Materials science company W. L. Gore & Associates Inc. (Newark, DE) has announced a joint venture with the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) to further develop a therapeutic system using stem cells and bio-absorbable scaffolds to treat a condition affecting patients with Crohn’s disease. Avobis Bio, based in Delaware, will draw on the expertise of scientists and medical professionals from both organizations to build on the “encouraging results” of an investigational treatment for perianal fistulas.
A debilitating condition that affects patients with Crohn’s disease, perianal fistulas are painful tunneling wounds connecting the anus to the skin, explained Gore in a press release. “Few healing options exist, and patients endure multiple surgeries and ongoing risk of life-threatening complications,” said Gore.
"Perianal fistulas are truly life-altering for Crohn's patients, and treatment options have eluded gastroenterologists and surgeons for years," added William Faubion Jr., MD, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who specializes in inflammatory bowel diseases.
The innovative treatment involves harvesting a patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells, which then are populated on Gore's bioabsorbable polymer scaffold and surgically implanted in the fistula. A phase I clinical trial showed that 76% of patients healed within a year. If this outcome is validated in a larger trial, Gore said that it would dramatically exceed outcomes achieved with existing treatments.
This project is the initial focus of Avobis Bio, which describes its overall mission as an exploration of the “use of mesenchymal stem cells combined with enabling bioabsorbable scaffolds that enhance the effectiveness of the cells in stimulating the body to heal.”
Delivering a patient’s mesenchymal stem cells on a synthetic scaffold that biodegrades over time may be a first-of-its-kind medical therapy, noted Joe Carlson, a reporter at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune reporting on the joint venture. “If successful, Avobis Bio may one day offer a variety of tissue and organ-repair therapies combining Mayo's stem cell expertise and Gore's medical materials,” he wrote.
“Gore is perhaps best known to the public for its Gore-Tex outerwear, but the privately held $3.7 billion engineering and manufacturing firm sells products in an array of industries, including a line of medical devices designed to repair nonnatural holes in body organs,” added Carlson. “Mayo has used Gore-made devices for many years.”