Medical device developers have long sought to reduce the risks involved with implants by applying coatings to prevent both bacteria and blood from sticking to the objects once they’re inside the body.
But coatings can wear off or otherwise lose their effectiveness. Semprus BioSciences Inc. is developing a solution to this fundamental limitation of implanted medical devices with its Sustain technology, which CEO David Lucchino describes as a “physical extension” of the device’s material.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based company’s technology does “coat” medical devices, but instead of being “attached to [the device’s] surface in a temporary fashion,” as Lucchino told us, Sustain is grown from the material itself. The atoms comprising the material’s polymers are covalently bonded to the material comprising the medical device.
“Think of it as billions of molecular-sized oak trees, and how you grow those oak trees out of the substrate … creates the long-term performance,” he said.
The significant risk of infections from microbial adhesion and complications from thrombus, or the formation of blood clots, presents a sweeping market opportunity. Lucchino believes that the company that can provide a “non-fouling” surface that retains functionality in blood, and does so for an extended period of time, will be supplying key benefits that the medical device space hasn’t seen before.
“I think there is a fundamental paradigm shift, going from what people had known previously as coatings, which have been very temporary solutions to really thinking of a longer standard of care: Thirty days or greater and pushing that out to multi-month.” — Semprus BioSciences CEO David Lucchino
Recently, the four-year-old MIT spinout from the lab of famed University Prof. Robert Langer has grabbed the attention of major companies. Semprus closed an $18 million Series B round last December that included a substantial investment from GlaxoSmithKline’s (NYSE:GSK) venture capital arm, SR One. A couple of months before that, the company won a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help speed its product to market.
Semprus is focusing initially on the vascular market, hoping for late-2012 approval for that indication from the Food & Drug Administration. There are close to 60,000 deaths and $11 billion in costs related to “surface failures” in vascular catheters every year, according to Lucchino.
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