The Miami-based regenerative medicine startup Asana Medical is focused on developing and commercializing novel treatments for IBD, and is determined to provide a first-in-class non-drug, non-surgical treatment option. Their lead product, ExtraCellular Matrix Hydrogel (ECMH), is a hydrogel composed of extracellular matrix derived from porcine tissue. The hydrogel is delivered to the colon using a standard GI procedure, coating and protecting the colon, creating an environment favorable for the body to grow new tissue in place of diseased or damaged. The startup’s first target is ulcerative colitis, to be followed by Crohn’s disease and rectal mucositis.
Extracellular matrix has been commercialized for over a decade and has been safely used in many clinical applications, including esophageal repair, hernia grafts, vaginal slings, and burn and wound dressings. Asana’s novel application of this technology has shown promising results in preclinical proof-of-concept studies, promoting mucosal regeneration, inhibiting inflammation, restoring the epithelial barrier function, and reduce stool blood and weight loss. While traditional therapy attempts to ameliorate clinical symptoms by reducing inflammation, EMCH seems to provide a local scaffold that allow healing. Asana will use the data from the study to support an application for regulatory approval to initiate a human clinical trial, expected to start in 2017.
Currently, there are limited therapeutic options for IBD, and the market is dominated by biologic and drug therapies that can have significant side effects. In addition, 20-30% of patients do not benefit from these therapies and have no alternative except colon removal surgery. Asana Medical’s first-in-class drug-free and surgery-free solution could revolutionize IBD treatment. Although still early, results from studies are very exciting, and could finally provide relief from these physically and psychologically debilitating diseases. It could potentially help thousands around the world, significantly improve quality of life, and even save lives.
Asana Medical was founded in 2013, and has obtained world-wide exclusive license from the University of Pittsburgh to develop and use ECMH. The startup has previously won $250,000 at the 43North Business Idea Competition, and announced in 2016 they had closed a $1.2 million convertible promissory note offering.