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New company applies regenerative medicine to corneal transplantation
Date:1/7/2013

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Jan. 8, 2013 Ocular Systems, Inc. (OSI), Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the North Carolina Eye Bank have formed a new company based on a promising new technology aimed at engineering replacement corneas in the lab for transplantation.

"The global need for corneal tissue for transplantation far exceeds the supply," said Dean Vavra, director of the North Carolina Eye Bank. "We are excited to be part of this innovative approach to sight restoration that has the potential to increase the availability of corneal tissue."

The new approach, not yet tested in patients, involves isolating cells from "banked" donor corneas to grow replacement corneal tissue in the lab. The advantage is that cells from a single donor could potentially benefit multiple patients with impaired vision.

The company, formed by OSI, the sponsor and initial funder of the project, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, whose Institute for Regenerative Medicine is conducting the research, and the North Carolina Eye Bank, is an example of the type of collaboration that is a strategic goal of the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP). Also assisting with funding was the N.C. Biotechnology Center through a Collaborative Funding Grant.

The goal of the startup company, known as HCEC, LLC (Human Cultured Endothelial Cells), is to advance the technology to the next level, which includes conducting the additional studies needed to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin studies in human patients. This is expected to take several years.

"Today's announcement is the culmination of more than four years of planning and research," said OSI CEO Jerry Barker, who is the new company's managing partner. "We believe this innovative initiative has the potential to change the face of corneal transplantation. The formation of HCEC, LLC will enable the team to expedite research and development efforts and move toward commercializatio
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wakehealth.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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