Pre­serv­ing the fu­ture

Win­bak Farm eyes stem cell part­ner­ship



— Joe Thom­son is al­ways look­ing for the next new thing.

As the owner of Win­bak Farm, a stan­dard­bred horse breed­ing op­er­a­tion mark­ing its 25th year in busi­ness, Thom­son em­braces chal­lenge and



strives to keep pace with an ever-evolv­ing in­dus­try.

This year he’s em­bark­ing on the sec­ond year of a part­ner­ship with EquiStem LLC, an equine stem cell preser­va­tion com­pany, which has a re­search lab in Lan­caster, Pa.

Ex­ec­u­tives from EquiStem spent most of Fri­day at the 3,000-acre horse farm south of Ch­e­sa­peake City tour­ing the

multi-faceted op­er­a­tion, talk­ing with farm man­agers and the team’s vet­eri­nar­ian staff to find out how to im­prove col­lec­tion of equine um­bil­i­cal cords, as Win­bak steps up its pro­gram with Equi-Stem.

“Last year we pre­served the um­bil­i­cal cords from 50 foals,” Thom­son said. “This year, we’re in­creas­ing that num­ber to 300 foals.”

The farm, which breeds foals, sells year­lings and stands stallions in Mary­land, Delaware, New York, Penn­syl­va­nia and On­tario, Canada, has raised and sold horses over the years that have won $278 mil­lion and com­peted in over 29,700 har­ness races since 1998. Suc­cess for its work has been plen­ti­ful as they’ve had three Horses of the Year, nu­mer­ous stakes win­ners and, in 2015, Thom­son was in­ducted into the Har­ness Rac­ing Hall of Fame.

One of the chal­lenges for all horse own­ers, how­ever, es­pe­cially the ones in the com­mer­cial in­dus­try, is the dif­fi­culty in keep­ing a horse healthy, or at least able to sur­vive and re­cover from in­juries sus­tained dur­ing train­ing and rac­ing, ac­cord­ing to Mark Wasser­man, owner of Equi-Stem.

Wasser­man, who owns about 20 horses, is pas­sion­ate about them, which in­spired him to found EquiStem, a com­pany ded­i­cated to find­ing new ways to heal horse in­juries faster and ex­tend their rac­ing ca­reers.

By part­ner­ing with prom­i­nent breed­ers like Win­bak Farm, Wasser­man says his com­pany en­hances the value of a horse to­day, while pre­serv­ing the health and main­te­nance of the equine ath­lete for the long-term ben­e­fit of cur­rent and fu­ture own­ers and train­ers.

“I re­ally got in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about stem cells de­rived from um­bil­i­cal cords af­ter hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with my daugh­ter a few years ago about her stor­ing the cord blood from my grand­chil­dren,” Wasser­man said. “The light bulb went off and I thought, ‘Why not pur­sue this for horses?’”

Since then, Wasser­man has as­sem­bled a team of pro­fes­sion­als to work for his com­pany in pur­suit of ex­pand­ing the use of re­gen­er­a­tive medicine, specif­i­cally har­vest­ing stem cells from um­bil­i­cal cord tis­sue and pre­serv­ing it for the fu­ture use of horse own­ers.

Equi-Stem has hired Dr. Todd Flower, who has a doc­tor­ate in bio­chem­istry and molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy along with 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence in re­gen­er­a­tive medicine, to di­rect oper­a­tions at the lab. He will work with Dr. David Matzile­vich, who has an med­i­cal de­gree and a doc­tor­ate, as well as 20 years ex­pe­ri­ence in re­gen­er­a­tive medicine. Dr. Keith Mer­ritt, a sports medicine vet­eri­nar­ian, also brings more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in stem cell ther­a­pies and pri­vate prac­tice as their full­time con­sul­tant.

The men, along with Tara Long, who is the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist for Equi-Stem, at­tended the tour and dis­cus­sion Fri­day at Win­bak Farm.

“Your fa­cil­ity is just amaz­ing,” Matzile­vich told Thom­son Fri­day.

The tour took the group to see foals, mares, stallions and race horses, as well as Thom­son’s minia­ture horses and large Cly­des­dales, weigh­ing around 2,000 pounds. They talked di­rectly to farm man­agers, train­ers and vets.

Win­bak’s foal man­ager Jerry Crump showed the group a foal born at 4 a.m. Fri­day and an­other than was born two days ear­lier. He has been col­lect­ing um­bil­i­cal cords from some of the foals at the farm by fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures pro­vided by Equi-Stem.

“We cut off 3 to 4 inches of the cord and place it into a so­lu­tion in a spec­i­men con­tainer,” Crump told the group

Equi-Stem of­fi­cials rec­om­mended Fri­day that he cut closer to 6 inches in the fu­ture.

“More is al­ways bet­ter,” Flower noted.

Equi-Stem doc­tors said they are ex­cited about the fu­ture prospects of the use of the um­bil­i­cal cord stem cells to help heal a va­ri­ety of com­mon horse in­juries to dam­aged tis­sue, nerves, mus­cle, car­ti­lage, bone and ten­dons.

Wasser­man said one of the best as­pects of this um­bil­i­cal cord stem cell col­lec­tion and preser­va­tion is that is about one-third the cost of stem cell col­lec­tion from bone mar­row or from adi­pose tis­sue, and there is less risk or pain to the horse.

“It’s all about the fu­ture own­ers,” Wasser­man said.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited about this part­ner­ship,” said James Lad­wig, Win­bak’s year­ling man­ager.


Win­bak Farm foal man­ager Jerry Crump gets in stall with mare and her foal Fri­day dur­ing a site visit by the man­age­ment team of Equi-Stem, an equine stem cell col­lec­tion and preser­va­tion com­pany.


Mark Wasser­man, owner of Equi-Stem, far left, poses with mem­bers of his com­pany and one of six Cly­des­dale horses owned by Win­bak Farm in Ch­e­sa­peake City Fri­day.


Win­bak Farm staff pose with Equi-Stem man­age­ment on Fri­day dur­ing a tour of their Ch­e­sa­peake City-area fa­cil­ity.

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