Innovator of the Week
CEO of XenoTherapeutics
Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.
XenoTherapeutics is committed to advancing the promising science of xenotransplantation – the use of organs from non-human sources for human benefit – towards clinical reality. One of our first innovations is the use of skin from a special line of genetically engineered miniature swine to provide a temporary wound coverage for patients who have suffered severe burns and chronic wounds. After publishing a series of numerous peer-reviewed journal reports, we are excited to proceed to human clinical trials this year (2017) at the Massachusetts General Hospital. We have a premier scientific and clinical team and are blessed to have a robust network of supporters that believe in our mission.
Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?
We are incredibly fortunate to be the benefactors of more than 30 years of research and $50 million dollars of private and public investment in the field of xenotransplantation. This serves as the foundation for our efforts. XenoTherapeutics is foremost a “for-patient” organization and our daily mission is to translate the science from the lab bench to life-saving treatments for patients in need.
What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?
In 2016, we had to ensure that the necessary intellectual property and associated patents were compiled under one viable agreement. Funding remains a perennial issue, especially since our technology represents significant technical and execution risks to investors. Beyond these, the field of xenotransplantation has long faced the major hurdle of potential infectious disease concerns. With the invaluable guidance of Dr. Jay Fishman, we were able to design a clinical trial and infectious disease-monitoring program that allowed us to overcome this obstacle that has been a stumbling block for so many past xenotransplantation endeavors.
What’s the best advice you have received?
Start-ups are incredibly hard work; don’t be surprised by the difficulty when you’re working to build one. Set a very clear goal and stick to it; when you deviate from the core mission or add things that aren’t necessary, that’s when you invite trouble and “mission creep.” Keep it simple and keep at it.
What about the NH lifestyle appeals to you?
Live free or die – what a motto to have as the bedrock of your state! This mentality and approach to life is obvious throughout our state and its people. It’s a perfect fit for the culture of early stage companies as well; the underlying drive for start-ups is to develop something where there was previously nothing, the frontier mentality. Live free or die is the perfect daily mantra for start-ups.
What does the future look like for your company?
I try to not project too far into the future, but instead focus on completing tangible near-term milestones keeping in mind a general, long-term mission. It’s better to focus on present core strengths and be adaptive so that we can capitalize when unexpected situations and opportunities present themselves that are in line with our ultimate goal. In the near
term, the execution of a first-in-human, Phase I clinical trial and establishing relationships with international partners will be the goals for 2017. The following year, 2018, will be the Phase II trial, as well as identification of and collaboration with an industry or strategic partner who can help us build on our success in the trials to rapidly scale our operation up to get this life-saving technology into the hands of providers and to the patients who need it.