STEMCELL Technologies: Canada’s regenerative medicine company helps scientists globally

Allen Eaves-Executive-America


STEMCELL Technologies grew out of the Terry Fox Laboratory (TFL) in Vancouver, Canada, where Dr. Allen Eaves, a hematologist and cancer researcher, was the Founding Director. Unsatisfied with commercially available reagents for growing the stem cells required for their research, Dr. Eaves’ research group at the TFL began making their own cell culture media out of the highest quality components they could find.

In the 1980’s our leukemia research program required us to make tissue culture media for growing normal and chromosomally-marked cancer stem cells.” says Eaves. “This methylcellulose media helped us develop new ways of understanding and treating chronic myelogenous leukemia. We did this with our closely-associated bone marrow transplant program at the Vancouver General Hospital. There was no intellectual property involved in making this media—other researchers made it too—we just made it better!” 

As word about his high-quality cell culture media spread throughout the global scientific community, Dr. Eaves started selling the media to other institutions, reinvesting the revenue back into his research program. This fueled a business that quickly outgrew the manufacturing capacity of the TFL. Thus, with a second mortgage on his house and a loan from Western Economic Development Canada, Eaves formally launched STEMCELL Technologies in July of 1993. That year, the company sold over $1 million of MethoCult™ culture media, which remains the international gold standard for growing and measuring blood and bone marrow stem cells today. 

After 24 years in business, with annual revenue approaching $185 million, STEMCELL continues to be true to its roots, bootstrapping growth by reinvesting all profits back into research and development. The company now employs over 1,100 people, 800 of whom are based at the Vancouver head office, research labs and manufacturing facilities. STEMCELL has grown at an average rate of 20% annually, with 96% of sales revenues coming from outside Canada. STEMCELL’s products are used in 90 countries, serviced by nine international offices and a network of distributors around the world. Allen Eaves continues to serve as President and CEO.

STEMCELL Technologies grew out of the Terry Fox Laboratory (TFL) in Vancouver, Canada

Products helping Scientists

STEMCELL’s mission is to advance the pursuit of scientific knowledge by supplying high-quality, innovative reagents, tools and services to enable life science research. This mission has driven the company to amass an impressive catalogue of more than 2,500 products that are used in biomedical research labs, routine diagnostic centres and pharmaceutical companies across the globe. STEMCELL’s products support research on regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, gene therapy, immunotherapy, toxicity testing, and the development of advanced treatments for cancer and other diseases. 

Commenting on STEMCELL’s diverse and integrated product portfolio, Dr. Terry Thomas, STEMCELL’s Chief Scientific Officer stated:

In addition to expanding our original line of hematology products, we have grown our offerings to include a comprehensive suite of immune cell isolation tools as well as products that support research using pluripotent stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. We have also developed families of products optimized for neural, mammary, prostate, pulmonary, pancreatic, cardiac, and intestinal cell biology research. A very exciting recent focus of the company is organoid technology. These mini-organs are revolutionizing the way scientists are studying human health and disease in the lab, and we’re helping them do it!

STEMCELL is committed to quality, investing heavily into sourcing the highest calibre raw materials, and ensuring batch to batch consistency through rigorous quality assurance and quality control systems. By providing novel, useful, standardized products, STEMCELL enables scientists to do their experiments more efficiently and effectively, delivering faster, more reliable and robust results. 

In addition to its off-the-shelf products, STEMCELL’s Contract Assay Services department is available to provide standard and customized assay services to support scientists with specialized research needs for which they don’t have the infrastructure or expertise to carry out. This department harnesses STEMCELL’s high-performance products and in-house experts to provide standard and customized assay services on site at STEMCELL’s Vancouver-based research labs. Since 2000, Contract Assay Services has performed studies for over 120 pharmaceutical, biotechnology, government and academic life science organizations worldwide. 

STEMCELL also recognizes that Scientists Helping Scientists goes beyond the lab bench. As such, the STEMCELL team is committed to nurturing scientific communities through ongoing learning and science communication. For example, the company’s Education division offers customized hands-on and virtual training courses. These workshops, delivered locally or at STEMCELL’s Research & Learning Centre in Cambridge UK, provide expert instruction on complex research protocols and experimental procedures. Other resources, such as educational videos and podcasts, weekly science newsletters, social media communities and online science resource hubs keep scientists current with their fields, connecting scientific communities, and providing scientists with the information they need to succeed with their research and careers.

In 2017 STEMCELL receives Company of the Year Award at Technology Impact Awards

Knowledge and Expertise 

STEMCELL is truly a community of Scientists Helping Scientists; one third of the 1,100-person team holds an MSc or PhD, and many others carry advanced degrees in fields such as business, engineering, and law.

A culture of curiosity, collaboration, and innovation pulses throughout the company.” says Helen Sheridan, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at STEMCELL. “It is inspiring to work with such a fantastic group united by a common goal – to help progress the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Our great leadership team, rapid growth, and extensive internal training programs create fantastic opportunities for career growth and personal development.

STEMCELL takes great pride in providing high-value, knowledge-based jobs to a diverse workforce. With strong growth expected to continue, the company anticipates offering 3,500 new, permanent, knowledge-based jobs in Canada by 2030. 

Looking Ahead

Stem cell therapies are the future of medicine and of the global healthcare economy. Fields such as tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, immunotherapy and precision medicine are advancing rapidly and potential therapies are moving closer to the clinic. As Canada’s Regenerative Medicine Company, STEMCELL Technologies is committed to developing tools and technologies that support cutting-edge research in these areas. To this end, STEMCELL has invested in increasing their state-of-the-art laboratory research space and is working toward building a clinical grade, advanced biologics manufacturing facility in Canada. This will enable more of the company’s products to meet global regulatory standards for clinical use, supporting research that is moving from bench to bedside.

