L to R: Jeroen Bekaert, Ivan Dimov and Nate Fernhoff, Orca Bio (Orca)

A Bay Area up­start with leg­endary god­fa­thers breaks cov­er, tout­ing claims of a cu­ra­tive tech, uni­corn sta­tus and a $300M plan to shoot for an ap­proval

Back in the ‘90s, San­doz — lat­er No­var­tis — forged some big plans around an Irv Weiss­man start­up called SyS­temix. Iso­lat­ing and pu­ri­fy­ing cells, the leg­endary Stan­ford re­searcher was af­ter a new way to re­boot a pa­tient’s blood-form­ing sys­tems — a po­ten­tial life­saver for can­cer pa­tients who of­ten end up in need of a bone mar­row trans­plant fol­low­ing chemo.

No­var­tis end­ed up buy­ing the whole com­pa­ny, on­ly to scrap it af­ter be­ing con­front­ed by the in­vest­ment of time and mon­ey need­ed — along­side chal­lenges in scal­ing up the process to com­mer­cial lev­els. Weiss­man wasn’t hap­py about it, but even­tu­al­ly the IP made its way home to San Fran­cis­co.

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