CHAPEL HILL, N.C. … A year after it was spawned by research at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University, Hemocellular Therapeutics has established an exclusive licensing agreement with the two schools for the technology to create “freeze dried” platelets to treat bleeding in hospital patients.

As a part of the license agreement, both universities received equity in Hemocellular and will share in royalties on the eventual sale of products.

Hemocellular’s lyophilized, or freeze-dried, platelets are the result of a decade of research supported by initial federal research funding of $10 million. The company’s scientific founders, Dr. Arthur P. Bode of ECU and Dr. Thomas H. Fischer of UNC, have led the research efforts.

The current standard of care, liquid-stored platelets, does not provide immediate responsiveness after reinfusion, is vulnerable to viral or bacterial infection and can be stored for only five days. The technology licensed to Hemocellular modifies human platelets to be a hemostatic agent that has a shelf life of up to five years, is safe and sterile and provides immediate response to platelet-related bleeding.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 4 million admissions to non-federal hospitals nationwide in 1999 where active bleeding was the primary or secondary diagnosis. In addition, tens of thousands of deaths are estimated to occur nationwide each year due to issues related to bleeding.

Hemocellular Chief Executive Richard Basile said in a statement that the licensing agreements are key in advancing platelet development to human clinical trials, which he said could begin by the end of next year. No other functional hemostatic agent is known to be in this stage of development, he said, and the need for such an agent to be developed is critical, particularly in acute-care settings.

“We see tremendous implications for this technology,” Basile said. “Our primary focus, ultimately, is to bring doctors and other health-care professionals a new tool in dealing with the very serious medical challenges associated with clinical bleeding. We also see this as a means to strengthen our nation’s biodefense efforts.”

The company recently was a presenter at the Venture 2003 conference, where it was seeking up to $6 million in first-round funding to complete preclinical work and take its product into Phase I trials.