Biopreservation company with BME ties wins high-profile startup competition

October 9, 2020—University of Minnesota start-up BlueCube Bio came out on top of the MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the U.S.

The emerging company pioneered a new solution for preserving biological cells used for cell therapy—a method that treats diseases such as leukemia and melanoma. The team created the first-ever safe, non-toxic means for preserving therapeutic cells by mimicking the way trees survive Minnesota winters.

Cryopreserved samples being pulled out of cryogenic storage

A better way to preserve therapeutic cells

Their method confronts current cell preservation challenges head on, as Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) graduate faculty member and BlueCube Bio founder Prof. Allison Hubel described in a Star Tribune article about the start-up’s big win. 

She says currently most manufacturers preserve cells using a toxic compound that can cause adverse side effects for patients. On top of that, many cells often don’t survive the process. Prof. Hubel adds:

“These problems are so significant that about half of cell therapy companies don’t preserve the cells at all. They give the cells to patients fresh. That means they can only treat a limited number of patients. It becomes hard to scale the therapy and reach as many patients who need it. It’s something that really limits growth of the field.”

BlueCube Bio’s innovation could revolutionize the cell preservation industry and create a better experience for patients, BME PhD students Rui Li and Katie Hornberger explain. 

Li, Hornberger, and Hubel are part of the start-up’s all-female founding team along with CEO Karen Dodson.

BlueCube bio founding team
BlueCube Bio's founding team (L to R): Karen Dodson, Katie Hornberger, Allison Hubel, and Rui Li.