A trio of tissue engineering technologies developed by researchers and clinicians from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are moving one step closer to becoming viable options for vascular surgery, skin replacement and tissue regeneration. Eqalix, Inc., a start-up company from Reston, Va., has recently acquired the exclusive licenses for these three technologies and plans to develop them for commercial use.
“We are very excited to begin our next phase by developing and commercializing three platform candidates based upon these technologies for such diverse unmet medical needs,” Eqalix, Inc. CEO Joseph P. Connell said. “Our first target markets and objectives will be to concentrate on dermatology, cardiology and neurology. We hope to make considerable contributions to these fields and improve patient’s lives and treatment outcomes.”
One technology, related to synthetic vascular grafts, dubbed “LCL Grafts,” is a method for manufacturing fully synthetic vascular grafts. The use of these synthetic grafts would alleviate the need to locate and harvest donor arteries from elsewhere in the patient’s body or from another person.
“We’re excited that the nano-manufacturing techniques developed at Penn, Drexel and CHOP are making the leap from bench to bedside,” said Dr. Russell Composto, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who contributed to the development of LCL Grafts. “This advance will enable a new generation of small diameter blood vessels for clinical needs such as coronary bypass grafts.”
Dr. Robert Levy and his colleagues at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia developed the biopolymers used in the LCL Grafts. Levy’s group collaborated with Drexel researcher Dr. Peter Lelkes and Penn’s Composto in combining three distinct technologies for creating the unique hybrid microgrooved/electrospun vascular grafts, which led to the Eqalix license.
“This represents an important opportunity to explore the potential clinical benefit of these combined inventions for future use in both pediatric and adult patients,” Levy said.
Lelkes, who recently became Chair of Bioengineering and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Temple University, and his collaborators at Drexel, developed the other two licensed technologies: “Alimentary Protein Scaffolds” focusing on dermal patches made of plant proteins and “3-Dimensional Scaffolds for Tissue Regeneration,” cell-free fibrous tissue equivalents generated from natural extracellular matrix proteins. Both these technologies could prove to be important new developments in skin replacement and tissue regeneration following traumatic injuries.
“The licensing of three of our inventions to Eqalix is an important milestone in our efforts to translate our basic research from the bench to the bedside and will, without a doubt, result in commercial products that will benefit patients around the globe,” Lelkes said.
The development of the LCL Grafts and Alimentary Protein Scaffolds was supported by funding from Drexel’s $20 million Coulter Translational Research Partnership endowment and federal grants. The partnership is dedicated to shepherding viable technologies from institutions of research to the marketplace.
"The Eqalix licenses clearly demonstrate that the Coulter program, by providing the right amount of funding and business knowhow at the right time, can make a huge impact on the commercialization prospects of university research outcomes,” said Dr. Banu Onaral, director of Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and the chair of the Coulter Translational Research Partnership program.
“The Coulter program will continue supporting Eqalix and the licensed technologies to ensure that these technologies will successfully find their way to market and thereby serve humanity,” Onaral said.
About Eqalix: Eqalix, Inc. is a technology development company focused on developing and commercializing products in regenerative medicine for dermatology, cardiovascular applications, and neurology. According to Connell, “Eqalix has licensed several innovative technologies in regenerative medicine, which will revolutionize unmet clinical needs in multiple therapeutic and cosmetic applications. We are initially developing products for consumer and aesthetic dermatology needs in parallel with wound healing applications. For our medium and long-range focus, we plan on developing scientific platforms for regenerative medicine in cardiovascular grafts and three-dimensional tissue scaffolds for neurological repair.” For more information, visit www.eqalix.com
About Drexel University’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems: Founded in 1961, Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems is one of the oldest in the country. Located in the heart of Philadelphia, which encompasses one of the highest concentrations of biomedical industries and healthcare institutions, the School has formed an academic alliance with Thomas Jefferson University. Research centers at the School include The Biomedical Ultrasound Research and Education Center, The Drexel/Hahnemann Injury Research Institute, The Ben Franklin Center of Excellence in Fiber Optics and Photonics and the Ben Franklin Center for Tissue Engineering.
About The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation’s first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children’s Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.
About Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science: Founded in 1852 as the School of Mines, Arts and Manufactures, Penn Engineering has six academic departments and 109 full-time faculty, and overall annual research expenditures in excess of $102 million. Penn Engineering currently has 125,570 net square feet of research, graduate, and undergraduate laboratory space in the complex. In addition to individual faculty research, collaborative research is also conducted in 14 centers and institutes, which in the area of materials science includes the largest 2011 funded NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. In 2013, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in collaboration with the School of Arts and Sciences, will open the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, a state-of-the-art research facility (78,000 gross sq. ft.) bringing together nanoscale fabrication and characterization.