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FirstString Research Wins Tibbetts Award from US Small Business Administration

Contact: Heather Woolwine
843-792-7669
woolwinh@musc.edu

Feb 15, 2015

CHARLESTON, SC – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded the Tibbetts Award to FirstString Research at a ceremony in the White House on Jan. 10. The Tibbetts Award honors Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program participants who “have created a significant economic or social impact… and are considered the best of the best from the thousands of firms that participate in the SBIR/STTR program,” according to the SBA website.

Support from the SBIR program enabled FirstString to advance its aCT1-based lead product, Granexin® gel, through four human clinical studies. Pivotal trials are currently underway, green-lighted by the FDA. The product has demonstrated superior clinical benefit in radiation injuries to the skin, diabetic foot ulcers, and venous leg ulcers, making it a highly desirable therapy showing great promise as a new standard of care in the future.

“It is an honor to receive this prestigious award,” said Dr. Gautam Ghatnekar, FirstString’s president and CEO. “The SBIR and STTR programs have helped immensely in advancing our product pipeline through preclinical and clinical testing. FirstString is dedicated to the development of cutting-edge therapeutic options for diseases and conditions that have high unmet therapeutic needs and we are very pleased to have this recognition of our long-term efforts and accomplishments with respect to this goal.”

As a result of laboratory discoveries made at the Medical University of South Carolina several years ago, FirstString Research seeks to deliver clinically relevant and effective solutions for inflammation and injury-based medical conditions by better understanding the molecular and cellular contexts that define how the disease process works. It was an unexpected discovery in working with electronic signaling in heart muscles in another researcher’s lab that led Ghatnekar to realize that the peptide he was working with had the potential to decrease scar tissue and heal wounds faster in laboratory animals. A resulting topical gel was shown to decrease scar tissue and heal wounds faster in laboratory mice, leading to the formation of FirstString Research. The peptide works by inhibiting the production of scar tissue and catalyzing the production of new tissue to heal a wound, similar to how a lizard might re-grow its tail if it were injured.

FirstString Research is now advancing the development of its novel peptide-based therapeutic platform for several unmet medical needs, including radiation-induced injuries to the skin, chronic wounds, ophthalmology, burns, organ preservation, and oncology. Its lead drug, aCT1, mitigates excessive inflammation by reinforcing cell-to-cell contacts in endothelial cells (blood vessel wall), and restoring cell-to-cell communication that restores and enables cellular coordination and leads to improved injury response.

This collaborative pipeline of biotechnology involving MUSC and FirstString serves as a successful model for other academic medical centers to improve human health with comprehensive strategies to commercialize and move these kinds of much needed products into the market for patient use.

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has grown from a small private medical school founded in 1824 into one of the nation’s top academic health science centers, with a 700-bed medical center (MUSC Health) and six colleges. As South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health center providing a full range of programs in the biomedical sciences, MUSC is engaged in activities statewide. Its campus is located on more than 80 acres in the city of Charleston, with an overall population of about 13,000 clinicians, faculty, staff and students. Nearly 3,000 students in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy) study for degrees at the baccalaureate, master's, doctoral, and other professional levels. The university also provides residency training for more than 700 graduate health professionals. The teaching staff is comprised of more than 1,700 full and part-time faculty.

About FirstString Research
FirstString Research was founded on a vision to deliver breakthrough solutions for inflammation and injury based medical conditions through a better understanding of the molecular and cellular contexts that define the underlying pathology. Our focus is on diseases associated with dysregulation of inflammatory processes and modulation of injury response, such as in cutaneous radiation injury, radiation dermatitis, and wounds. Inflammation is an inevitable and potentially harmful response to tissue damage or trauma and understanding the molecular basis underlying the body’s systemic inflammatory response within the context of the injury offers significant therapeutic opportunity. Our technology works to mitigate the spread of injury signal and limit the inflammatory response, thereby creating an environment for reduced skin damage and faster healing. Our approach effectively “reboots” the normal injury response mechanisms and serves to reduce the spread of injury signals, mitigate excessive inflammatory response, accelerate re-epithelialization, promote normal healing and prevent long-term complications. FirstString Research’s management and advisory team has a proven track record of building and leading companies in the research, biotechnology, and biopharmaceutical sectors, and brings decades of experience in drug discovery and development. Their scientific excellence and range of expertise, in the drug discovery and development process, has resulted in several FDA-approved breakthrough therapies in oncology and inflammation-based disorders. For more information on FirstString Research, visit FirstString Research website.