With its large investment in Research & Development, STEMCELL has built a very strong intellectual property portfolio of over 100 patents. In addition to developing its own products, however, STEMCELL is very active at in-licensing intellectual property developed by others, and has helped several scientific technologies born in academic research settings to reach the global biotechnology market. The company is continuing to work closely with academic and industrial research partners, with a goal of bringing innovative technologies to life, ultimately enabling new discoveries and the advancement of scientific knowledge and understanding. 

Our vision, quite simply, is to be in every lab. If there is a lab anywhere in the world that is doing research where our products, services, expertise, and collaboration can add value, we want to be there to develop a meaningful relationship with them.” noted Andrew Booth, STEMCELL’s Chief Commercial Officer. “As a company, we are rooted in Allen Eaves’ passion for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. This commitment has deepened as we’ve grown from a small side project out of the back of the TFL to Canada’s largest biotech, and we will continue to be guided by that passion as we grow to service the complex needs of the biomedical community.”

To learn more about STEMCELL, visit or follow their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube channels. Written by Nicole Quinn, PhD.

If your marketing function is not driving growth, you’re not doing it right


One of the big issues facing marketing is the perception, commonly held in businesses, that it is nothing more than the ‘colouring in department’. It is a demeaning phrase and one I heard most recently earlier this year when I was invited to participate in a CEO Forum in the City by one of the accounting firms. 

It was a breakfast meeting with a speaker presenting on how to drive business growth in low growth economies. There were about forty CEOs all enjoying pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt. Most were from medium to large private businesses predominantly with a business-to-business focus.

The presentation soon gave way to an open discussion between those present on the drivers of growth, with a heavy emphasis on the sales function as the real driver of revenue growth. Marketing did not get a mention until the speaker asked about the role of marketing and one of the CEOs delivered his knock-out put-down of marketing, which was met by the general consensus of the others in the room.

Reflecting on this, I considered how the marketing and sales function works seamlessly in our own B2B professional services business. It is a seamless and integrated approach that starts with defining the business requirements and the revenue and growth objectives and identifying the segments and services we believe will deliver this growth based on past data and informed by market changes and customer trends.

Six years ago we implemented a major change in marketing direction, moving from a traditional out-bound marketing approach to an in-bound marketing strategy. This meant we went from a sales support model for marketing to one under which content marketing, SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media drove customers to our website and content, at which point automated marketing would help identify those customers and score their sales potential with encouragement to make an enquiry and become a lead. This lead would then be handled by sales to discuss the needs of the client, propose a solution and convert the lead to a sale.

The change in strategy had a significant impact in the first year leading to a 300% increase in traffic to our website and a 30% increase in revenue in that first year. You can read about this in more detail on our site here including specifics on how it was developed and implemented. Under our outbound marketing strategy we were averaging a conversion rate of 26% – considered quite healthy. But with the in-bound marketing strategy our conversion rate is now 64% as in many ways the prospect is self-validated at the time they decide to become a lead.

For those interested, follow ups on those that do not convert indicate that it is usually because the prospect does not have the budget required or have decided to take a lower cost option or even undertake the process themselves.

At the end of last year we had over 200,000 unique visitors to the site from around the world and the site visitors continue to grow, which is terrific for a relatively niche consulting business in marketing management consulting. You can read more about how we achieved this visitor growth here. 

The quality of those visitors is also high, based on the number of pages visited and time on-page, which all goes to calculate their Lead Score. We are continually testing the process of turning visitors into leads, looking for ways to optimise lead generation and conversion rates.

While some marketers will wonder where the role of brand building fits into this strategy, the fact is the content and the brand presentation is integrated into all aspects of the process to ensure every interaction builds on the brand positioning. All parts of the marketing and sales process are measured, optimised and reviewed to ensure we are achieving our short, medium and long term growth objectives, creating interest, driving leads, converting customers and building and reinforcing reputation.

So, it made we wonder how these other CEOs manage their marketing teams? What is the role of marketing in an organisation where the leader is comfortable describing it as the ‘colouring in department’? Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating in-bound marketing for any other business and not suggesting that we are in anyway the perfect example of business building. But the starting point for us was a recognition that our traditional out-bound marketing process of database cold and warm calling along with advertising and public relations and sales support materials was not delivering the leads and sales conversions we needed. 

It meant we needed clearly to articulate our business objectives and then develop a marketing and sales strategy that would attract the customers we needed. It was not a sales-led strategy or a marketing-led strategy, but a customer-led strategy. The sales people and the consultants who are closest to our existing customers inform the content and content marketing strategy and marketing focuses on maximising traffic and optimising leads, leaving sales to convert those leads into sales and revenue. All parts of the business share results and review performance on a weekly and monthly basis. There is no point marketing increasing leads if conversions drop, so both must work together to drive revenue and profitability. 

Hopefully the next time you hear a fellow CEO refer to their marketing team as the ‘colouring in department’ you’ll share with them the fact that if they have set up their marketing function simply to colour in their sales support materials then they are really not doing it right and then direct them to this article or our website. Having the right marketing and sales strategy working together has clearly driven growth for our business and will absolutely deliver the same results for yours.

Darren Woolley is the CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants a micro multinational with offices in Sydney, Singapore, New York and London.