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Company gets rights to paralysis treatment

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By Max Showalter, Journal and Courier

A life sciences company formed just four months ago in the Purdue Research Park has been given the green light to commercialize a high-tech treatment for injury and disease of a person’s Central Nervous System.

Through a licensing agreement announced Thursday at the Riley Hospital Outpatient Center in Indianapolis, Andara Life Science Inc. will have exclusive commercial rights to use Purdue-based research that has created a platform of treatment alternatives.
The university’s patented oscillating field stimulator, which stimulates nerve Regeneration and has shown initial results in human clinical trials, forms the foundation for the treatment, which could offer new opportunities for people with spinal cord injuries.

“Based on its advanced state of development, the OFS device may take only three years to commercialize,” said Mark Carney, Andara’s president and chief executive officer, who discussed the company Tuesday with representatives of the Indiana Future Fund, a venture capital organization.

“It doesn’t feel that quick when you have a sense of urgency. We feel very good about our opportunities for putting the product together and having it on the street in 2008.”

More than 250,000 Americans are living with a debilitating spinal cord injury, and 11,000 people are added to that number every year.

Richard Borgens, the Mari Hulman George Professor of Applied Neuroscience at Purdue, led a team of university researchers that created the paralysis treatment.

Borgens, who began his work on dogs and has seen the research pass the first phase of human clinical trials, said the effort will not allow people with central nervous system problems to walk again.

“It’s about quality of life, and that includes being able to generate enough sensory recovery to determine whether or not they have a medical problem, such as a bladder infection, before it causes them serious damage,” Borgens said.

“It’s about being able to experience those minor, but extremely important, bodily sensations that act as our protective communication matrix.”

Joseph Hornett, senior vice president and treasurer for the Purdue Research Foundation, said Andara has the potential to be the largest startup to date coming out of the Purdue Research Park.

Company executives are in the process of hiring additional management team members and implementing a business plan.

Carney, a Purdue graduate and health-care entrepreneur, said there is a potential for significant cost benefits attached to the spinal cord therapy.

“Because most of these patients suffer these catastrophic injuries while in their 20s and require care for the rest of their lives, treatment costs can approach $650,000 in the first year and $120,000 every year thereafter,” he told Indiana Future Fund representatives.

“When you factor in lost wages, fringes and productivity, the overall expense can easily approach $3 million.”

Trial report

Results from the first phase of human clinical trials of Purdue’s patented oscillating field stimulator were published in January in the Journal of Neurosurgey-Spine.

The physician who conducted the clinical trials at the Indiana University School of Medicine said the drug-device combination has shown promising results.

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