In Development of Bio-Engineered Skin Tissue, Third Try is Charm for Advanced BioHealing

12/23/09Follow @bvbigelow

[Corrected 12/29/09, 3:40 pm. See below.] When it comes to commercializing a bio-engineered human skin substitute that could be used to treat diabetic ulcers and other tissue damage, Kathy McGee has the benefit of a long view.

McGee tells me she arrived in San Diego from Ireland in 1992 to work for Advanced Tissue Sciences (ATS). The pioneering biomedical startup raised hundreds of millions of dollars and spent 15 years developing its human tissue products before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in late 2002. ATS then passed the baton to Smith & Nephew, the London-based medical products giant that had been its partner in a joint venture to manufacture its product line. In a 2003 deal approved by the bankruptcy court, ATS sold the global rights to its Dermagraft tissue substitute and related technologies and manufacturing facilities in La Jolla to the British company. Smith & Nephew tried without success to commercialize the technology itself—and ultimately sold the same rights and facilities in 2006 to Advanced BioHealing, a regenerative medical technology company that has a headquarters in Westport, CT and a manufacturing facility in San Diego.

Kathy McGee

Kathy McGee

“I was here for the startup and the shutdown and the restart,” quips McGee, who is now a vice president with Advanced BioHealing and general manager of the company’s San Diego operation. She joined ATS five years after it was founded, and worked in various capacities during the company’s early stage of development. She stayed on as Smith & Nephew’s director of manufacturing. And a few years later, as a member of Smith & Nephew’s shutdown team, McGee says, “I signed my layoff letter from Smith & Nephew in the morning, and signed my employment letter from Advanced BioHealing in the same afternoon.”

Now Advanced Biohealing could someday serve as the definitive case study in how the third time is the charm when it comes to building a complex medical products company. “The two companies that were based here before us were unsuccessful in making a business with this product,” McGee says.

Advanced BioHealing re-launched the business in 2007, focusing solely on the sale of 2-inch by 3-inch Dermagraft patches, which are derived from … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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