Spin-off project UriCell


UriCell is a spin-off project from the Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine at the University Hospital Düsseldorf. It is currently funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy through the program “EXIST Transfer of Research I” until the end of the year 2022.

Building up on the research from the last five years, UriCell aims to establish a personalized kidney screening platform based on an innovative process which allows the isolation and expansion of kidney stem cells from human urine samples.


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The benefits of the non-invasive UriCell approach include easy access to valuable human biomaterial, personalized kidney cells, customized research, a broad donor portfolio, the possible reduction of animal testing and enabling new R&D opportunities that were not possible before.



Screening Platform

The UriCell platform technology includes three application fields:

1)               Nephrotoxicity Testing

2)               Drug Candidate Testing for Kidney Diseases

3)               In Vitro Patient Mirroring with Individual Therapy Development






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The kidneys are high complex organs which are crucial for human health by filtration of drugs and toxins and thus process 1800 litres of blood each day.

The prevalence of kidney-associated diseases is increasing and identified as a health and economic burden worldwide with over 760 million patients. Kidney diseases include Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), Kidney Cancer (RCC) and Rare Kidney Diseases.

So far, in vitro testing in the kidney area relies on animal cells, genetically modified cell lines or human primary cells from diseased

patients obtained by the invasive procedure of kidney biopsy which is associated with limitations such as availability, costs, risks and ethical issues. These standards lead to suboptimal prediction values.





The mission of UriCell is to make a significant and long-lasting impact in the kidney field by enabling innovative possibilities for in vitro applications in the areas of nephrotoxicity, drug development and personalized therapy.






The UriCell team: Dr. Lucas-Sebastian Spitzhorn (Scientist, Project Leader), B. Sc. Paul Stut (Business Development), M. Sc. Audrey Ncube (Scientist), Martina Bohndorf (Medical Technical Assistants), B. Sc. Lea May (Biological Technical Assistants), Dipl. Ing. Wasco Wruck (Bioinformatician) and Prof. Dr. James Adjaye (Project Mentor, Institute Director).







Dr. rer. nat. Lucas-Sebastian Spitzhorn, Scientist/Project Leader

-        Management Board

-        Research & Development, Research Studies, Quality Management

-        PhD Biology (summa cum laude) Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

-        Expertise: seven years practical experience in the human stem cell field, MSCs, kidney stem cells from amniotic fluid and urine, iPSCs, iMSCs, translational studies (liver and bone healing in vivo)



B. Sc. Paul Stut, Business Development

-        Management Board

-        Sales & Marketing, Finance & Law

-        B. Sc. cooperative study program Business Administration NORDAKADEMIE Elmshorn/Johnson & Johnson Medical GmbH

-        Oxford Executive Leadership Programme, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

-        Expertise: medical/healthcare business (Germany, Sweden, USA), sales and consulting, marketing, finance

-        Contact


M. Sc. Audrey Ncube, Scientist

-        Research & Development, Technique Establishment

-        M. Sc. Biomedical Sciences, B. Sc. Applied Biology, University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg

-        Expertise: years of experience in the research of renal stem cells from urine, stem cells from other sources, generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)



Martina Bohndorf, MTA

-        Execution of experiments, Sample processing

-        Lab Management

-        Qualification as Medical Techn. Ass., University Cologne

-        Expertise: over ten years experience in the work with stem cells, establishment of protocols for isolation, cultivation, propagation and reprogramming of urine-derived stem cells

-        Contact



B. Sc. Lea May, BTA

-        Execution of experiments, Sample processing

-        Lab Management, Purchasing, Lab Hygienics

-        B. Sc. Biochemistry, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

-        Qualification as Biological Techn. Ass., Rheinische Akademie Cologne

-        Expertise: isolation, cultivation, expansion and characterization of human urine-derived stem cells, laboratory analytics

-        Contact


Dipl. Ing. Wasco Wruck, Bioinformatician

-        Bioinformatical Analyses, IT & Data Management

-        Diploma computer science and diploma architecture, Technical University Berlin

-        Expertise: bioinformatic data-based high-throughput analysis (Charité, Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin), meta-analysis of transcriptome data, software development (Siemens AG, BULL AG)

-        Contact


Professor Dr. James Adjaye, Mentor/Institute Director

-        Scientific Advisory, Scientific Network

-        Director and Chair for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine Medical Faculty Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

-        PhD Biochemistry King's College London, M. Sc. Biochemistry University of Sussex, Brighton, B. Sc. (Honours) Biochemistry University College of Cardiff, Wales

-        Expertise: innovative human kidney cell models from urine-derived renal stem cells, systems biology of stem cell fate and cellular reprogramming of human somatic cells (iPSCs), transcriptional and signal transduction mechanisms, iPSC-based models for hepatocytes, neuronal cells and age associated gene expression patterns

-        Contact



November 2020: DxPx Digital Partnering Conference

Presence at the digital DxPx 2020, Europe’s biggest international partnering conference for diagnostics, digital health, regenerative medicine, and research tools. Weblink

April 2020: Start of the Future Champions Accelerator program

UriCell is one of the ten selected teams to partake in the regional accelerator program for technology- and knowledge-driven start-ups. Weblink

