Hemostemix Founder: A Man with a Compassionate Heart
The Canadian stem cell company Hemostemix Inc. (TSXV:HEM OTC:HMTXF) was founded by a man who truly had a compassionate heart and a clear intent to establish a breakthrough in heart disease using the same technology that saved his life.
Roger Bergersen, who trained at Merrill Lynch, gained a reputable career as a stockbroker and capital formation expert. Roger worked for decades assisting companies with financing, becoming established, and going public. Everyone who worked with him can attest to his intelligence, honesty, loyalty, integrity, good faith, optimism, word-as-bond honor, and his unwavering courage in the heat of the battle.
In July 2005, Roger was in decent health and weight when it was recommended that he have an angiogram to get a clear view of his heart after completing a questionable treadmill test. Roger was never diagnosed with heart disease before this time, but at 69, when climbing hills he would occasionally lose his breath.
After the angiogram, the doctor proceeded to place a stent, which went horribly wrong. The doctor reported that “some calcium broke off”, and that he had to stop the procedure. Later it was revealed that the doctor had poked an artery causing it to close up. This was unbelievably disturbing, yet he made light of it.
When it was all said and done, Roger was left with one-third of his heart dead. He had suffered a heart attack by the hands of the surgeon, yet this was not revealed throughout his month’s stay at the hospital. It was all covered up until a visit with a different doctor in another city revealed what had actually happened. The doctor did not expect Roger would make it to Christmas.
Roger was finally able to go home and try to recuperate. He struggled with breathing and walking. Things were just not right. Being an avid internet sleuth, Roger began investigating his options for his heart. Well versed in bone marrow cells used in cancer patients, he could relate with the various stem cell therapy options and became very interested. He read about the therapies involving stem cells harvested from bone marrow, embryos, and one’s own body fat. But one type of stem cell that was treating heart disease stood out. It involved the use of the heart patient’s own blood. Roger was always intrigued by new ideas.
The stem cell program in Bangkok was headed by a company called TheraVitae Ltd. (“TheraVitae or TVL”), formed in 2003 by the holders of the exclusive patent for obtaining and administering cells from the blood of the patient. By the time Roger called TheraVitae, they had done over 40 stem cell therapies in their clinical trials. The head of surgery was the personal physician to the King of Thailand, and the lead surgeons were American board certified physicians who were graduates of American schools of medicine. Inquisitive yet skeptical, Roger did a thorough investigation and found the company, its therapy, the treating physicians and hospitals all to be legitimate.
Going overseas for such procedures in Roger’s condition was hugely risky. Roger knew the chances of success were slim, but he wanted his life back. So, he decided to ‘go for it’. His words expressing caution on this journey were: “The first red flag, and we’re gone.”
The TheraVitae program was considered ‘medical tourism’. which included the hotel, meals, hospital stay and procedure. Greeted at the airport by TheraVitae representatives, Roger felt comfortable in his decision.
On the very first day, Roger went to the hospital for his blood to be drawn. It was sent to a lab in Israel where the stem cells were harvested from his blood, and then cultured and differentiated into the millions of angiogenic cells that would be put back into his heart.
After one week, the stem cells were transported back to Bangkok. Roger was alerted to be at the hospital as the package from Israel arrived. The whole procedure was timed tightly to have the stem cells be as fresh as possible. The stem cells were then injected into and around Roger’s heart through a catheter that was snaked to the heart through his femoral artery, which all went very smoothly.
Back at home, Roger couldn’t help but wonder if there would be any effect. After two months, Roger started feeling better. Each day he would walk a little farther. At first, Roger would walk in a small circle on the driveway; then the circle would get bigger; and soon he headed down the street and back. He could feel the improvement. Yet, it was several more months before he began to feel normal again.
