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Polymer science, medical technology come together at Ablitech

Ablitech Inc., a Hattiesburg-based biotechnical development company, develops and markets radical innovations for healing the human body. With an interdisciplinary team of polymer scientists and medicinal chemists, the strong relationships with two leading research universities in these fields and an entrepreneurial vision for platform technologies is supporting a revolutionize way in which the human body is healed.

The concept for Ablitech was formed in 2005 by then graduate students Nick Hammond and Lisa Kemp as a result of an National Science Foundation (NFS)-backed program to foster entrepreneurship at the interface of medicinal chemistry and polymer science. The NSF has a program that brought together two leaders in global research, the University of Mississippi’s Medicinal Chemistry Department and the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, and provided extensive mentorship for graduate students in these fields for identifying new market opportunities.

Kemp and Hammond, were two of those students, and were co-founders of Ablitech Inc.

Kemp is originally from Picayune, and received her Ph.D. in polymer science from Southern Miss. Hammond is originally from McCordsville, Ind., and will receive his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Mississippi this year.

“With our experience in polymer science and medical technology, we work to blend the two disciplines together to find ways to heal the human body,” said Greg Tregre, Ph.D., president and CEO of Ablitech. The first technology developed by the company is a novel material for drug-eluding stents. Hammond and Kemp developed the initial concept around a new coating for coronary stents and went on to win awards at several regional and national business plan competitions. In the process, they reformed the basis of the technology creating a platform for broader application in the human body.

“There are two technologies currently in use for heart stents,” explained Tregre. “One is a metal mesh stent that is coated in a drug that gradually releases over time to prevent blood clots at the stent site. The other is made of a bio-absorbable material that is dissolved into the body over time. There are problems with both. What our stent does is bridge the gap between the two.” Tregre said that the stent they’ve developed is made of a polymer that is very rigid when put into the body, but becomes more flexible and permeable over time, more like the tissues in the body. The technology is referred to as biotransformable1.

It changes over time so it moves with the body instead of staying stiff.

The project was initially funded by the NSF. “We received a Small Business Innovative Research grant,” Tregre said. “We are in the initial testing phases of the stent now. We are moving towards animal testing and will then do medical trials. The process of testing any new medical application is very time intensive.”

Tregre said that chose to locate their business in Hattiesburg because of the strong support they receive from the Polymer Science Department at Southern Miss. “We actually rent lab space from the Mississippi Polymer Science Institute on campus, and three of our owners have a polymer science degree from the University,” Tregre explains. “The University gives a lot of support to entrepreneurial companies like ours.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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