On paper, it’s listed as U.S. Patent No. 7,615,593: “A faster and more effective way to treat chronic wounds through the use of a liquid cellular matrix, rather than conventional bandages.”
But in practice, the patent is the subject of an exciting shift in thinking at UW-Madison about how to move medical technology from patent to product.
Developed by Professor John Kao (also pharmacy), the technology is one of the first tests of a new “de-risking” strategy developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. This project will take the technology full-circle, from a theoretical patent to a prototype product that is validated in human clinical trials. “This is a completely new way of thinking from an academic perspective,” says Kao. “We’re not just developing a patent. We’re looking at licensing a proven product.”
Kao first developed his wound-healing technology in 2002, and immediately saw its advantages over current treatments for burns and traumatic injuries. The process of applying, removing and reapplying gauzes is painful, costly and offers little enhancement of the healing process.
Kao’s technology, a mix that includes synthetic polymers and biomolecules, is applied as a liquid and creates three-dimensional scaffolding around damaged tissue. It acts as a kind of gel that mimics the extracellular matrix of tissue, which helps cells interact and tissue regenerate. “This helps maintain moisture and allows for very intimate contact with tissue to speed up the regeneration process,” Kao says. “The material can be used along with drug therapies.”
Today a small army of professional experts, from inside and outside academia, is bringing the technology to fruition. Kao’s team includes two private contract labs and three contract manufacturers; surgeons at UW Health; other partner hospitals; and experts on intellectual property, Food and Drug Administration regulations and startup company management.
Interested parties will now get a patent with the proof of concept; the manufacturing know-how and the clinical benefits are already built in.
What also should be attractive is the tremendous need for better alternatives in chronic wound healing. Chronic wounds affect nearly six million patients per year, with healthcare costs estimated at $20 billion. This technology could impact burn patients, people who suffered severe physical trauma such as a car accident, and people who have complications from conditions such as diabetes.