Frontier science and business that makes a difference
01 April 2017

Maria Brandão de Vasconcelos, together with her colleague Filipa Matos Baptista, Henrique Veiga-Fernandes (ERC grantee), Diogo Fonseca Pereira and Sílvia Arroz Madeira, founded StemCell2MAX in 2015. The company is a biotechnology start-up, specialised in cell based therapies, including novel solutions to multiply the scarcely available blood stem cells, addressing an enormous demand for research and cancer treatment. StemCell2MAX technology is based on Prof. Veiga-Fernandes's ground-breaking discoveries in hematopoietic stem cell biology.

Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."

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My father is Portuguese, my mother is Spanish. My mother works in healthcare, my father is an engineer. I believe that I joined these two different interests in the course that I chose.

When I met Filipa, one of the co-founders of StemCell2Max, right from the beginning we realised that we both wanted to launch our own business related to healthcare, through which we believed we could have an impact on people's lives.

We had weekly meetings, while I was doing the MBA, where we tried to discuss, every Wednesday, what could be interesting ideas to pursue. The Portuguese Business Angels, here in Lisbon, presented us with this project from IMM [Instituto de Medicina Molecular], developed by the group of Henrique Veiga-Fernandes [ERC grantee] and Sílvia Arroz Madeira. And this was the moment when we saw that potential and we said: “Okay, this is it. This is exactly what we want to pursue.”

The project is related to blood stem cells. These cells have two different purposes. On the one hand, patients who have blood cancer malignancies, like lymphomas or leukaemia's, need to have access to these cells, so that they can benefit from a transplant. And on the other hand, there are researchers, worldwide, who also need to have access to these cells, so that they can perform their own studies for developing treatments for new therapies.

What's the big challenge, both for these clinicians, but also for the researchers? It's to have access to these cells in high enough quantity and quality. And this is exactly what this science breakthrough brings.

One of the things that I like the most is walking, walking around cities. And Lisbon is a great city. It's much easier for both of us to have clear ideas when we are outside a closed room.

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Project information

Role of the proto-oncogene Ret during lymphocyte development and function
Jose Henrique Veiga Fernandes
Host institution:
Instituto de medecina molecular
Call details
ERC-2007-StG, LS3
ERC funding
1 901 400 €