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New Zealand-based Upside Biotechnologies wins $409K US grant to quickly regrow your skin

Upside’s technology enables a small sample of unburnt patient skin to be grown in the laboratory into large areas of full thickness skin. This lab-grown skin can be used as skin grafts in patients with major burns who do not have enough uninjured skin to provide conventional skin grafts. Science fiction? Yeah – but also science fact. And science fact that saves lives.

Regenerative medicine develops methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues to restore or establish normal function. And it’s big business, as the global regenerative medicines market is projected to reach US$30 billion by 2022.

Upside says their skin is produced faster than any competitor’s products in development. They also say it is supplied in larger sheets with excellent handling characteristics preferred by burns surgeons.

MTEC is a biomedical technology consortium collaborating with multiple US government agencies under a 10-year renewable Other Transaction Agreement with the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. And there’s a lot of excitement about the collaboration. “I am thrilled that MTEC is able to help Upside Biotechnologies further their prototype development and research,” says General Lester Martinez, MD, MPH, Major General (retired), U.S. Army, and President and Chair of the MTEC Board. “These wound care and regenerative medicine technologies are critical to the safety and recovery of our warfighters. We are pleased that MTEC’s membership is able to contribute to the development of these important capabilities.”

Naturally, Upside’s execs are pretty thrilled, too. “Burns are a major issue for military personnel and Upside’s pioneering technology is designed to improve outcomes in those individuals who suffer from large burns,” says Upside chief executive officer Dr Robert Feldman. “The award will support Upside Biotechnologies to ready its product, PelliCel, for a clinical trial.”

This isn’t the first time Upside has collaborated with the US government. In May 2017, Upside announced it had signed a CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), based in Fort Detrick, Maryland (US). The CRADA initiates a collaboration between the two organisations on both the scientific and regulatory aspects of Upside’s engineered skin product development.

Upside Biotechnologies was spun out of the University of Auckland, where its innovative technology was first developed in professor Rod Dunbar’s laboratory. 

The Prototype Acceleration Award mechanism focuses on advancing novel prototype technologies into the next major stage of development. A current focus area for the Prototype Acceleration effort is point-of-injury wound care, including platforms for the delivery of anti-infectives, anti-infective therapies, and therapies to fight antimicrobial resistance. Projects related to regenerative medicine, including therapies for muscle regeneration and new platforms for regenerative medicine (such as bone regeneration and grafting and autologous skin regeneration), are also an area of interest.

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