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VOL. 124 | NO. 113 | Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Drug Coating For Implants Attracts Notice

By Tom Wilemon

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Two professors from Memphis have invented a drug coating that may prevent infections in people with medical implants.

The technology is receiving attention from health academics and investors.

Biology professor Lisa Jennings and surgery professor Timothy Fabian at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have founded a startup company, ARISTE Medical, as they work toward having the technology put into clinical trials for possible approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company is one of 10 semifinalists for the 2009 Southeast Bio business plan competition. ARISTE also presented an abstract about the technology last month at the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs New Venture Forum in Dallas.

Medicinal properties

Jennings and Fabian licensed the drug delivery coating from the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. The coating binds and systemically releases drugs from implantable medical devices including vascular grafts, catheters, soft-tissue meshes and angioplasty balloons.

“For vascular grafts, people have thought about this concept for a long time,” Fabian said. “No one has been able to coat ePTFE, which is the most common material used for grafts, with anything like antibiotics. Actually, we got the idea from coronary stents that are drug-eluting and thought, why couldn’t we do something similar with vascular grafts? That’s how the whole program started.”

Fabian, who is a surgeon, and Jennings, who is a vascular biologist, began their research about five years ago.

“We were successful with coating the graft with rapamycin, which is one of the drugs used for coronary stents,” Fabian said. “That wasn’t for infection. It was to decrease stenosis, which is narrowing of the graft. At the same time, we had the idea of using antibiotics because infection is a disastrous complication occasionally from vascular grafts.”

Besides vascular implants, which are tubing used to replace blood vessels, the drug coating could have potential applications for other devices, including artificial heart valves, meshes to aid soft tissue healing and orthopedic implants.

Opportunity to be heard

The clinical trial process and timeline for government approval of the technology could take three to five years, depending on the application, Fabian said.

Jennings, who could not be reached because she was traveling, released a statement.

“We are thrilled that the technology and our business plan are being validated by the investment community,” she said. “We’re also proud that ARISTE can help build on the strength of the medical device companies here in Memphis.”

Their venture has received support from the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

ARISTE competed against more than 50 other new life science companies from across the Southeast to be one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2009 Southeast Bio business plan competition. The company is being mentored by a team of investors and entrepreneurs. Four teams will be selected to present their plans at the Southeast Bio final forum Dec. 3-4, where a winner will be selected.

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