First come dogs, then people—at least in the Pacific Northwest. Redmond, WA-based Healionics is announcing today that it has signed an agreement to manufacture bioengineered components for Chandler, AZ-based TR BioSurgical so it can make implants used in dogs with glaucoma.
Healionics will provide TR BioSurgical with its bioengineered material, which will be incorporated into a product called TR ClarifEYE. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it is for multiple years, and could provide the company with more than $10 million in revenue, said Michel Alvarez, Healionics’ chief operating officer and vice president of business development. The product will be available for sale in the first quarter of 2009.
The product doesn’t need to pass FDA scrutiny since it’s for a medical device in animals, which aren’t regulated. The technology, as Greg wrote about last month, originates from the lab of University of Washington bioengineering professor (and Xconomist) Buddy Ratner. The key to the material, called STAR, is that it has lots of pores-holes that allow blood vessels and other tissues to grow through, and thus promote healing around an implanted medical device. In the case of glaucoma, fluid builds up behind the eye, placing pressure on the retina, causing pain and eventually blindness. Shunt-like implants can relieve the pressure, but often clog up and cause pain in two to three months, Alvarez says. The Healionics technique has been shown to remain unclogged for more than nine months, he says.
The deal really represents a beginning for Healionics, which got its official start 18 months ago, Alvarez says. The company’s biomaterial is designed to allow the body to heal around implantable medical devices. The firm hopes to show its material works in dogs and then move on to the much more lucrative market of people who need glaucoma implants. Glaucoma is the second-most common cause of blindness in the U.S., affecting an estimated 2.2 million people and growing as the population ages.
“This agreement is one slice of the veterinary market, and we still have the human market to cover, in about 15 different disease areas we can serve,” Alvarez says.
The cash from the deal with TR Biosurgical isn’t expected to make the 10-person company cash-flow positive, but it will provide some income to help it continue running tests in other potentially more lucrative fields, like a STAR-coated catheter that could heal better in contact with the skin, and help ward off deadly infections. “We have to prove it out application by application,” Alvarez says. If the glaucoma device turns into a decent moneymaker in dogs, it will be that much easier to run the sorts of tests Healionics will need to prove to doctors it has something big.
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