MUSC spinoff receives two wound-healing patents

Charleston Regional Business Journal
March 29, 2011

FirstString Research Inc., a spinoff biotechnology company from the Medical University of South Carolina, has received two patents for intellectual property protection for further development and commercialization of its regenerative medicine technology.

According to Dr. Gautam Ghatnekar, FirstString’s president and CEO, and Dr. Robert Gourdie, an MUSC scientist and a FirstString advisory board member, the first patent issued late last year was a “composition of matter” patent for a regenerative technology platform invented in a MUSC lab by Gourdie, Ghatnekar and lab manager Jane Jourdan. The technology’s first application took the form of a wound-healing, scar-reducing peptide gel.

The second patent, issued this month, is a “methods of use” patent, meaning the peptide-gel can be used for multiple medical applications. Both patents provide protection and exclusivity through 2026.

“The issuance of these patents consisting of broad composition and use claims gives FirstString important and fundamental assets to build not just its first commercial application in wound-healing and scar reduction, but the entire platform for other uses, such as spinal cord injury, cardiac injury, corneal injury and age-related macular degeneration,” Ghatnekar said.

Spurred by the patents and by positive Phase I human trial results in Switzerland, FirstString plans to launch Phase II clinical trials with more than 270 patients in 2011, pending regulatory approval.

These trials will further test two topical functions of the wound-healing peptide gel: faster healing of difficult-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic foot and venous leg ulcers, and reduction of scars associated with surgical wounds. The company asserts that commercialization of its work could lead to decreased medical costs related to these conditions and enhanced quality of life.

“The clinical progress made by FirstString exemplifies MUSC’s increasing effort and commitment to translate breakthrough laboratory research into clinical applications that further solidify its role as an important partner for entrepreneurial companies seeking to explore new economic development opportunities in the biotech sector,” Ghatnekar said. “We are delighted that our patents have been approved and are incredibly excited about its impact on patients who will benefit from the multiple applications of this regenerative medicine technology.”

The peptide was originally developed by Gourdie in his lab at MUSC for use as a laboratory tool in understanding electronic signaling within heart muscles. It was further developed by Ghatnekar to have translational benefits at the bedside.

The peptide works by inhibiting the production of scar tissue and catalyzing the production of new tissue to heal a wound, similar to how a lizard might re-grow its tail if it were injured. The lab discovery of the peptide’s ability to reduce scar tissue while also promoting heart cell electrical function, turned into a two-for-one exchange. The peptide is also being developed for translational uses in heart and spinal injury patients, as well as for those who suffer from macular degeneration or cardiac arrhythmias.

“Sometimes you start out on one path and you are surprised at the unexpected observations that can become the breakthrough in another direction,” Gourdie said. “This peptide has proven itself to be a platform technology for a variety of ongoing internal and external applications in the human body.”

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