Dermatology, Endocrine, Gastroenterology, Hematology, Metabolic
Development of a Topical Drug to Heal Wounds, Particularly in People with Diabetes
2013 Harrington Scholar-Innovator
In the 25 years since his graduation from medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, Geoffrey C. Gurtner, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon and professor at Stanford University, has earned a reputation as a physician, a scientist and an entrepreneur. He maintains a busy plastic surgery practice, is engrossed in leading-edge research in wound healing, has authored nearly 200 articles in the medical literature and brought innovative products to market in the diverse fields of aesthetic plastic surgery, cardiovascular surgery and wound healing.
To Dr. Gurtner, translational research – “where surgery meets science,” in his words – offers the opportunity to make a difference through discovery. “In medicine you really have to go back to the lab and understand what causes a problem and try to brainstorm a solution or better ways of doing things,” he explains. “My research has always been very translationally focused on clinical needs that are unaddressed by current technologies, companies or drugs.”
In his latest research, Dr. Gurtner and his team at Stanford University have discovered a negative correlation between high blood sugar and tissue regeneration and fibrosis. He believes that this irreversible disruption of the healing process at the molecular level is responsible for the development of nonhealing wounds in patients with diabetes.
With support from the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Dr. Gurtner hopes to translate this research into a prophylactic treatment that would prevent wounds in people with diabetes, paraplegics and other patient populations prone to chronic wounds. This is a field where he believes research lags behind the clinical need. In particular, he says, “It is the patients that I deal with who have seemingly unsolvable problems that are the real imperative.
In parallel with his work on the molecular basis for chronic wounds, Dr. Gurtner is developing a skin patch delivery system for his eventual wound-prevention drug. Ultimately, he aims to have 10,000 patches produced for testing in clinical trials.
Despite years of personal experience in securing start-up funding and navigating through the maze of regulations on the way to commercializing a discovery, Dr. Gurtner welcomes the expertise of the Harrington Discovery Institute’s advisory boards. “Having an organization that says translation is important, that they will help you figure out the regulatory pathway for the drug, device or biologic and, at a minimum, has a network of people willing to work on it – that is pretty unique.”
“This is an area that can only be funded by an organization such as the Harrington Discovery Institute, where it’s not necessarily just hard-nosed businessmen worried about the bottom line.”