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BioSET Offers New Twist on the Healing Touch

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 4, 2004; Page E05

Doctors routinely use plates, rods and screws to bolt a nasty bone fracture back together. But all of that hardware won't help heal the bone and muscle tissue surrounding the injury, said Thomas G. Roueche, president and chief executive of BioSurface Engineering Technologies Inc. of College Park.

Roueche's early-stage company, known as BioSET, focuses on developing therapeutic peptides -- molecular messengers that direct cells to start or stop growing or to change into something different -- to help the human body heal.

BioSurface Engineering Technologies senior scientist Kazu Takahashi evaluates a peptide's potential in the company's College Park laboratory. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Name: BioSurface Engineering Technologies Inc.

Location: College Park

Big idea: Develops therapeutic peptides to assist the body in healing. Devised a delivery system that allows scientists to control how a drug is released.

Founded: March 2001.

Web site:www.biosetinc.com

Who's in charge: The four co-founders are William G. Mavity, board chairman; Thomas G. Roueche, president and chief executive; Linda M. Finn, vice president of finance and administration, and Paul O. Zamora, vice president and chief scientific officer.

Funding: The company was originally funded by the four co-founders. It recently raised $5 million in second-round funding from the Vertical Group of New Jersey, EDF Ventures of Michigan, MB Ventures of Tennessee and Boston Scientific Corp. of Massachusetts. The Vertical Group and Boston Scientific were also founding investment partners.

Employees: Seven

Partnership: The company hopes to eventually partner with a large medical device or biopharmaceutical company.

BioSET's research, which has not yet reached human trials, is based on adding peptides as an ultra-thin coating to medical implants. The peptides would be released over days or weeks directly into the damaged bone and muscle tissue. Peptides also have shown promise in preventing cerebral aneurysms from rupturing, Roueche said. In a minimally invasive procedure, tiny coils and wires loaded with peptides designed to help the blood vessel seal would be threaded through the femoral artery and to the brain.

Roueche said these converged medical-biologic devices are the future of patient treatment.

Peptides are typically grown in laboratories in animal cells or special bacteria, but Roueche said the process is laborious and inefficient. He said BioSET has devised an improved method of growing peptides through chemical synthesis in a lab, building them one amino acid at a time. "We're able to design from scratch, the way we want it to look, without any extras," Roueche said.

He said this ability will set his company apart from competitors. For example, Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp. both manufacture drug-coated stents. The tiny metal scaffolds are used to prop open arteries and prevent them from reclogging. Roueche said the drugs used to coat such stents are well-known, globally used cancer therapeutics. The question, he said, is: "How do we optimize this drug for this specific application? We're able to tailor or design our peptide to optimally act in a specific application versus 'one drug fits all.' "

Roueche said another big question in the medical biologic device field is about dosing. He said BioSET has devised a "linking technology" that controls this process through a chemically modified molecule that mimics the body's natural method of delivering growth factors to the target cell.

Roueche said converged medical-biologic devices will improve the healing process, resulting in shorter hospital stays, fewer side effects and fewer repeat surgeries. "The [potential] savings to the health care system are enormous," he said. But the reality is still some time away. BioSET has completed some animal studies. Roueche said the company hopes to move to human trials in the next two to five years.

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