Member Spotlight: Ronawk

Ronawk is a biotech spinout company from the University of Kansas Medical Center and is interested in looking at problems from different perspectives and turning current paradigms on their head. Ronawk’s goal is to change how researchers view and approach regenerative medicine regarding stem cell behavior.

Ronawk is a biotech spinout company from the University of Kansas Medical Center, and was founded by Dr. A.J. Mellott and Heather Decker using the stem cell expansion technology that was invented by Dr. Mellott. The stem cell expansion technology that Ronawk refers to as “Tissue Blocks” (T-Blocks) are modular interlocking scaffolds that permit primary mesenchymal stem cells to rapidly grow in 3D while maintaining the MSC phenotype. Ronawk is interested in looking at problems from different perspectives and turning current paradigms on their head. Ronawk’s goal is to change how researchers view and approach regenerative medicine in regard to stem cell behavior.

 “We are driven by the desire to better learn how human cells behave in dynamic environments when injury occurs,” said Dr. Mellott, “and how to help stem cells repair and regenerate the surrounding injured environment. My personal interest in regenerative medicine comes from wanting to develop technologies to help aid and heal our service members that risk their lives for our freedom.”

 The advantage of the T-Blocks system is that it eliminates the need for sub-culturing, and is compatible with most cell culturing reagents and vessels. The company offers Regenerative Medicine a new economical way to rapidly grow patient stem cells for personalized regenerative medicine applications without the use of an expensive bioreactor, or need for substantial resources. T-Blocks reduce cell culture labor by 85%, and utilize only 1% of the resources of traditional cell culture.

 In addition to sharing their cell culture technology, Ronawk staff bring over 20 years research experience. Dr. Mellott specializes in tissue engineering with an emphasis on extracellular matrix manipulation and stem cell behavior while Ms. Decker brings a wealth of microscopy and sample characterization experience sought after by multiple companies. Ronawk is also supporter and sponsor of the Midwest Regional 3D Technology Society which hosts an annual meeting that is a great opportunity for ARMI members to present and to make valuable connections in the Midwest.

 Dr. Mellott believes there will be more technologies developed around personalized medicine, which includes procurement and expansion of individual patient cells for custom therapies. “We see the integration of biosensors into micro-environments for monitoring tissue health and injury, as well as the efficient and routine collection of patient “omics” data,” Mellott said.

 However, he sees investment and innovation as possible roadblocks to the growth of regenerative medicine.

 “The ability to try new technologies has been limited by fear of failure and lack of data,” Mellott believes. “There are multiple creative and talented individuals that possess brilliant imaginations that are unknown due to a lack of willingness to invest in non-traditional ideas. Hence, there is a bottleneck in the development of regenerative medicine technologies that has delayed the advancement of new imaging technologies, cell culture technologies, and scaffold fabrication. Widening the “bottleneck” will allow new collaborations and generation of new technologies.”

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The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) is a member-based, nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the bioeconomy of the United States. The institute’s work will positively impact not only manufacturing but also healthcare and education and workforce development in the country.