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Arthritis, horses, and an offer that she couldn’t refuse

Passion and expertise come together to tackle the unsolved issue of arthritis treatments.

Julie Rosser, CEO of Pregenerate

Driven, intense and compassionate, these are the first words that come to mind after spending even just a few hours with Julie Rosser, CEO of Pregenerate. From a young age, Julie demonstrated that she knew exactly what she wanted — her first word was “horse” — so she spent her whole life pursuing it no matter how tough that could be.

A young Julie following her passion for horses

Her path was shaped by a demanding but rewarding passion for horseback riding and jumping, thanks to some wise guidance from her friends and family she discovered an additional way to channel her love for these animals, by becoming a horse surgeon. She soon built a brilliant career as a highly trained and specialized vet, Julie poured her heart and soul into helping her equine patients whom she cared for dearly. Unfortunately, she was faced with a frustrating reality: a lot of her patients suffered from arthritis. She found it extremely distressing to see them suffer without being able to provide a solution, and that’s because there’s no effective treatment for arthritis.

Being the determined overachiever that she is, Julie set on a journey to understand the disease better in order to find a cure, during which she soon realized that also human osteoarthritis currently has no satisfactory treatment options — joint replacements being the only available solution. Most people are simply left to just try to manage the pain they have to live with. This did not sit right with Julie.

With the clear goal of expanding her knowledge and wanting to move away from the world of cutting and sewing of surgery, the CEO of Pregenerate embarked in a quest for her next step. It came in the form of “an offer that she couldn’t refuse”, a Ph.D. in Vienna, Austria. Little it mattered that she couldn’t speak a single word of German, the brave surgeon from Arizona packed her bags and moved to Europe.

The Pregenerate Team: (from the left) Syed Faheem Ali, Julie Rosser, Peter Ertl

In Vienna, she met her co-founder while working on a postdoctorate research fellowship on neurodegenerative diseases, where she saw her chance to have a positive impact for not only animals but also millions of people worldwide. During her research, she understood the potential for tissue-on-a-chip technology. She realized that this breakthrough could be used to combat the persistent and ever-growing issue of treating arthritis for cartilage is an extremely scalable type of tissue that fits this technology thanks to the lack of need for a constant blood supply to work.

That’s when she decided to found Pregenerate, using cartilage-on-a-chip technology to test osteoarthritis drugs faster and cheaper than current methods. What are the current methods? Animal testing, which fails in 96% of the cases when translated into humans, mainly because animal models don’t predict human outcomes. Did I mention that Julie loves animals? The idea of finding a better way to develop drugs to treat arthritis effectively as well as reducing animal testing was the strongest calling for her, and we can’t help but appreciate her for this.

Pregenerate joined the RebelBio portfolio in our VII program. Check out who the other five were.

By Eleonora Mantovani

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