New Microthread Technology Promises Regenerative Capabilities
Brand new company VitaThreads LLC gave a “five minute pitch” on June 12 at the WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) Venture Forum in Worcester, Mass. These pitches offer new companies the chance to vie for funding from attending venture capitalists, investors, and entrepreneurs among other potential financers. The company pitched its bioresorbable medical device, VitaSutures, developed by two WPI biomedical engineering professors—it didn’t win, but VitaThreads will nonetheless be commercializing and developing its biopolymer microthread technology developed in the laboratory to produce new treatments for common sports injuries and heart attacks. The threads also offer new ways to deliver stem cells to regenerate damaged tissues in people and animals.
George D. Pins, Ph.D., and Glenn R. Gaudette, Ph.D., are the engineers who developed the microthread technology. They will act as scientific advisors to WPI, which licensed the technology from them for VitaThreads. The company’s management team includes co-founders Adam Collette, Ph.D., vice president of product development, and CEO Harry Wotton, who also founded veterinary orthopedics company Securos. VitaThreads will operate initially within WPI's Bioengineering Institute at Gateway Park.
The biopolymer microthreads are made from of collagen, fibrin, and other biologic materials and are about the width of a human hair. The threads can be braided into cable-like structures that mimic natural connective tissues. They were first developed in Pin’s Lab at WPI, a lab dedicated to biomaterials and tissue regeneration.
First developed as a potential tool for repairing torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee, the microthreads were adapted by Pins and Gaudette for use as biological sutures to deliver bone marrow (derived stem cells) to regenerate cardiac muscle damaged during a heart attack. Other WPI labs are also using the threads, seeded with varying cell types, as scaffolds for wound-healing and skeletal muscle regeneration, among other purposes.
"A fundamental part of our mission at WPI is to translate research into products that make a difference in the world," said David Easson, director of WPI's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park and interim director of the university’s Bioengineering Institute. "We are pleased to support this team's efforts and look forward to VitaThreads creating jobs in central Massachusetts and bringing to the clinic innovative products that can improve people's lives."
Wotton said that the VitaThreads platform would be vital to the “cell therapies and tissue regeneration [that] are coming to the clinic.” The company will be applying the microthread technology to a range of human clinical needs, but with Wotton’s background, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the VitaThread technology will initially be used to deliver stem cells for the animal medicine market.
In May, the VitaThreads team took first prize at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Innovation Day 2012, sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center.