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Week 24 – Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

I hope everyone had a great week. I know I sound like a broken record (for those of us old enough to know what a record is), but I am always amazed at how fast the weeks are going by. We were just talking the other day about how fast fall has gone by, with the changing color of the leaves starting to already fade and now falling off of the trees. I’m not sure about you, but for me, there are times where I really need to catch myself because the head starts spinning with how many things are going on. It can be truly overwhelming at times, but then I try to slow it down and use the old motto “one step at a time.’ When I get back to this basic principle, suddenly the ship becomes righted and I can proceed on. I am also very grateful for the people around me who help me get through these crazy times. Without them, it would definitely be more daunting to say the least. As you can see from my homage to the Beatles, I really do get by with a little help from my friends, both those close to me as well as those who help out just out of the kindness in the hearts. These are the true gifts in life. I’ll give you some insight as to how both are so influential in my daily life.

We’ll start with the obvious ones, which is our great team of people. We are currently attacking several fronts as we move the company forward. For our NuSpun™ Vascular Graft, we are deep into a preclinical study which requires all hands on deck (a lot of boating theme today even though I am not a boating person). In relation to this study, we are getting our physical space ready to begin pilot manufacturing (mentioned last week) which required physically moving some heavy equipment around, making space changes and preparing the new space. We are also getting our quality management system operational so a lot of stuff in this one area alone. We are also moving our Takeda program, getting devices ready for more preclinical work and evaluating new idea for these technologies. Our KidneyX program is moving forward, requiring us to bring back our cell culture studies (at a high level, this means being able to look how the body’s cells interact with our material in a dish). We are beginning our contract work to make cell culture insert plates (plastic dishes where cells can grow) that use our electrospun material and submitted another small business contract this week to evaluate other possible electrospun materials for these plates. There are other programs going along and add to this that we are in full funding raising mode, the plate is overflowing.

The reason I list these is not to be exhaustive, but to tell you that things cannot get done without a great group of people. While I manage the group, I rely on them to make the process run smoothly. That is why for the company we really enjoy celebrating birthdays and events. Tina and I are so appreciative of what everyone brings to the table that we like to make sure that they feel like family. This week we had a large birthday celebration (September and October birthdays). When I look around the table, I see such great friends (not just colleagues) and that is a great feeling (including a couple of people who could not make it – you are still in my overall picture)! I think we are going to need a bigger table in the near future.

The other group of people that I want to mention is the people who step up to help just because they want to, and for no other reason. Sadly, the world is changing and more people have the “what have you done for me lately” attitude. That being said, there are still some great people willing to help. We understand no guarantees are attached to their help, but just them stepping forward is so appreciated. This week brings a few of them into my thoughts. As I mentioned, we are out looking for strategic partners and/or investors to move the graft technology forward. So much so that I started to become a walking pitch deck (PowerPoint and I have become very close). There are 3 people that I would like to tell you about. Dr. Nikhil Agrawal is an interventional nephrologist at BI Deaconess Medical Center. We are working with Nikhil on the KidneyX program. There is an opportunity to get the company’s technology out in front of people who may use this technology. Nikhil without hesitation volunteered to go present at the meeting. Pamela Norton, who Tina and I met several years ago at an event, is the Director of Business Development at Asahi Kasei. We were suggested to re-engage Pamela by a mutual acquaintance Emily Levy about our technology. Pamela immediately reached out, has been extremely helpful in reviewing our pitch deck (even though she was under no obligation to do so) and has gone above and beyond trying to make connections to other groups in spite of all of the events that she is dealing with on a daily basis. Lastly, Joe Gazard is a local Ashland guy who is a Plant Manager at Terumo, a Japanese medical device company who has a portion of their business in our town. I coached Joe’s daughter in softball many years ago. When I was looking to get a contact within Terumo, Joe immediately sprang into action and made some initial emails to get the process going. Joe even made sure that the process kept moving forward. I mention these three people because all of them make such an impact in my life, regardless of what happens in any of these three scenarios. I am so fortunate to have people willing to help out even if it doesn’t help them. They are the reason that when I get the opportunity, I like to pay it forward. They inspire me and I think the world needs more of them.

The upcoming week brings a meeting with our investors (another deck that I need to finish today), more preclinical data and more research. All good stuff! Have a great weekend!


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