Ankit Agarwal, PhD, Co-Founder and President of Imbed Biosciences, didn't take his decision to become an entrepreneur lightly. A born scientist, Dr. Agarwal decided to pursue his life's work only after a careful analysis and weighing of options. But his intentionality in starting a company was matched with a bit of good fortune, as well: "The UW is a whole universe," he states, "and the stars aligned." For patients suffering from burns and wounds, their outcomes are well on their way to being a little luckier, too.
Dr. Agarwal has spearheaded the commercialization of a novel, patent-pending technology for imbedding bioactive molecules in wound dressings. His company, Imbed Biosciences, was recently awarded a $1.5 million NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to commercialize their first product: the MicrolyteTM Silver Dressing, a nanofilm dressing with imbedded silver nanoparticles that offers days of antibacterial wound care without risk of toxicity. With their most recent award, Imbed is now on course to turn its focus to human trials and FDA regulatory approval – but what were the so-called stars that aligned to bring the company to this point?
For one thing, Imbed and its breakthrough product are in the right place at the right time. While wound care continues to be a large need – it's a $3 billion a year industry in the US – the market has seen few breakthrough innovations in the past several decades. Dr. Agarwal believes Imbed's dressings provide a timely and simple solution to a lasting problem. Another factor in Imbed's success is Dr. Agarwal's unique training and background, which he credits with helping him see solutions where others have not. As a biomaterials scientist, Dr. Agarwal brings an "outside the box" perspective, contributing a piece of the puzzle industry giants have overlooked. He brings together his own expertise with an incredible inter-disciplinary team of scientists, ranging from surgeons to engineers, who collectively have decades of experience both in the lab and the field. In addition to being a standout addition to their SBIR proposal, this team has been able to gather real feedback from the doctors and nurses who will use these dressings to make improvements to their product design.
Along with their team of scientific experts, Imbed has assembled a small army of business and legal consultants to help them bring their product to market. One such ally was the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC). Dr. Agarwal states, "The CTC helped us with incorporating our business, advised us on how to write our first SBIR proposal, helped us create our business plan, and assisted us with our Phase II proposal. In the beginning, we got a microgrant to help us hire a grant writer and another one to do a market survey, which was so helpful. They also helped us get support letters from the community and others in industry. When a company is young with scarce resources, you need that help to hold your hand as you walk."
There will be more stars that need to align before Imbed has a product on the market – including regulatory hurdles and clinical trials – but with this SBIR grant and the support of the UW community, they are well on their way to making an impact with their innovative solution to a longstanding problem.