In September 2014, the Tom Tom Founders Festival launched the Founding Cville project which highlights local artists, civic leaders and entrepreneurs “whose groundbreaking and original work has impacted Charlottesville and the world.” Charlottesville Tomorrow is republishing the eighteen profiles of each of the inaugural Founders.
Dr. Robin Felder, Founder of Global Cell Solutions
A nine time “serial entrepreneur” and author of over 300 peer-reviewed publications, Robin Felder’s research has elicited over $40 million dollars of Federal grants and several million in private investment. He has been named on 18 U.S. patents, with 7 more pending domestically and internationally. Felder has been recognized for his work, receiving numerous awards including the Engelberger Award for Leadership in Robotics in 2009, and the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year award from the University of Virginia in 2012. His current venture, Global Cell Solutions, synthetically replicates in vivo cell behavior. It could one day create high quality factory-like body replacement cells and end animal testing.
How would you describe what Global Cell Solutions is?
I and my colleagues have developed a novel way to grow human cells for use in regenerative medicine and drug discovery processes to support our basic research mission at UVa and the growing field of regenerative medicine . The project has now been spun out into the community with the assistance of the Darden Business School. What is missing from today’s generative medicine market is replacement body parts is the production of a Toyota factory -like quality process for standardizing the production of cells, the raw material for replacement organs.
How did it start? What was the inspiration?
We realized that these novel technologies, such as the BioWiggler and GEM products from Global Cell Solutions, would enable the local bioscience sector to lead the nation in quality and productivity since it was enabling significant benefits for UVa and all cell culture processes.
What was the biggest setback?
The challenge has been slow adoption by the market since cell culture is steeped in tradition and slow to change. Cell culture is currently more art than science. However, the market is expanding rapidly now that this concept has been developed in a variety of forms by companies all over the world.
Have you founded other businesses or initiatives?
I have launched nine companies out of the University over the past two decades: Hypogen (a small pharmaceutical company), Well Aware Systems (personalized wellness), Biophile (biorepository robotics), Medical Robotics, MeyeChem (wearable continuous glucose sensing), Jefferson Pewter, Medical Automation (nonprofit educational), Association for Laboratory Automation (nonprofit educational), and Medical Automation Systems (medical information technology). I served as the lead inventor or creator of these initiatives and then recruited others to provide scientific and business acumen to grow the companies.
I am also excited about a venture that I am developing outside the laboratory: Monte Piccolo Farm and Distillery, just south of Charlottesville.
What brought you to Charlottesville, and what keeps you here?
I find that the unique combination of business, law, and engineering sciences at UVa and the high quality of life provided by Charlottesville is a fertile ground for continuing my passion of creating more technologies and companies.
Founding Cville culminated in an award ceremony at Tom Tom’s Fall Block Party
with over 6,000 in attendance | Credit: Tom Daly Photography