CHARLESTON, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SCRA Technology Ventures' SC Launch Portfolio Company FirstString Research, a Charleston-based biotechnology company, has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award of approximately $3 million for the further study and commercialization of the company’s therapeutic for diabetic wounds.
FirstString was founded on technology from the Medical University of South Carolina and focuses on the development and commercialization of therapeutics for scar prevention and tissue regeneration. This SBIR award will fund a multicenter clinical trial that further investigates the therapeutic potential of FirstString’s GranexinTM Gel, in the treatment of chronic neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers.
Patients with diabetes have an increased risk of wound complications, and a major cause of morbidity and hospitalization is diabetic foot ulceration. Approximately 20 percent of diabetic patients will develop foot ulceration in their lifetime, which can result in infection, gangrene and amputations. These major problems require prolonged hospitalization, costly treatments and can significantly impair a patient’s quality of life.
With the help of past Phase I and II SBIR/STTR grants and support from private investors, FirstString Research has developed a short regulatory peptide (ACT1) into a topical gel product called Granexin™ Gel. Granexin™ Gel has received approval as an Investigational New Drug from the FDA and has successfully been tested in four different clinical trials to date. ACT1 is a synthetic peptide modeled after a portion of the intercellular communicating protein connexin43, and works by targeting connexin43’s binding partners and modulating intercellular communication and cell-cell contact.
A growing number of pre-clinical studies have identified connexin43 as a novel therapeutic target in diabetic wound healing. Initial experimental evidence in diabetic animal models showed that ACT1 treatment shortened and reduced the amplitude of the initial inflammatory phase of wound healing, reduced wound gape and edema and accelerated the rate of wound closure studies.
“Individuals with diabetes have an underlying refractory wound healing phenotype. It was these studies that first displayed the therapeutic potential of ACT1 in the treatment of the complex chronic wounds seen in patients with diabetes,” said Dr. Christina Grek, Director of Translational Research at FirstString Research.
“This award will allow us to verify the therapeutic potential of Granexin in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers and has laid a solid foundation for the design and execution of a pivotal Phase 3 diabetic foot ulcer clinical trial, bringing Granexin closer to market approval,” said Dr. Gautam Ghatnekar, President and CEO of FirstString Research.
The SBIR award follows the completion of a successful Phase II clinical trial studying the potential of Granexin™ Gel in the treatment of chronic venous leg ulcers, which was published this month in the prestigious Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
"We are delighted that FirstString continues to meet milestones in bringing their therapeutics to market," said SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney. "FirstString continues to improve patient outcomes and our state’s Knowledge Economy. We look forward to the great contributions this company will bring."
About SCRA Technology Ventures
SCRA Technology Ventures helps innovative companies grow and develop new technologies, creating jobs and advancing the Knowledge Economy throughout South Carolina. This SCRA business sector provides support and mentoring to early stage, start-up technology companies through its flagship SC Launch. Since 2006, SCRA has deployed over $81 million in funding for entrepreneurs and infrastructure to support over 290 high-tech, early-stage enterprises. SCRA has directly invested over $19 million into the program's top 71 South Carolina start-ups, attracting over $301 million in add-on private investment. SCRA Technology Ventures also supports commercialization and growth by facilitating the transfer of intellectual property and accelerating the transition of inventions to the marketplace. Additionally, SCRA Technology Ventures invests in more established technology companies through its Stage 2 affiliate.
Multiple economic impact studies show SCRA's cumulative output on South Carolina's economy to be over $16.6 billion, and that the company has helped create approximately 15,000 technology-related jobs in the state, with annual wages averaging between $55,000 and $77,000.
About FirstString Research
FirstString Research, a privately held clinical stage biotech company, is leading the translation of cell-cell communication and cell-cell contact/adhesion science into a pipeline of drugs and medical applications for wound healing, scar reduction, inflammation, and complex tissue regeneration. The company is currently advancing GranexinTM gel, a topical formulation containing the ACT1 peptide, for the treatment of chronic wounds and scar reduction, through clinical trials, with the goal to broaden the treatment options for patients suffering from morbidities associated with acute and chronic wounds. FirstString is also conducting preclinical studies with ACT1 for additional indications having high unmet therapeutic needs in a number of therapeutic segments that include ophthalmology, CNS injuries, cardiac injuries, organ transplants, acute lung injuries, and oncology.