quantities and in a consistent manner. “Today, there is no company in the world that develops and provides immature blood cells, other than us,” states Kazuhisa Fushihara, CFO/COO, MiCAN Technologies Inc.
Today, there is no Company in the world that is developing and providing immature blood cells other than us
“However there are three issues we face.” First, even though blood cells are easy to obtain from donated blood, it is difficult to sustain the quantity required for business. Secondly, the way MiCAN Technologies Inc. makes blood cells is unique and difficult to imitate. The third reason is that the market for infectious diseases is considered to be small.
MiCAN Technologies Inc. believes that after 2020, evaluating the quality of antibodies will be an important part of our world. This is because seasonal viruses such as influenza are easy to detect, while new coronaviruses, which cause infections all year round, are continuously emerging. “To this end, we have created blood cells from induced pluripotent stem cells,” mentions Yoshiko Abe, the Head of BD at MiCAN Technologies Inc. The cells they have developed, especially Mylc cells, are immature dendritic cells, one of the immune cells that can be used to measure the quality of antibodies. However, until now, dendritic cells have been scarce in the blood, and the production has required a large amount of money. Using
regenerative medicine technology, MiCAN is able to generate blood cells in large quantities and in a stable manner and thus develop the world’s first test kit to measure the quality of antibodies.
“We have been developing artificial blood cells since 2015 with a focus on infectious diseases,” informs Jun Shimizu, Head of R&D, MiCAN Technologies Inc. As a result, the company has succeeded in developing the world’s first blood cell for research on SARS-CoV-2 last fall and has been providing them to experts at universities and other institutions. “We believe that our evaluation kit to check the quality of antibodies is also a technology and product that only we can provide,” Shimizu concludes.