Drew Taylor CEO Acorn Biolabs at the Wellness Stage with Balaji Gopalan CEO of Medstack, Dr. Elaine Chin CEO of Executive Health Centre, Dr. Ian Rogers, leading stem cell biologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, and Dr. Molly Shoichet, Ontario’s first Chief Scientist.

Landing our moonshot: How Elevate took Acorn to the next level

This fall, Toronto became the center of the universe for all things tech and innovation. Elevate Tech Festival, now the fastest-growing conference of its kind in the world, kicked off across the city. It brought together entrepreneurs, scientists, disruptors — and even a former First Lady and astronaut — to talk big ideas. 

For Acorn, it was a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase our work and talk to thousands of attendees about the future of regenerative medicine and how our affordable, non-invasive technology is making it available to people across the country. As a Toronto-based health tech company with roots in the heart of the city’s innovation core at MaRS, it was an amazing experience to see so many people from outside the city marvel at how it’s become a global leader in tech. 

Acorn Biolabs founder Steven ten Holder discussing future of regenerative medicine and stem cells at Elevate 2019 in Toronto
Our team had the opportunity to discuss the future of regenerative medicine with thousands of attendees.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to attend, this year’s theme was taking your “moonshot” in business or research. Essentially, the conference looked to innovators who are aiming to take big leaps of faith to deliver a quantum shift to their industry. This speaks directly to our core values at Acorn, and what we’re trying to do to prepare people for the future of healthcare. 

Regenerative medicine is on the cusp of making major breakthroughs in treating ailments and life-altering diseases that, until now, the medical profession has been unable to cure. While major advancements in preventative medicine may not get the same attention as, for example, artificial intelligence, we’re getting extremely close to taking cell therapy to the next level. That’s incredibly exciting for the future of healthcare. 

I have a tremendous interest in disruptive and innovative technologies, so it was fascinating for me to see so many different industries coming together to learn from one another. This was particularly true for those of us who had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the Acorn-sponsored Wellness Stage that was moderated by Balaji Gopalan, a data privacy expert and CEO of Medstack. I was joined on stage by Dr. Elaine Chin, founder of Executive Health Centre, Dr. Ian Rogers, a leading stem cell biologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, and Dr. Molly Shoichet, who was Ontario’s first Chief Scientist. 

We took a deep dive into the future of personal and preventative medicine, and how the use of big data is changing the way we treat patients. This was certainly a highlight for me, but the fact that across this powerful panel of experts, three of the four had already banked their cells with Acorn before kicking off the discussion was incredibly humbling. It’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked at Acorn that some of the top scientists and doctors in their respective fields recognize just how important banking cells can be to live healthier, longer lives. We are no longer just simply talking about the benefits of live-cell analytics and regenerative medicine, but practicing it. 

Two attendees to Elevate 2019 Toronto learn about regenerative medicine, stem cell banking, and hair follicle cells at Acorn Biolabs booth.
“I’ve heard about you guys and I’m curious to learn more!”

Another sign that Acorn has really turned a corner in the growth of our company? It was when we had people approach the Acorn booth to say: “Hey, I’ve heard about you guys and I’m curious to learn more!” We even had people banking their cells right away, with no conversation. Once again, it was another tribute to all the hard work our marketing team, lead by Sonya Verheyden, is doing to spread the word about Acorn. To see how excited our scientists and co-op students were, as they engaged with people to tell them about all the amazing work we’re doing, really drove home the point that we’re building something truly special. And we’re having a lot of fun doing it.

Watch Drew’s full 20 minute talk at Elevate Toronto 2019

Drew Taylor: Your Cells Will Be The Next Currency in Healthcare
Two women learning about the benefits of banking stem cells at Acorn Biolabs booth in the National Womens Show Toronto 2019

Why young families should consider banking their child’s stem cells

The other week, the Acorn team attended the National Women’s Show in downtown Toronto.  A health tech company like ours that’s revolutionizing the way we collect stem cells through non-invasive means may not seem like the type of organization you’d expect to see at a show like this. But it was a no-brainer decision for us to attend. 

For starters, we can’t stress enough that banking your stem cells at a young age is far more beneficial than banking them when you’re older. Our cells age, just as we age, making them a poor therapeutic resource.  And as science innovates with advancements in stem cell therapies and genetics, in our lifetime we will see some of the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation solved with our own cells. Preparing for that future precision medicine means locking in your cells at their youngest and most viable.  

Until recently, umbilical cord stem cell banking had really been the only method for capturing these cells at the youngest age possible, but the procedure is complex and incredibly expensive. It was financially out of reach for most people wanting to bank their child’s cells. Only a very small percentage of those who could bank their child’s umbilical cord actually do.

With Acorn, our stem cell collection is done by simply plucking a few hair follicles from a person’s head – making stem cell collection accessible for everyone – not just at birth! That provides families with the option to bank their child’s cells at a young age without all the traditional complexities of umbilical cord banking. So from a marketing perspective, it made complete sense for Acorn to attend the women’s show and tell our story to women who are often the major decision-maker in a family when it comes to healthcare. We explained to them how big a role regenerative medicine will play in the future of healthcare, and that now is the right time to prepare for it. 

As a mother myself, I personally believe that banking stem cells will quickly become as important as saving for an RRSP in terms of my long-term well-being; and that banking my child’s stem cells will be as important as opening up an RESP for them. Parents want the best for their kids, and as stem cell therapy treatments become more mainstream in the years to come, banking their cells could be potentially life-saving. 

In fact, the global stem cell therapy industry is worth tens of billions of dollars, and governments around the world, including Canada’s, are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and efficacy of these procedures. They’re making sure stem cell therapies adhere to the highest standards, and that patient safety is always paramount.

At Acorn, we’re far past the point of asking if regenerative medicine will be a dominant force in healthcare; we’re determining when. And so that’s why I believe it’s never too early to educate parents or those contemplating parenthood on the benefits of stem cell collection over the long term. It’s a biological insurance policy that will deliver access to leading medical care that none of us want to miss out on — especially if it can improve the lives of our kids.