UK-connected Spinoff Works to Heal Horse Injuries
LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 18, 2011) — The University of Kentucky campus is situated in the heart of horse country, so it is a natural fit for new equine-related technology based companies to be headquartered in the Bluegrass region.
Equinext LLC, a new biotech spinoff company, and Lexington-based Hagyard Equine Medical Institute have formed a partnership to bring a medical device to the equine market to treat tendon and ligament injuries and Wobbler's Syndrome in horses and other animals. Equinext will use its chemically made injectable reagent device on these lower leg strains and sprains, which are very common in all types of performance horses and have a high rate of reoccurrence. Clinical trials are expected to begin in the next year.
Orthopeutics-Intralink Spine Inc., the parent company to Equinext, relocated from Texas to the University of Kentucky Coldstream Research Campus last year along with Chief Scientific Officer Tom Hedman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Hauck.
The Equinext technology, called NEXT™ or Nonsurgical EXogenous crosslink Therapy, provides almost immediate benefits to the horse. It is injected directly into the lesion of the injured tendon or ligament and interacts with the native proteins (collagen) causing the tissue to strengthen and mechanically stabilize so the natural healing process begins. The therapeutic effect is reached within 30 to 60 minutes of application and dramatically reduces recovery time for the horse; some tendon and ligament injuries can take up to a year or more to heal.
In this case, the equine applications of this NEXT technology grew out of efforts to help the human condition. Orthopeutics-Intralink Spine will be conducting human clinical trials using the technology as a treatment for degenerative disc disease and related lower back pain.
"We realized shortly after we came to Lexington that our device originally designed to treat low back pain and knee meniscus tears in humans was an obvious cross-over technology for the equine industry," said Hauck. "Lexington is one of the few places in the world for this to happen."
NEXT was developed from the research of Hedman, an MIT-trained and NIH-funded professor. Hedman, formerly at Texas A&M University, joined the University of Kentucky faculty with a joint appointment in neurosurgery and biomedical engineering.
Hedman and veterinarians Kim Sprayberry and Duncan Peters of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute will conduct the Equinext clinical trials. They expect to complete the trials by the third quarter of 2013.
Equine injuries to the tendons and ligaments can affect up to 30 percent of competitive horses with higher rates of occurrence in working horses (horses used for driving, guiding, packing, search and rescue, and police work). NEXT also will be used to treat Wobbler's Syndrome, which causes significant horse loss for the racing industry.
"We are excited to partner with Equinext to bring such an amazing technology to the animal care industry," said Andy Clark, DVM and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute CEO. "Our vision is that the NEXT device will revolutionize how we treat these injuries not only in competitive horses, but in pleasure horses and comfort animals as well." Hauck said, "Our new spinoff company and strategic alliance with Hagyard, who have the best equine veterinarians in the business, is the culmination of work by so many people in Lexington."
Parent company Orthopeutics-Intralink Spine was the client of the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) - Commerce Lexington - University of Kentucky economic development partnership. Hauck also worked with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development that oversees the Kentucky Small Business Innovation Research-Small Business Technology transfer (SBIR-STTR) Matching Funds Program, which according to Hauck, was the initial impetus for relocating the biotech company and Hedman's research group from Texas to Lexington.
"The Equinext-Orthopeutics story is a great economic development success for our state and for the Lexington-Bluegrass Region," said Len Heller, UK vice president for commercialization and economic development. "As a result of the work of all of the partners, we now have a brilliant new researcher at UK, a new technology-based company at Coldstream that has already created a spinoff, and new high-paying jobs."
Equinext is currently sharing lab space and staff with Orthopeutics-Intralink Spine at Coldstream. Plans call for a separate Coldstream lab and hiring four new staff. Hauck is working with Kentucky's largest sterile pharmaceutical manufacturer, Coldstream Laboratories Inc., to produce the device for the clinical trials. Coldstream Laboratories is also located at the UK research campus.
"It is very exciting to see a technology like this which has multiple applications," said Warren Nash, director of the Lexington Innovation & Commercialization Center and part of the UK commercialization and economic development office, who is working on Equinext. "There is no question that it will have a huge impact on the Lexington-Bluegrass Region's multi-million dollar horse industry."
MEDIA CONTACT: Deb Weis, (859) 257-8296; Carl Nathe, (859) 257-1754, ext. 238.