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How a cotton candy machine gave this NSF-funded, Indiana-based wound-healing startup its first big idea

August 9, 2013 12:09 pm by | 0 Comments

medtricWhen two students working at Purdue University’s Center for Paralysis Research were making small talk around the company water cooler–strike that, cotton candy machine, they didn’t have an inkling that it might lead to business competitions, grants, NSF Small Business Innovation Research funding, a patent and a startup. But that’s exactly how Medtric Biotech began its foray into wound healing treatment in West Lafayette, Ind.

Staring at the machine spinning fibers into that sugary substance, Sean Connell and Jianming Li began talking about what such a device could offer medicine.

“We thought it would be cool to make a device that you could take to hospitals that would make a wound dressing on site–kind of spin out a fibrous wound dressing,” Connell, now COO, said.

So, in their spare hours, they tinkered and eventually constructed a prototype.

“And everyone thought it was terrible. They hated it.”

After another round at the drawing board and much more research, Connell and Li came up with a clinical wound dressing platform–Osmotec–that can both fight infection and accelerate healing time, plus an OTC spray called GoPlay. And it doesn’t use antibiotics.

Connell said the GoPlay OTC antiseptic could be commercialized early next year.

Medtric just began doing pig trials for the clinical application last week.

“It’s really just nano bubbles that will physically fuse cellular membrane and bacteria. When it fuses to it, it acts like a wedge, and it will create artificial pores in the bacteria. Through that you can suck out the water and basically dehydrate it,” he said.

And in an industry of e-skin and an era of high-technology attracting attention and investors, this product, Osmotec, may be disruptive because it is so simple (and affordable).

Investors, particularly government, are beginning to notice. The NSF awarded Medtric an SBIR Phase I grant to the tune of $150,000. They also received Purdue Emerging Innovations Funding for $100,000, along with an undisclosed angel investment. NSF matched external investments with a Phase IB grant for an additional $30,000.

Connell recently told Purdue no one gets paid until the product is on the market (which must add extra incentive).

Though the team is looking to bootstrap Medtric, they recently finished up an angel round, during which they worked their connections to expand into the Asia-Pacific market, where a pharma company is interested in sub-licensing the technology for a hand sanitizer. Connell anticipates growing the platform technology out beyond the medical field (think: fruit and veggie washes for agribusiness and grocery stores).

As for Connell, he could be graduating with his PhD from Purdue any day now (or could have already); he’s been so busy running Medtric full-time he doesn’t know when the ceremony is.

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Lindsey Alexander

By Lindsey Alexander

Lindsey Alexander is an Indiana-based freelance writer and editor covering the medical device industry. She earned a degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master's from Purdue.
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