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  5. UW-Madison spinoff company earns innovation funding to improve unique wound-healing technology

UW-Madison spinoff company earns funding to improve unique wound-healing technology

Ankit Agarwal

Chemical and Biological Engineering Researcher Ankit Agarwal, who co-founded and is president and CEO of Imbed Biosciences Inc.

Imbed Biosciences Inc. has received a one-year, $326,489 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to develop advanced materials for wound healing and surgical applications.

Drawing on the tremendous antibacterial properties of silver, Imbed researchers are creating dressings that can prevent infection and aid healing. Their technology could benefit millions of people in the United States who suffer from persistent wounds, says Ankit Agarwal, who, with several University of Wisconsin collaborators, co-founded Imbed Biosciences based on his postdoctoral research in chemical and biological engineering at the university.

"Chronic wounds such as diabetic ulcers or pressure sores affect 6.5 million patients in the United States," says Agarwal, a UW-Madison researcher who also is president and CEO of Imbed. "Another 2.1 people million seek medical care for burns, seeking critical care to prevent infections."

Currently available biologic dressings speed closure of hard-to-heal burns and chronic wounds, but are also associated with a high incidence of wound infections, says Dr. Michael J. Schurr, a former UW-Madison clinician who now is a burn and trauma injury surgeon and professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver. "Imbed’s technology presents the promise to deliver antibacterial biologic dressings desired by clinicians,” he says. 

Agarwal's collaborators on the small business grant include Jonathan F. McAnulty, a professor of surgical sciences in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. The researchers will refine the antibacterial coatings for wound dressings. “Antibacterial nanofilms being developed by Imbed will modify the surfaces of biologic dressings to actively prevent wound infections and promote cellular growth and healing,” says McAnulty, who will study the safety and efficacy of the Imbed silver nanofilms in small-animal wound models.

He and Schurr also are among the Imbed co-founders, who also include Nicholas L. Abbott, the John T. and Magdalen L. Sobota professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison; Charles J. Czuprynski, a professor in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine; and Christopher J. Murphy, a former UW-Madison professor of veterinary medicine who now is a professor in the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

Imbed has been earning entrepreneurial honors since 2010. In early 2011, the company won the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization PROPEL Business Plan Competition and was a runner-up in the Licensing Executives Society Foundation Graduate Student Business Plan Competition, held in London, England. Agarwal says the latest small business grant will fuel additional company growth. “This award provides important validation and support for our technology to develop next-generation wound dressings for surgical and chronic wounds," he says. 

Renee Meiller