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Growth in store for stem cell innovator after Innovate UK EDGE support

Scientist with visor handling frozen material

Innovate UK EDGE has helped a stem cell bank to streamline its operations with lean processes and achieve a 30% sales uplift, following support with sales and marketing.

Devon-based MedTech innovator, Biovault Family, is helping families access advanced medical treatments by collecting and storing stem cell samples taken from placentas, umbilical cords and cord blood at birth.

The samples can be stored for the whole of the baby’s life and, like bone marrow stem cells, be used to treat a wide range of conditions including blood cancers, immune disorders and solid tumours. 

Stem cells are young, undeveloped cells that can mature into any type of blood cell, meaning they have an extraordinary power to heal. Once extracted, doctors can transplant stem cells to replace cells that have been destroyed by conditions such as cancer, or damaged by chemo and radiation treatments. Stem cells can not only be developed into new blood cells, but also into tissue such as bone, nerve, tendon and muscle.

“Speaking from experience, I know that when your family is faced with disease, you just want as many options as possible,” says Kate Sneddon, CEO, Biovault. “We provide that option either to the child or to another family member, all taken from something that would usually just end up in clinical waste.”

Kate goes on to explain why storing cord blood has significant medical advantages over bone marrow transplants: “Bone marrow collection is invasive, it can be a painful procedure and, more significantly, it sometimes takes a long time to find a suitable match.

“Cord blood, on the other hand, is newer, more naïve and less exposed to environmental factors inside the body. It’s easily accessible and belongs to the donor child, which eliminates the risk of rejection and offers a greater chance of compatibility with other family members.”

Since 2004, Biovault has collected and processed cord blood and tissue from over 30 different countries and has released cord blood stem cells to treat conditions ranging from leukaemia and neuroblastoma to sickle cell disease and cerebral palsy.

As medicine technology advances, it is hoped that stem cells will be instrumental in treating a vast range of conditions including Alzheimer’s, hearing loss and spinal cord injuries.

Biovault is the only UK cord blood bank working in partnership with NHS hospitals. It also participating in active clinical research with University College London, focusing on increasing the yield of stem cells from umbilical cord blood in the treatment of blood cancers.

Growth support from Innovate UK EDGE 

In May 2020, Biovault began work with Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialist, Carolyn Hooker, who helped the company identify its barriers to growth and orchestrated interventions in lean processes and marketing. 

“When you’re a science-based business, you always tend to think of innovation in terms of very technical things,” says Kate, “but often the science is there, you just need to sell it properly and make the business as productive as possible.”

“What really appealed to me about Innovate UK EDGE was that we could identify areas that needed improving and home in on those areas with specialist support.”  

Biovault began work with Paul Albone, an Innovate UK EDGE specialist in Lean Processes, who mapped out the customer journey and suggested alterations to streamline interactions. 

“Our processes include a lot of touch points and because our clients are busy, we don’t always receive the required information on time, which has previously created a lot of bottlenecks,” says Kate.

“The Lean Processes really taught us to be more fluid, collecting available information at each touchpoint and filling in the gaps at the next interaction. We were also able to make the quality checks more efficient without losing any scrutiny.”

“As a company, we can be quite insular, so it’s been fantastic to have an external expert view.” 

Sales and marketing support with stem cell thought leadership 

Innovate UK EDGE Marketing Specialist, Phil Johnston, next stepped in to help Biovault revamp its marketing strategy. 

“Phil first supported us as we successfully changed marketing agencies, encouraging us to produce a very detailed design brief that was clear about what we wanted,” says Kate. “The new arrangement is working much more effectively.”

Phil next focused on the Biovault website, recommending that the company includes costs upfront, calls to action on each page and more customer reviews. 

“We feel the website is more overt and direct now, whereas before it was perhaps a bit too subtle,” says Kate.

“Finally, Phil worked with me personally, helping me to become a more prominent leader in my field. I began contributing blogs to an independent website that advises parents on cord blood banking, and Phil was able to review my copy and reassure me that it was important, interesting and accessible. 

“We’ve since had good feedback on those pieces and it’s given me the confidence to become more active in my industry.”

Since working with Innovate UK EDGE marketing specialists, Biovault has seen a 30% sales increase. It now plans to continue that growth with ambitious sales targets for the next 12 months.

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to support this Devon-based business as it helps to provide families around the world with hope when their lives are touched by disease. 
 

As a company, we can be quite insular, so it’s been fantastic to have an external expert view.” 

Kate Sneddon, CEO, Biovault