The TheraVitae stem cell procedure did work. Verified through the testing of Roger’s heart, Roger’s ejection fraction (EF) after damage in the hospital was 18%. Following the procedure and recovery after 6 months, Roger’s EF was 30% and his BNP score was reduced by 80%. Whereas an average person’s EF is 55-60%, Roger’s EF was 50% before his heart was damaged.
Prior to arriving in Thailand, the principals of TheraVitae already knew of Roger’s background in the business development financing spectrum, and were eager to talk business with him. They had several meetings discussing how they could work together to take the Company to North America. Before leaving Bangkok, he told them he would meet with his associates in Canada to come up with a plan, and then let them know.
This was Roger’s expertise…helping businesses become established and financed to go public. He had his own band of credible business performers who were eager to work with him, not only for the business, but also to help out a friend whose health had been compromised yet saved by this procedure. They all were eager to pass this ‘gift’ on to all those who needed their hearts healed. They believed in Roger’s foresight, and quickly it was all set in motion.
TheraVitae principals flew to Toronto, met with Thomas Smeenk, and an agreement was reached within 48 hours. A contract followed the letter of intent. TheraVitae Inc. (“TVI”) was incorporated in Canada. Roger and Tom made the calls and $3,000,000 was raised. From his initial meeting, in six months, Roger was not only feeling immensely better, he and Tom had established TVI as a North American company that had a license to all technologies developed by “TV Ltd.”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the greediness of the principals of TV Ltd. became apparent. Rather than work with Roger and Tom as the management team of TVI to mutual benefit (“..you make money with people not off of people, Roger would say…”), the TV Ltd. Founders attempted to steal the technology and $4.5 Million cash that was raised after the amalgamation of the licensor and licensee. A court case ensued for three years.
In 2006 everything was in place for TheraVitae Inc to easily become a viable, trustworthy, public-functioning stem cell therapy company capable of treating heart disease, lung disease, peripheral arterial disease and its degenerative condition, critical limb ischemia.
The greed of one man was quite a blow to the company, but TVI North America finally won a decision from the Superior Court of Justice and won the decision from the Court of Appeal, Ontario. Always an honest businessman, Roger was never one to tolerate dishonesty; he and his partners perservered.
Next, Roger helped assemble the team to take TheraVitae Inc. public as Hemostemix Inc. in 2014.
Roger reached out to other recipients of the company’s stem cell therapy, finding that they too had benefitted enough to feel rejuvenated and alive again. One was living in Arizona. Another in Florida. They became fast friends.
This company was founded with Roger’s love for people and love of innovation. With the help of people who trusted his judgment, Roger’s perseverance, among others, helped to raise $10s of millions of dollars of risk capital that generated today’s clinical trial results. To the end of Roger’s life on Earth, the company’s direction was never out of his mind.
Throughout the years of living with his damaged heart, Roger, was also fortunate to be married to a nutritionist who aided his health with the right foods and supplements, with some replacing certain prescription drugs. For years, living with two-thirds of a heart, Roger was in better shape than most men his age. He loved to mow the lawn, wash the car and enjoy life!
He would often describe his unique heart therapy as this: “Stem cells are the booster, while nutrition is the sustainer”. One of his many mottos was ‘live each day to the fullest’. Roger was 69 when he was treated with ACP-01 and he enjoyed 14.5 years of life thereafter. Roger was 83 when he passed. Again, errant medical care a contributory factor.
For years, Roger worked continually and artfully side-by-side with the management team to help it succeed. Roger knew he could improve the lives of millions of people who were in the dire straits he once was in.
A spirit like Roger’s knows no bounds. We see it as Roger’s considerable character permeates the DNA of Hemostemix. We know it as Roger’s principles live on as managements’ principles. Roger is often referred to by management as the man who truly had a compassionate heart and a clear intent to establish a breakthrough in heart disease. That is Hemostemix’ reality. That is the legacy of Roger Bergersen, the one man who persevered for 14.5 years on behalf of the multitude of people who can benefit from this lifesaving therapy.