Week 17 – Endings, New Beginnings and Progress
For BioSurfaces, August always seems to be the month of change. Besides the summer beginning to wind down (which really bums me out) and football season returning (which negates the winding down of summer), the company undergoes many changes during this time. Our college and high school interns who came in with little to no experience exit the company, hopefully feeling more confident in what they can do in the lab and maybe learning what they like (and dislike) about the field. Yes, finding out what they dislike about the field is part of the internship experience. As Tina and I tell them, that is just as important. For example, if they do not like working in the lab but still like science, they can take courses that focus on jobs without lab work. For the high school students, it may be learning what they do not want to take in college or maybe cements their belief that they like the field and gets them excited for the next part of their education.
This time of the year can also see the transition of an intern to a permanent part of the team. For the past two years, we’ve been fortunate to bring two interns onboard for permanent positions. One is well underway and making her mark within the company and one is just beginning but is already showing promise. Nothing more satisfying for us than to be able to reward them for their hard work. We are excited to watch them grow as part of our extended family. Change, while not always easy, is a necessary part of operating the company. Sometimes, it is making a decision about a potential partner or changing the way we view the path forward. We have been fortunate that the amount of change we’ve experience over the years has been minimal compared to many other companies, even when things were not so rosy.
We have made progress on many fronts. On the business side, we met with several potential strategic partners and are beginning a formal relationship with an investment banker group in an effort to raise capital (more to come on this soon with a formal announcement). On the science side, we continue to make significant progress with our ongoing programs such as the preclinical study for our NuSpun Vascular Graft, expanding our research with the gastrointestinal devices for Takeda and making of materials for Edwards and the National Institutes of Health. While I would love to get into each one of these, I would like to focus on progress related to our work on the Kidney X project.
As I mentioned in our week 3 blog, drugs are commonly used by all of us and are typically taken by mouth or injected to treat a specific disease. So, if you have an infection in your foot, you take an antibiotic that goes throughout your whole body to treat your foot. Doesn’t really make sense does it? This process can have unintended side effects, some of which can be pretty bad. Unfortunately, there is no better process at the moment. For devices, we believe that delivering the drug right at the problem area would eliminate these issues and be a more effective treatment. For this KidneyX program, we are proposing to incorporate a drug that is currently used in coronary artery (blood vessels in the heart) stents (metal cages) into our electrospun access graft device where the device connects to the patient’s vein. This area in current vascular grafts has issues with cells overgrowing which then blocks blood flow.
Our first step in the program is to develop an electrospinning process that allows us to put the drug exactly where we want it to be located in the graft. For a visual, picture wrapping cotton candy into a tube structure like a drinking straw and as you are making the straw shape from cotton candy, you are able to mix in an agent that only goes on the inner surface of the straw structure and only on one end. Not so easy to do but we have been able to develop a process to accomplish this. Instead of using a drug at this stage, we are using a molecule that is the same size as the drug and is fluorescent (glows). This allows us to see where the molecule is within the tube and should be able to be replaced by the drug. In the picture, we have taken the tube structure and cut a very thin slice, which looks like a cheerio in shape. Using a special light, we are able to show that the molecule is located only on a small part of the inner surface of the tube and not anywhere else. Very exciting stuff! We are now in the process of making tubes that have the drug in the same place and will be testing how the drug comes out of the material over time. By the way, this data came from one of our summer college interns. As you can see, a lot can be done in 12 weeks.
Making good progress! More to come! Looking forward to sharing more data as it becomes available.
Have a great weekend!