Skin is the game for regenerative medicine spinoff

15 November 2016

Patients suffering major burns may eventually benefit from the launch of a new regenerative medicine company, Upside Biotechnologies, which is developing an advanced, world-class skin replacement treatment in Auckland.

Regenerative medicine develops methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues to restore or establish normal function. The global regenerative medicines market is projected to reach US$30 billion by 2022.

The New Zealand-based company has been spun out of the University of Auckland where the innovative technology was first developed in Professor Rod Dunbar’s laboratory. Work to date has been funded by Cure Kids, Auckland UniServices, the Manchester Trust, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and The Maurice Wilkins Centre.

Upside is developing what it believes will be the most advanced and best treatment for major burns.

The new company’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.

“Upside skin is produced faster than any competitive product in development, and is supplied in larger sheets with excellent handling characteristics that burns surgeons prefer,” explains Upside’s chief executive officer Dr Robert Feldman.

Dr Feldman is a globally experienced biotechnology executive. He is joined at the new company by Professor Rod Dunbar and Dr Vaughan Feisst, who jointly developed the new technology, and who become chief scientific officer and chief technical officer respectively.

Upside has successfully completed a first tranche of equity funding and currently seeks further investment. One of its first investors is Cure Kids Ventures which invests in early-stage healthcare opportunities that benefit child health.

“This is a hugely attractive business opportunity. A truly compelling healthcare solution that comes from great science and is being run by a world-class team,” comments Cure Kids Ventures CEO Maxine Simmons.

Meanwhile, Will Charles, Auckland Uniservices’ general manager of Technology Development says it is heartening to see such an exciting technology developed at the University of Auckland being commercialised.

Dr Feldman says he is very excited about being part of Upside.

“The technology is superb, the market attractive and backers excellent. As a team, we have everything in place to make a great success of the company.”