Funding enables clinical trials of novel woundcare device

Cash means industry experts can confirm efficacy of 'tissue scaffold' for skin cancer patients

A consortium of industry experts has won a grant to develop a novel regenerative medicine product to help repair wounds suffered by skin cancer patients.

EktoTherix, a bioresorbable ‘tissue scaffold’ material that assists in patient tissue repair and regeneration, has been developed by York-based Neotherix, supported by Lorien Engineering Solutions and Smith & Nephew.

The treatment offers a way to repair skin in an aesthetically acceptable way, avoiding the need to either graft donor skin tissue from elsewhere on the patient or have an extended healing process with regular dressing changes and the accompanying risk of infection. It will benefit the NHS by providing a convenient and cost-effective treatment option for dermatologists and surgeons.

The consortium has now secured 50% funding for the £414,000 project from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to take the therapy into the final development stage of clinical trials. This follows an earlier feasibility project grant made to Neotherix by the TSB in 2009 and a ‘Developing Therapeutics' project grant in 2010.

This builds on preclinical testing to confirm efficacy and safety, on manufacturing trials and on work done to explore the pathway currently followed by a patient with a skin cancer

The EktoTherix patch is applied following excision of the basal or squamous cell carcinoma and this rapidly allows the wound space to be filled with, and then covered by, the patients’ own skin cells.

The product is formed via an electrospinning process, and the highly-porous scaffold structure supports the migration and proliferation of fibroblast cells from surrounding healthy skin tissue by providing cells with a 3D architecture, which facilitates healing of the wound. Neotherix’s initial clinical target concerns the post-surgical treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers and the repair of other acute wounds such as lacerations and surgical wounds. Further clinical applications are also being explored.

Dr Mike Raxworthy, chief executive of Neotherix, said: “We are delighted and proud to have gained further TSB funding, which will move the development of the product towards full commercialisation. This builds on preclinical testing to confirm efficacy and safety, on manufacturing trials and on work done to explore the pathway currently followed by a patient with a skin cancer. Our overall aim is obviously to use the EktoTherix to help these patients, so we are excited to be in a position to prepare for a clinical trial of the product toward the end of the year, with an estimated market launch in mid 2014.”

If successful during the trials, the estimated global market for the product is more than £850m a year.

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