A new company just launched in York aims to pioneer a new treatment to repair the painful and unsightly wounds left by surgery to remove skin cancers.
Neotherix, a spin-out business from the global medical technologies company Smith & Nephew, has been set up to develop bioresorbable scaffolds that will help surgical lesions to heal without the need for skin grafts. Smith & Nephew have a continuing equity interest in Neotherix.
There are currently 100,000 new cases of skin cancer in the UK every year and global numbers have been rising by around 5% per year since the 1960s. Most skin cancers are highly treatable with high survival rates but, if not treated, may invade surrounding skin and cause disfigurement.
The technology being pioneered by Neotherix was initially developed for chronic wound applications by scientists at the Smith & Nephew Research Centre in York as part of a project part-funded by the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward.
Smith & Nephews Advanced Wound Management Global Business Unit will continue to develop the technology for chronic wounds, but Neotherix will explore clinical applications outside of the companys core markets.
The new venture is being led by Dr Mike Raxworthy and Dr Peter Iddon, who have transferred from the Research Centre to become Chief Executive Officer and Development Manager of the new company.
Mike Raxworthy said: Skin cancer is often found in areas of the body where surgery or scarring is particularly noticeable like the face, neck and arms. Current repairs often rely on simply stitching up the wound left behind or grafting skin from another part of the body, which means a second surgical procedure and a second wound.
Our aim is to produce a scaffold that, when placed in the wound will actively help the tissue underneath to heal itself and be absorbed back into the body when its job is done. Although our initial efforts will be directed at the repair of skin cancer sites, we expect the technology to be suitable for use in a number of other surgical procedures.
He added: The first six months will focus on evaluating the technology and adapting it for this clinical application. After that we will be seeking backing to commercialise the treatment and we hope to have the product on the market by 2010.