The NSF Engineering Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials is introducing a significant new collaborator today. Executives of InCube Labs of San Jose are at N.C. A&T to sign an agreement to work together on bringing the ERC’s technology to the medical marketplace.
InCube takes basic biomedical technology and develops medical applications that physicians can use to improve patient outcomes. InCube has spun off more than 20 companies that produce implantable devices, drug delivery combinations, and interventional devices and use novel biomaterials. That background positions it well for implementing the ERC’s novel magnesium alloys and other technology for implantable, bioresorbable medical devices.
Significance of the agreement
Dr. Leon Esterowitz of the National Science Foundation says InCube’s commercialization expertise addresses a critical gap in the way biomedical technology is developed today. Dr. Esterowitz is the NSF program director working with the ERC.
“Translating knowledge from biomedical science into clinical applications has been compared to crossing a ‘valley of death’ because of the many issues that separate the scientist at the research bench from the M.D. at the bedside,” Esterowitz says.
“Forty years ago basic and clinical research were linked in institutions such as NIH. Medical research was largely done by physician-scientists who also treated patients. That changed with the explosion of molecular biology in the 1970s. Clinical and basic research started to separate, and biomedical research departments emerged as a new discipline.
“The bulk of biomedical research is now done by highly specialized Ph.D. scientists, and the ecosystems of basic medical research and clinical research have significantly diverged. The gap left behind is the so-called ‘Valley of Death,’ and neither basic medical researchers, busy with discoveries, or physicians, busy with patients, have stepped into this void.
“Basic scientists have few incentives to move outside their comfort zone. It means getting involved with complex regulatory and patent issues, And it may also hurt their careers since it is not the type of research that gets published by leading journals and helps academic promotion.
“I believe Mir Imran and InCube can provide the tools and expertise to bridge this void.”
InCube was established by Mr. Imran, its CEO, in 1995. It has worked with Duke, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and several other universities. InCube operates labs in San Jose and San Antonio. Its corporate family includes a venture capital fund and a medical manufacturing company.
About the ERC
The ERC is developing novel magnesium alloys, polymer coatings, and sensors that can be used in implantable, bioresorbable medical devices that, at the appropriate time and rate, can be broken down within the body and and pass out of it without the need for surgical removal. Such devices could include plates, screws, and wires used in orthopedic, craniofacial, and cardiovascular surgery. A prototype device now in testing is a wire cage to immobilize spinal disks after fusion surgery.
N.C. A&T leads the ERC consortium, which includes the University of Pittsburgh, University of Cincinnati, and Hannover Medical School in Germany. It is funded by the NSF, which has invested more than $20 million in ERC research since 2008.