Mon 10 Mar 2008
Ten years ago if you had a car wreck and suffered deep lacerations the standard treatment would have been a tourniquet to prevent bleed out. While waiting to reach a hospital, the result of this treatment could have been loss of a limb or death. Now, it is the year 2008, and treatment procedures have slowly been changing to use a new revolutionary product to greatly reduce these incidents, the HemCon Bandage. The HemCon Bandage provides an instant antibacterial barrier to control bleeding, replacing the need for traditional gauze bandages or tourniquets. This innovative new treatment for hemostatic control is the reason that HemCon Medical Technologies is on Biotech Mashup’s list of 15 companies that have the potential to change medicine.
HemCon Medical Technologies launched in 2001 under the auspice of grants provided by the united states ARMY with additional capital from the two founders, Dr. Bill Wiesmann and Dr. Kenton Gregory. Doing a lot of hard work and having a little bit of luck, the doctors, have turned a small startup into what HemCon Medical is today. The company before last week had three products on the market; HemCon Bandage, ChitoFlex, and HemCon Dental Dressing. Using these products HemCon’s technology was only available to the military, hospitals, and emergency responders until now. This last week HemCon announced a new product, KytoStat, bringing the company’s technology from the hospital and military battlefield to your backyard. The KytoStat is the next generation band-aid, providing instant wound care.
The HemCon bandage contains chitosan, an organic substance found in crustacean shells. In 1984, scientists published in Neurosurgery the use of chitosan to stop bleeding in cats. Since then numerous journal articles have been published describing this new hemostatic agent but it was not until the doctors Wiesmann and Gregory founded HemCon did someone develop a chitosan bandage. As described by HemCon’s website the process starts with chitosan processed in Iceland from shrimp shells. After mixing it with acetic acid and turning it into a gel, the material is cast into square tiles. The squares are then freeze-dried in a vacuum chamber, compressed to about half their original thickness, and backed with a thin sheet of brown plastic. This completes the manufacturing of what is now a HemCon bandage, each bandage is then sealed in foil and sterilized by gamma radiation.
The benefits of a chitosan bandages are two fold; first when it is placed on a wound the chitosan has been found to have antimicrobial properties, second the bandage promotes clotting because blood cells and platelets carry a negative electrical charge and are attracted to chitosan, which bears a positive charge. The bandage has stopped or slowed down severe bleeding from combat wounds in 97 percent of the cases according to this special report in 2006. Hemcon’s media department responded to our inquiries with some interesting additional information, such as “are the HemCon dressings kosher? Hemcon dressings are made from shellfish, a creature that is considered forbidden from consumption by some religious groups. Although the dressing is not technically consumed, it is not considered kosher.” An interesting ethical dilemma may occur if a patient who must follow kosher laws is or could be saved by HemCon bandages.
HemCon may have a presence in the market, a new product that is direct to consumers and an exclusive license agreement with Cardinal Health but, a large number of challenges are still ahead. Two other companies offering next generation hemostatic control technologies are in the market, Celox Medical and Z-Medica. Celox Medical has a granule hemostatic agent which was tested by the United States Marine Corps and obtained 100 percent survival rates. Celox however, still does not have a product for sale. Z-Medica on the other hand sells the QuikClot, which is currently being used by the military, hospitals, and first responders. As well the company has multiple product offerings. In a recent study done by the Naval Medical Center, they compared all three hemostatic methods and found that all substantially improved outcomes verses traditional dressings but, Celox technology appeared to show the greatest improvement for control and survival. It should be noted this was a very small study with only 12 animals in each group and should be taken only lightly until larger studies can be carried out. This study points out that HemCon has some tough competition in the near future. Even with this competition Biotech Mashup feels that with the benefits of chitosan and the current leverage that HemCon has in the market, they stand a very good chance of greatly impacting the medical community and the standard of care for the foreseeable future.