Wound repair firm scales up
It was way back in January 2008 that the then Wellington-based biomedicine company Mesynthes raised its first seed capital and set its sights on the global “soft tissue regeneration” materials market.
Now with 35 staff, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for one product and approval pending for another, plus an established distribution network into the world’s biggest biomedical market, the USA, the future is looking bright.
In layman’s terms, Mesynthes is developing and delivering safe and effective new materials to help with human tissue repair and healing.
Founder and CEO Brian Ward says the venture was launched in the belief that there was a growing need for such materials, and in the knowledge that he had found an unlikely – and, in New Zealand, also a plentiful – source for them: the fore-stomach of ruminants such as cows.
From starting in a small leased space at Industrial Research in Wellington, Mesynthes recently graduated to a new warehouse in Auckland which Ward hopes will meet the company’s needs for at least the next five years.
Current staffing levels allow Mesynthes to cover all the bases, from back-office to R&D and from manufacturing to the all-important regulatory compliance, Ward says.
“We’ve changed a lot over the last two years. We’ve broadened out across all functions.
“Mesynthes’ biggest challenge has been recruiting quality and qualified people, especially in areas such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and compliance. That was one of the primary drivers for the company’s shift to Auckland, he says.
The benefits are already being realised, with improved access to both international and local skills pools.Ward is a veterinarian by training and a member of the UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
But his business chops are far from shabby. He has an MBA and has worked in a range of roles with industry giants such as SmithKline Beecham.
He has also managed investment for the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, and was a founding CEO of biotechnology industry group NZBio.
He’s not prepared to talk about Mesynthes’ sales figures, but will say he is pleased with growth to date and that the company is on track to be where he wants it in five years’ time.
After launching its Endofrom Dermal Template external wound-care product last year, Mesynthes doubled down with research into a product for use inside the body.
These regenerative tissue substitutes are suitable for a range of soft tissue reinforcement and repair applications, but Ward points to abdominal reconstruction of hernias as a major opportunity.
After expected FDA clearance for that product by the end of this year a commercial launch should happen in 2015, he says.
For many Kiwi businesses, developing great products is not the issue – getting them to market is the real challenge. But Mesynthes appears to have dealt with that neatly through carefully chosen partnerships.
Endoform is distributed by Chicago-based global medical company Hollister. Ward won’t reveal who will distribute the new abdominal wall product, except to indicate a partner based on the east coast of the US is already lined up.
Mesynthes is able to develop outside of those existing partnership agreements, but there are very good reasons for focusing on the US market first. “It has high standards, is a big market and is a great place to prove technology,” Ward says.
The Kiwi company has just successfully completed a $5 million capital raising and is “well funded at the moment”, its CEO says. However, other capital raising options are always being considered.
There’s good innovation in biomedicine in New Zealand and several companies are starting to see success, he says. It’s not easy, though, with funding being a major challenge, especially pre-revenue funding.
“It’s tough getting to market in life sciences,” Ward adds. Risks such as technology change, regulatory compliance and reimbursement uncertainty all weigh on the equation.
“The cycle time is quite long. When you get through those barriers though, the barrier to entry for competitors is quite high. Once you are in, you tend to do pretty well.”