Tiger Woods and Hines Ward are just two of the athletes who have received platelet-rich plasma therapy – a procedure where doctors take a small sample of patient’s blood, separate the platelet-rich plasma, and inject it at the site of an injury after surgery to accelerate tissue healing.
The therapy is gaining traction in sports medicine but has some limitations, according to Alan West, the CEO of Pittsburgh startup Carmell Therapeutics. For one, some people have higher concentrations of growth factors in their blood than others, and that’s what stimulates cellular growth. PRP injections are also liquid, so they don’t stick well to a tendon or muscle.
Carmell is trying to solve those problems by taking pre-evaluated blood plasma from a blood bank and plasticizing it, so that it retains natural growth factors and can be injected at the site of injury to accelerate bone and soft tissue healing.
In its first application, it’s being turned into an off-the-shelf bone putty to accelereate the healing of sports-related bone injuries, like the tibia fracture Kevin Ware suffered.
Carmell was founded in 2007 based on technology developed jointly at Carnegie Mellon University and Allegheny General Hospital. It sounds like the company’s strategy has changed a bit since it raised its Series A in 2011, when its planned first product was a surgical scaffold for tendon injuries.
Now it’s testing the bone putty technology in a study of 30 patients in South Africa and raising a Series B to fund work toward a launch of the product Europe toward the end of next year, West said. He said he was “cautiously confident” the product could begin a U.S. trial next year.