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What Is DiscGenics, The Company Christopher Duntsch Helped Found, And Where Is It Today?

DiscGenics says its mission is to improve the lives of those suffering from the debilitating effects of degenerative diseases of the spine. 

Christopher Duntsch, the man who has come to be known as “Dr. Death,” and the subject of a new series streaming now on Peacock, always had big dreams. When the college football scholarship he hoped for didn't work out, Duntsch made a surprise pivot: He decided to become a doctor instead of a professional athlete. 

Duntsch earned his MD-PhD from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. where he also completed his neurosurgery residency. In the first stages of his six-year residency he focused on research. As D Magazine reported in 2016, the department chairman, Dr. Jon Robertson "appointed [Duntsch] program director of the school’s tissue bank, where he’d supply samples to scientists and oversee two labs." As the program director, Duntsch wrote grants and secured funding for his research projects. 

In 2006, his research led him to the work of two Russian stem cell scientists, Valery Kukekov and Tatyana Ignatova. They had created a method for culturing the stem cells of intervertebral discs outside of the body. Working Kukekov and Ignatova, Duntsch filed a patent for the technology and went to work raising money for a company he called DiscGenics. 

Duntsch had filed the patent listing himself, along with the Russian scientists, as the inventors of the Discgenics technology. But Kukekov told D Magazine that, “It wasn’t his invention. It was the invention of me and my wife [Ignatova), because we made all primary experiments. We discovered it.”

Duntsch, who had been listed as the founder, president & chief science officer at DiscGenics, Inc. was sued by the former chief operating officer in 2011 and removed from that role as well as his seat on the board. 

While Duntsch eventually set upon his ill-fated career as a neurosurgeon, one that would end with him serving a life sentence in prison for  one count of injury to an elderly person, DiscGenics moved on largely unscathed. Today, the Salt Lake City-based company has successfully completed several rounds of funding, and, according to a recent press release are conducting trials of their stem cell technology on people in Japan and have plans to conduct testing on patients in the U.S. as well. 

DiscGenics’ current funding amount  is $68 million.

"Dr. Death" is available to stream on Peacock now. And if you want to dive even deeper into the story, you can also watch the new docuseries "Dr. Death: The Undoctored Story" on Peacock, which features interviews with numerous people intimately involved in the case.

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