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A growth factor that speeds up healing for burns and wounds


A Queensland PhD student’s discovery speeds up tissue growth and repair and sparks off a new listed biotech company.

“The key to recovering from a burn or a wound is the ability for cells to move and grow. We have discovered a naturally occurring novel complex of growth factors that speeds this process up,” says Jennifer Kricker, finalist in the Fresh Innovators forum and co-discoverer of the complex, now called VitroGro. “Speeding up healing reduces the risk of infection and scarring,” says Jennifer. “Our team are also investigating the use of VitroGro in treating diabetic and venous ulcers and tissue regeneration therapies for bone, corneal and skin regrowth – in fact wherever cell movement and growth is required.”

So far the studies in the lab have been promising. So promising, that a company has been set up and listed on the ASX to commercialise the technology – Tissue Therapies Limited. And Jennifer, in her fourth and final year of her PhD is a seed shareholder.

The work came out of Jennifer’s investigations into a particular growth factor - IGF-I – and how it interacted with proteins present in the circulation and in tissues. In particular, she found that when IGF-I is bound to two other proteins, that together, they were able to make skin cells grow and migrate. Her work was published in the scientific journal Endocrinology.

Jennifer’s innovative work recently won her a place at Fresh Innovators – a national initiative to bring the work of 16 early career innovators to public attention.

Following media and presentation, the sixteen are now talking to the media, schools and business about their ideas. One of the 16 will win a study tour where they will present their work in UK courtesy of the British Council which promotes the exchange of ideas and technology between the UK and Australia. “We need more young innovators like Jenny Kricker to create the highly committed and expert human resources that are critical to the success of Australian technology companies,” says Greg Baynton, Managing Director of Orbit Capital, and Executive Director of Tissue Therapies.

Orbit Capital is a Brisbane-based boutique investment bank that has provided early financial backing and corporate advice to Jennifer and Tissue Therapies. “Ultimately we would like to see a plaster available on the supermarket that is bioactive, that is, a plaster that actively assists in wound repair,” says Dr Zee Upton, senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology and co-inventor. “In the interim we’re aiming for a dressing that can be used by clinicians when treating wounds.”

"Reducing the healing time for wounds would not only benefit the patient, but also the Australian health care budget,” says Dr Upton.

Niall Byrne | alfa
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