501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
Employees: 485 (450 in Colorado)
Industry: Bioscience & Medical
Products: Bone, skin, soft-tissue, and custom-machined allografts
President and CEO Tom Cycyota brings the latest medical innovations to patients with one of the largest tissue-donation networks in the U.S.
AlloSource is named for allograft: tissue removed from one person's body and transplanted into another person.
"For us, it's all about live cells," says Cycyota. "The miraculous thing that happens when someone passes away is their cells stay alive."
In 2017, AlloSource provided the tissue about 300,000 allografts for use across the U.S. Most of the work is done in Colorado: The nonprofit's Centennial facility houses 37 clean rooms with three shifts working AlloSource's 24/7 operation.
"We're the largest provider of living cellular tissue in the world," says Cycyota. "We're the largest provider of skin for burns in the world."
AlloSource tests donated tissues under the rigorous certification requirements established by such organizations as the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and then quickly processes the materials in clean rooms and laboratories for use in a wide variety of orthopedic and other medical uses. For example, human skin is processed to create such products as AlloSkin for burn and wound care, while bone is machined and processed for grafts. The processed tissue is available to physicians in more than 200 forms.
Cycyota highlights ProChondrix, which AlloSource debuted in 2017 to repair damaged cartilage. "The previous solution was a technique called microfracture," says Cycyota, by which doctors would puncture bone to promote "neo-cartilage." Numerous professional basketball players, including Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire, underwent the procedure in the 2000s. "It works great for a period of time, but it's not real cartilage. Especially for high-impact athletes, it's going to wear out." With ProChondrix, he adds, "We can provide true structural cartilage."
AlloSource takes these kind of medical innovations from research labs to the operating room. "The science of biology has just exploded in the last 10 years," says Cycyota. "Somebody said, 'You all are doing science fiction here. It's cutting edge, and it's all happening in Centennial."
Originally founded by three organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, AlloSource is now also supplied by OPOs in Buffalo, New York, and Des Moines, Iowa. "More donors means more innovation," notes Cycyota. "For us, innovation is the key to longevity and success."
While somewhat serendipitous, the Colorado location is strategic in that the central location makes for timelier shipping and receiving, critical with live cells. AlloSource also has six regional offices in Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, St. Louis, and San Diego.
AlloSource collaborates with numerous startups and universities, including Colorado State, Duke, Stanford, and UCLA. It's also collaborating with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Microorganisms can survive the chaos of space travel," says Cycyota. "You can't do spring cleaning in the International Space Station." That's where AlloSource comes in: JPL sent microorganisms from the ISS to the organization's scientists to catalog them.
But AlloSource remains focused squarely on making Earth a better planet. "It truly is a mission-driven organization," says Cycyota. "We're so appreciative of our donor families. It all starts with a tragedy, but we try to take that and make something really amazing happen."
Challenges: "The market is difficult," says Cycyota. "You see consolidation in the hospitals. You see consolidation in the medical device companies. That happens every day. You have less customers and that drives pricing down."
Opportunities: "It's all about the biology of live cells and providing solutions doctors have never had [in order] to solve intractable problems," says Cycyota.
A big new product in the pipeline is slated for release in summer 2018. "If everything goes well, we will literally create a market to save people's lives."
Needs: Donors. "It's always about the donors," says Cycyota. "It's always about people having a discussion with their family about their last wishes."
AlloSource also needs employees. "We're hiring like crazy," says Cycyota. "Everything from pure-play businesspeople to financial analysts to technicians to handle the tissue." He expects the organization's staff to hit about 550 by the end of 2018, with more than 500 employees at the Centennial headquarters.
The difficult task of hiring is compounded by Colorado's low unemployment rate. "It's hard to find people," says Cycyota. "Once we get them, they stay, but it's hard to get them."