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Week 28 – On the Road Again

It was nice to get a few days back at home base before hitting the road again. Some people think that it must be great to travel to different areas but this is not for fun. If it was, I would be all over that. Tina and I enjoy our day trips on the weekend. The most recent trips are basically single day trips for a specific reason. I would much rather be tinkering around in the lab than travelling but it is a necessary evil. Today’s travel finds Tina and me on a LimoLiner bus to New York City. It’s not a bad way to travel. It’s like traveling on an airplane with lunch/snacks, wi-fi and tv. I was able to write the blog during this time. The goal of this trip is to meet with two vascular graft companies: to update one company and meet another for the first time. Looking forward to the discussion and to see where it takes us.

As I mentioned in our last blog, we are making an all-out effort to bring in funding that will be required to move our NuSpun™ Vascular Graft through benchtop and preclinical testing to eventual use in people. I believe that raising funds is the hardest thing we will do, not that the other areas are going to be easy. The pathway to approval is fairly straight-forward in terms of knowing what needs to be done. It’s the amount of money that it takes to get there that is the challenge. The main hurdle we are going to have to overcome is that, from a strategic or traditional investor (venture capital) perspective, the market may not be “big enough.” Not that it could help people but, rather the overall amount of money that the device will make is not big enough. Unlike a block-buster drug, where companies can make billions (yes with a b) on a single drug each year even though it takes billions to bring one single successful drug to market.

Now, you may be thinking that I am being a little pessimistic. The reality is that these groups are using their money to make more money so the theory is completely understood and appreciated. They are taking a risk that may not pan out. I can’t fault them for that. My issue is how much is enough. If our graft ends up being a multi-million-dollar device (not billions) and will help people while not costing as much as a drug to develop and makes them decent money, is that worth it? I believe it is. I am floored when I see groups willing to take on large risk even when it fails. “Smaller” investments are considered not worth the time. Case in point, I just read about Hologic, a local medical technology company, who acquired a technology for $1.6 billion a few years ago. Technology did not work out and recently sold it for $200 million, almost a 10-fold loss (lost $10 dollars for every dollar spent). Companies are ok with this strategy and more of them are doing it. Investing lower amounts is considered more of a “risk.” It is hard for me to understand this but I am a scientist at heart so what do I know. Regardless of my concerns, I am hopeful that we will find a partner/investor that helps us advance this technology to help people while also making them money: a win-win.

Let me back up a little bit to talk about this past week prior to the road trip. We are growing out the door, which is a good thing but requires more of my time to get things set up. Happy to say that this week we completed the moving process and now everyone is set into their new homes for the time being. We are also looking at adjacent space should the need arise to expand our manufacturing space, which may come sooner than later. The R&D and manufacturing teams have been busy tackling many of the ongoing programs while also working together on several areas. Both groups are working together on developing the cell culture insert plates for the National Institutes of Health. The research team is making the materials while the manufacturing team is designing a process to automate plate production. It is fun watching both teams working together. I enjoy seeing the progress being made. We are also preparing to evaluate how the body’s cells interact with our different materials. This will be used for our Takeda and KidneyX programs. A lot of time goes into preparing for these experiments. We are also making progress on our KidneyX program which is focused on targeted drug delivery. Lastly, we are beginning to work with investigators at Children’s Hospital to make conductive materials for neurostimulation. Unlike when we first started when it was just me, it is less stressful when I leave the office to do things like talk to companies knowing we have a great group of people that keep things moving forward.

The blog will go on hiatus for a week as our team celebrates Thanksgiving. We want to wish you a very happy holiday filled with lots of food (our group tends to like this area), laughter, family and friends!

There will be a lot to catch up on when we come back.


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