Accelerate - November 2013

Mesynthes poised for growth

Having perfected a foundation for human soft tissue repairs, award-winning Wellington technology firm Mesynthes is now ramping up its proprietary biomaterial, Endoform, to the next growth stage.

Endoform’s base material is a highly purified tissue isolate from sheep stomachs, with many of the structural biological components retained, but stripped of constituents that would cause the human immune system to reject it. This means it is a perfect, naturally-embedding scaffold to aid tissue repair.

Using a partnering approach, which is typical of pharmaceutical companies, Mesynthes has attracted investment capital from international life science companies, in return for development and licensing deals as part of a go-to-market arrangement. Considerable money has also been raised from New Zealand’s major venture capital funds.

“This approach has meant that our pathway to selling into the market is sorted, as our partners already have those channels in place,” says Chief Executive Brian Ward.

“It does mean our share of the value for our products is reduced, but then we haven’t needed to put up the capital to establish sales and marketing. Also, some of the markets we’d have to sell into are very fragmented, and it takes a large sales force with a lot of resources to cover them. Logistically, it would not be straightforward for us to manage it.”

Although it has taken a partnering approach to initial product development, Mesynthes is not locked into this model in the future and will increasingly have the potential to develop and commercialise products in its own right, which is part of its ongoing strategy.

The company now has 30 employees – having grown from eight a year ago – and a three to five-year development pipeline. Part of its range of skilled expertise includes a process engineer recently seconded from Callaghan Innovation.

“We have a platform to create a range of products for soft tissue repair and reinforcement. We consider ourselves to be a medical device company; we have a foundation material that you can build many things from,” says Ward.

This includes devices to repair abdominal walls, hernias, cardiovascular tissue, and even tendons – virtually any soft tissue which requires structural repair. Ward says Mesynthes has carried out substantial research and produced numerous peer-reviewed papers on the characterisation and performance of Endoform. It is now intent on scaling up the commercial manufacture of a product that it knows works well.

The need for new premises is part of the reason for the company’s upcoming shift to Mangere in Auckland. A cleanroom facility is being created in a 1500m2 warehouse space, which also includes expanded office and laboratory areas.

The City of Sails is also home to many of the company’s service and supply providers, such as those in sterilisation and lab-related areas. Ward expects it to be generally easier in Auckland to find the right people to aid Mesynthes’ growth.

The pathway to growth hasn’t all been plain sailing, however. Among lessons learned, says Ward, is that “grenades frequently come over the wall: the unexpected you don’t plan for and you just have to dig in and work around these situations”.

“The transition between starting up and generating revenue has taken a long time. This is partly due to the regulatory and quality aspects of developing and manufacturing medical devices and, while not unexpected, it’s certainly required patience from everyone involved in the company.”

Updated: 7 September 2015