Stem cell researcher Phan Toan Thang: Birthing new skin with umbilical cord stem cells

Doctor’s fascination with wound healing turns into a $700m biotech company

Wounds may cause some to look away, but stem cell researcher Phan Toan Thang sees “magic” in them.

“I like wounds. I see the wound healing. It’s something amazing,” he said. The chief scientist’s passion for healing wounds led him to discover a way to create skin cells quickly and in large quantities by using the lining from umbilical cords.

Rather than using the limited available amount of a patient’s skin to help heal a burn, the cells from the umbilical cord lining can provide an unlimited reserve of unprogrammed cells to create new skin and bone, and even other body parts, such as the cornea in the eye.

Such methods could potentially heal wounds from burns or diseases such as diabetes.

Cellresearch Corp, a biotech company he founded with group chief executive Gavin Tan and fellow plastic surgeon and skin researcher Ivor Lim in 2002, now owns 39 patents worldwide. They include patents for extracting stem cells from umbilical cord lining, banking and cultivating them, and for therapeutic applications. The company is now worth $700 million.

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