Winston-Salem’s KeraNetics Merges with Microchips Biotech

KeraNetics of Winston-Salem has reached a merger agreement with Microchips Biotech of Lexington, Mass., to create a new company, Keratin Biosciences.KeraNetics Microchips logo

The combined company will continue to operate in both locations and will focus on regenerative medicine and drug delivery therapies based on a purified human-derived keratin technology platform. It will develop products that promote regenerative healing of complex tissue injuries, skin wounds and other skin conditions. 

"We're excited to bring together two talented organizations committed to becoming leaders in regenerative medicine and drug delivery," said Cheryl Blanchard, Ph.D., who will lead Keratin Biosciences as president and chief executive officer. "Our goal is delivering important solutions to patients in need."

Cheryl Blanchard, Ph.D.
Cheryl Blanchard, Ph.D.

Blanchard, a pioneer in keratin science and president and CEO of Microchips Biotech, said the merged company is "a synergistic combination of leadership with deep technical and commercial skills and confidence in the great promise of keratin as a clinically important biomaterial platform."

KeraNetics has a decade's experience in keratin-based research and development to address unmet medical needs. Kim Westmoreland, KeraNetics' founder and former CEO and now chief strategy officer of Keratin Biosciences, said the new partnership "presents an opportunity to accelerate delivery of new products to heal injuries sustained by our wounded war-fighters and civilian patients with skin injuries and conditions."

Keratin is a tough, natural constituent of skin and hair that serves as an important barrier. The new company will focus on harnessing keratin's unique qualities to produce first-in-class treatments for skin wounds and burns and on developing new regenerative therapies for muscle, nerve and bone. In addition, the company will seek to exploit the advantages of keratin as a multi-modal drug-delivery agent.

To market KeraNetics’ KeraStat wound dressing

Keratin Biosciences will market KeraNetics’ KeraStat, a novel topical dressing for advanced wound care. The product gained 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017 for several prescription indications including the management of partial-thickness burns, severe sunburns, ulcers, grafts, donor sites and superficial injuries, cuts, abrasions and surgical wounds.

Keratin Bioscience will continue to pursue development of implantable drug delivery for other applications.

Blanchard said Keratin Biosciences would benefit from its dual locations in Massachusetts and North Carolina. "Our aim is to expand our collaborations with academic and medical research communities in both Boston and North Carolina that we're so fortunate to have in our backyards," she said.

Terms of the merger, which took effect July 5, were not disclosed. The two companies collectively have 27 employees, and that headcount did not change with the merger, a company spokesperson said. 

KeraNetics was spun out of Wake Forest University’s Institute of Regenerative Medicine in 2008 and has had research collaborations with Wake Forest and seven other universities throughout the nation since then. The company benefitted from several Industrial Internship and Fellowship awards from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

“It is exciting to see the success of a homegrown company like KeraNetics accelerate its healthcare innovation by converging with new technologies to create a collaborative entity with the potential for future growth,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Biotech Center’s Piedmont Triad Office.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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