November 2019: Science4Life Venture Cup

UriCell was one of the 20 finalists in the Idea Phase of the Science4Life Venture Cup which is focusing on innovative, technology-based start-ups in the life science field. Weblink

November 2019: Winner of the Handelsblatt University Innovation Challenge

UriCell was the winner of the Handelsblatt University Innovation Challenge in the category Future Life Science. Application Video, Awards, Article PDF

November 2019: Start of the funding program EXIST Transfer of Research I

The spin-off project UriCell was granted with a three-ear funding by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the European Social Fund through the program “EXIST Transfer of Research I”. Weblink

October 2019: BioRiver Boost! 2019

UriCell was one of the eight finalists of the start-up competition focusing on biotech companies. Weblink

October 2019: 11th Congress of the German Society of Nephrology

UriCell was present with a booth and a poster at the 11th Congress of the German Society of Nephrology in Düsseldorf. Weblink

October 2019: 22nd European Congress on Alternatives for Animal Testing:

UriCell was present with a booth and a talk at the 22nd European Congress on Alternatives for Animal Tetsing in Linz. Since 1991 the “Linz-Congress” has emerged in Europe as the major scientific event in the field of the 3Rs and in 2019 the EUSAAT 2019 3Rs Congress Linz was the largest international 3Rs congress. Weblink

November 2018: Start of the funding program Start-Up-Hochschulausgründungen-NRW

UriCell was granted with a one-year funding from the European Regional Development Fund for further development of the start-up. The next steps include scale-up, quality management, product development, business model, intellectual property, cooperation and pilot customers. Weblink

November/December 2018: TechTour NRW Venture Forum

UriCell was award winner at TechTour NRW Venture Forum 2018. NRW Venture Forum 2018 is one of the 10 semi-finals for the Tech Tour flagship event - European Venture Contest Final 2018 (EVC Final). Showcasing 40+ innovative companies recruited in Healthtech, ICT and Cleantech based in the NRW region looking for seed and series A investments. An expert jury formed by investors and corporate key players selected the 25 best-performing entrepreneurs which were invited to present at EVC Final in Düsseldorf on 10-11 December 2018. Weblink

2018: Winner Rheinischer Innovationspreis

UriCell wins the Rheinischer Innovationspreis 2018 of the entrepreneurship Düsseldorf. Video: The prize was awarded at the Arbeitgebertag 2018. Video, Article, Article 2, Article 3

2017: NUK Business plan competition

UriCell wins the 2nd prize and the audience award in the Business plan competition 2017 of the entrepreneur initiative NUK (Neues Unternehmertum Rheinland e.V.). Weblink

2016: HHU Idea competition

UriCell wins the audience award in the Idea competition 2016 of the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. Weblink

2016: Winner BioRiver Boost!

UriCell is one of the winners of the BioRiver Boost! competition 2016, which has been organized by the industry association Branchenverband of the Life-Science-Enterprises in the Rhineland. Weblink

VIVID Magazine

The VIVID Magazine reports about UriCell's innovative approach to extract stem cells from urine and their use in research and medicine. Weblink

Stem Cell Network NRW

The Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westfalia features UriCell in an article about innovative stem cell enterprises. Weblink


The Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR: Westgerman Broadcast) reports about UriCell's riskless and painless method to gain stem cells from urine. Weblink

RP Online

The Rheinische Post (RP Online) reports about UriCell's non-invasive approach to extract stem cells from urine. Weblink



1. Rahman MS, Wruck W, Spitzhorn LS, Nguyen L, Bohndorf M, Martins S, Asar F, Ncube A, Erichsen L, Graffmann N, Adjaye J. The FGF, TGFβ and WNT axis Modulate Self-renewal of Human SIX2(+) Urine Derived Renal Progenitor Cells. Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 20;10(1):739. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57723-2. PubMed PMID: 31959818; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6970988. Weblink

2. Constructing an Isogenic 3D Human Nephrogenic Progenitor Cell Model Composed of Endothelial, Mesenchymal, and SIX2-Positive Renal Progenitor Cells Nguyen L, Spitzhorn LS, Adjaye J. Stem Cells Int. 2019 May 2;2019:3298432. doi: 10.1155/2019/3298432. eCollection 2019. PubMed PMID:31191670; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6525793. Weblink

3. Urine-derived stem cells as innovative platform for drug testing and disease modelling Rahman MS, Spitzhorn LS, Ncube A, Nguyen L, Bohndorf M, Wruck W, Adjaye J. Drug target Review 2018, 2 (20 July 2018) Weblink

4. The presence of human mesenchymal stem cells of renal origin in amniotic fluid increases with gestational time Rahman MS, Spitzhorn LS, Wruck W, Hagenbeck C, Balan P, Graffmann N, Bohndorf M, Ncube A, Guillot PV, Fehm T, Adjaye J. Stem Cell Research & Therapy (2018) 9:113 doi: 10.1186/s13287-018-0864-7 Weblink

5. Derivation and characterization of integration-free iPSC line ISRM-UM51 derived from SIX2-positive renal cells isolated from urine of an African male expressing the CYP2D6 *4/*17 variant which confers intermediate drug metabolizing activity Bohndorf M, Ncube A, Spitzhorn LS, Enczmann J, Wruck W, Adjaye J. Stem Cell Research 25:18-21, 2017. Weblink

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