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Just as the Star Wars movies’ Queen Amidallah turned to the fix-it droid R2D2 when she ran into mechanical difficulties, Perfusion Technology of Lawrence has turned to M2D2 ߝ the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center ߝ for help with its technical problems.
M2D2 was launched last year with $135,000 in seed funding, awarded to Prof. Stephen McCarthy of Plastics Engineering by UMass President Jack M. Wilson. The Center aims to combine the engineering expertise at UML, the clinical and medical expertise at UMass Worcester, and the marketing expertise of the Donahue Institute, a research arm of the UMass President’s Office. It is co-directed by McCarthy and Prof. Sheila Noone, director of the Office of Clinical Research at UMass Medical.
“For the past two years, we have been working in Lawrence, Boston, Columbus, Ohio and the British Virgin Islands. We are seeking an environment where we have access to the expertise we need, when we need it and at a reasonable cost,” says Al Kyle, Perfusion president and CEO. “M2D2 provides access to a faculty with expertise in life sciences, animal laboratories, technical facilities and staff, and a business incubator where we will locate our administrative office. These are critical to the success of small medtech startup companies.”
Founded in 2003, Perfusion has been developing technology to deliver drugs to the brain for treatment of brain tumors, stroke and epilepsy. Most recently the company has been operating in Lawrence. It is relocating to Wannalancit on UML East.
“Perfusion is an ideal candidate for M2D2, and we are delighted to have them as a tenant,” says Paul Wormser, entrepreneur-in-residence and associate director of external funding, technology transfer and partnering. The Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property office is collaborating with M2D2 to help M2D2 get established. “The company is filling a National Institutes of Health grant to combine its technology with our nanosphere technology,” says Wormser. “That is exactly the kind of collaboration with our talented faculty that we encourage and can facilitate.”
The Perfusion device combines ultrasound with IV-administered therapeutics. The combined therapy overcomes the “blood-brain barrier” that prevents toxins ߝ and nearly all medications ߝ from entering the brain. Drug delivery to the brain is a huge unmet need for millions of people with neurological diseases and disorders. The company has made significant progress proving that its proprietary technique works in animals.
Kyle says the method represents a huge breakthrough in medicine. He and partner Ulrich Herken, MD, Ph.D, chief science officer and founder of Perfusion Technology, conducted two studies at Massachusetts General Hospital, and have nearly completed a third at Ohio State University. This spring they will conduct a fourth study, and filing a grant for a fifth with UML investigators.
“There are many patients with later-stage cancer who cannot benefit from the new cancer drugs because of the blood-brain barrier. We hope to develop the enabling technology that will allow physicians to help them,” says Herken.