08 Jun MatriLab wins Governor's Business Plan Contest
Milwaukee, Wis. – MatriLab, a Madison-based start-up that is developing technologies for the $6 billion worldwide wound care market, has won the 2006 Governor’s Business Plan Contest.
The company, which was honored during an awards ceremony during the 2006 Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference, was one of 27 finalists that presented business plans to a panel of business judges. As a result of winning the contest, which drew 200 entries, it will collect prizes of at least $50,000.
MatriLab, the top finisher in the Life Sciences category, is developing a biomaterial called the interpenetrating network (IPN) that promises lower infection rates and increased quality for the healing of wounds and burns. The IPN platform, with its adhesive properties, allows the timed, controlled delivery of any two medications, including analgesics, and the company’s first product will be a spray-on biomaterial used in the wound care market.
“It’s a cocktail of therapeutic molecules that complement the natural healing process,” said Brian Thompson, president of MatriLab’s board of directors. To illustrate its binding qualities, Thompson said the product has about one-third the strength of super glue.
The technology is based on the work of Dr. John Kao at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it has been licensed to the company by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Its efficacy already has been demonstrated in animal models and other studies, and its first human beneficiaries could be people with chronic wounds like diabetic, venous, and surgical ulcers.
Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, said the foundation anticipates a long and prosperous relationship with MatriLab. “They have excellent technology, have been creative, are working in an area with a large potential market, and if successful will address a major health problem,” he said.
Kao said many existing drugs used for wound care are potentially toxic to surrounding tissues, but the IPN product is unique because it is the only technology that directs medication to the wound site. “The drugs are released in a localized fashion to the immediate tissue environment,” Kao explained. “It is both time and spatially controlled.”
The controlled application of medicine circumvents the need for multiple dressings to heal a wound, he added.
CEO Kathleen Kelleher said the company is evaluating the use of IPN for the treatment of burns, including skin grafts used in treating partial-thickness and full-thickness burns. She said the capabilities of the IPN platform will likely be of interest to companies developing products outside of wound healing and burns, including dental and orthopedic products, and the company plans to enter those markets after establishing itself in wound care.
One of the company’s goals, she said, is to form strategic partnerships with companies that could use its therapeutic delivery technology outside the realm of wound and burn care.
Those potential uses were outlined in the company’s business plan, which impressed contest judge Jim Fenster, senior director of business development for Gilson, Inc. In its business plan, Fenster said the company did a good job explaining how it would secure and use financing. He also liked its plan for phased product development, starting with wound care.
“They have a great idea,” Fensler stated. “It’s something that is very needed in the area of wound care, and it seems to be a very unique product among its potential competitors.”
Once the company developed its rough product concept, the need for its first product was verified by people in the wound care space, including Dr. Jeff Niezgoda, who runs a Hyperbaric Wound Care Clinic at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.
MatriLab’s goal is to have its first product on the market by the end of 2008, with key customers being wound care clinics, and nurses in home healthcare or skilled care settings. Thompson said the company has chosen a product with a relatively low-risk entry point, and with a simple regulatory pathway to the market.
“We’ve taken a platform and mapped out a product roadmap,” Thompson said. “In 2008 we hope to hit the ground, but we need to be doing other work for future products.”
It’s a road map that will seek revenue through the aforementioned collaborative partnerships and, Thompson said, cash in the form of venture capital.
Past Grand Prize winners have been able to attract modest amounts of private capital, but there are no guarantees. John Neis, a co-founder of Venture Investors, said the discipline involved with being part of the business plan process would help each contestant, but the winner should not rely on recognition alone in its effort to secure private financing.
The ability to tell their story in a succinct way and pinpoint their markets will help with investors, but the process will start all over again. “If it helps them get a foot in the door to have a conversation, great,” said Neis, whose firm recently announced the capitalization of a new $69 million venture fund. “Ultimately, investors will do their own due diligence.”
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Network, which sponsors the contest, said one of the reasons it was launched is because investors were telling Wisconsin business leaders that while a lot of worthy ideas were being generated here, the accompanying business plans were lacking. “I think investors feel a bit more comfortable if they know a panel of judges has selected them as part of a process,” he said, “and has vetted those plans.”
MatriLab is working with scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Medical College of Wisconsin, St. Luke’s Medical Center, and management consultants at Milwaukee’s TechStar Early Ventures. Thompson is affiliated with TechStar, which helps launch high-tech companies. Dr. Kao is with UW-Madison, and Kelleher brings 25 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries.
“We are,” Thompson said, “kind of the poster child for the IQ corridor.”
Best of the rest
A total of $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes will be awarded in this year’s contest, and even second place winners have been known to secure venture capital. This year, category winners like Get IPIC, which is developing an identity theft prevention technology and finished first in the Information Technology category, already have met with investors. Winners in other categories were Plasma Devices, a Madison-based company that has developed a technology for the decontamination of mail, Advanced Manufacturing category; and Pragmatic Construction, a Milwaukee residential builder emphasizing green building concepts, Business Services category.
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