Mayo Clinic and GE Ventures are launching a new company near San Francisco to sell software and manufacturing services to firms developing cell and gene therapies.

Pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and health care providers are among the potential customers for Vitruvian Networks Inc., company officials said during interviews on Monday.

Details about specific products and customers will be released in the coming year, said Rowan Chapman, leader of the health care investment practice at GE Ventures, which is a subsidiary of Connecticut-based General Electric. Neither GE nor the Rochester-based clinic released financial terms.

“You have a few large players … who are just about to launch cell therapy products. And then you have more than 500 different cell therapies in clinical studies,” Chapman said. With much of the clinical studies work still recorded on paper, “there’s a massive opportunity for digitization of that.”

Mayo Clinic is the largest private employer in Minnesota. Last year, the system posted $526 million in income on $10.3 billion in revenue across operations that span six states.

Regenerative medicine, which focuses on functional restoration of damaged tissue, is a growth area for Mayo Clinic.

Vitruvian Networks will focus on cell therapies, the aspect of regenerative medicine where doctors extract cells from a patient and put them through a laboratory process to enhance their illness-fighting capabilities, said Dr. Andre Terzic, director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine. The cells then are returned to patients.

An early example of a commercialized cell therapy came in 2010 with the launch of a “cancer vaccine” by Seattle-based Dendreon Corp. Called Provenge, the treatment made headlines not only for the science behind it, but also its initial price tag of $93,000 for the one-time treatment.

The field of cell therapy is moving beyond a proof-of-concept phase, Terzic said, to one where potential treatments must be scalable.

“In order to scale it up, we need very robust processes in place — very robust platforms,” he said. “This particular company is developing that unmet need in essentially industrializing this knowledge into capabilities that then will be available to patients much more broadly.”

Chapman of GE Ventures described the service provided by the new company as “the plumbing of cell therapies,” where inventors have intellectual property around a potential therapy.

“They can have the house however they’d like to have it designed, and they have the intellectual property around that,” she said. “We’re the plumbing. We’re just doing consistent, smart plumbing. It’s not sexy, but it’s essential.”

The new company opened its doors Monday, Chapman said, with seven employees and plans to hire more.


Christopher Snowbeck 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck