In the first joint investment resulting from a novel public/private alliance, Integene International Holdings, a vascular biotechnology company led by Keith A. Webster, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology and the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Chair in Vascular Biology, has received $600,000 in start-up capital. The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research provided $300,000, and Dawson James Securities, Inc., a Boca Raton-based investment bank, raised additional matching funds.
Integene, which has offices at UM’s Life Science and Technology Park, was founded to capitalize on patented biotechnology created to optimize gene and stem cell treatments for cardiovascular disease. Webster and his team, in association with the University of Miami, have developed procedures for targeting and regulating human growth factor genes within host tissues, and bioengineering stem cells to provide optimized therapies for ischemia-related disease.
“Our first target is critical limb ischemia, the end-stage manifestation of peripheral artery disease — a life-threatening condition with no effective pharmacological treatment,” said Webster. “The disease is caused by atherosclerosis, and it occurs most commonly in the legs of older patients, especially diabetics. Other risk factors include sedentary lifestyle and smoking.
“It has been estimated that as many as 180,000 lower-limb amputations are performed in the U.S. each year. Amputees have a mean survival rate of about six and a half years, but more than 20 percent will die in the first year, and 30 percent will undergo a second amputation within two years. The annual health care cost of this disease in the U.S. is approximately $12 billion. It is considered a major unmet clinical need.”
Integene’s therapy, which is expected to regenerate blood vessels in the diseased limbs, will begin human clinical trials in late 2015. The therapy has demonstrated safety and efficacy in extensive pre-clinical tests. Additional target indications in the Integene pipeline include ischemic heart disease and a broader set of patients with peripheral artery disease.
The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research (the Florida Institute) supports new company creation based on publicly funded research across the state, and bridges early-funding gaps for companies spinning out of universities and research institutions. In order to qualify for Florida Institute funding, companies must raise matching private investment capital. The Florida Institute created an alliance with Dawson James Securities in December 2013 to augment early investment in emerging growth innovation companies. Integene is the first company to benefit from the alliance.
The financing of Integene was assisted by U Innovation, the University of Miami’s center for technology advancement.
“U Innovation has interacted extensively with the Florida Institute in support of several UM start-up companies,” said Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., Martin Kleiman Professor of Surgery, Microbiology and Immunology, and Biomedical Engineering, and Chief Innovation Officer for the Miller School. “The funding is a great step forward for the company, and we are pleased for Dr. Webster and Integene.”