These are heady times for the life sciences industry in Pennsylvania.
Our state is becoming a hotbed of medical and pharma companies and Pittsburgh has the perfect chemistry for this sector, supported by public-private partnerships such as the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
With all this excitement bubbling up in labs and research centers across the region, narrowing a list of the most promising life science companies was no easy feat. With a bit of lively debate and the assistance of local business leaders and investors, the following list has emerged.
Many of these companies have proved themselves over the long haul, which is what it takes to survive the bumpy process from development and research to testing, clinical trials and commercialization. They have grown up in Pittsburgh and most are firmly committed to the region.
Several recently received clearances to sell their products overseas in the coming year. All have the potential for major growth. The Pop City Top 10 Life Science Companies to Watch in 2013:
In an impressive show of local support, this South Side company raised an additional $10 million in 2012 with most of the funding coming from Pittsburgh investors. The company has raised $40 million since it was founded in 1997.
ALung is anticipating European regulatory approval in 2013 for its Hemolung Respiratory Assist System (RAS), which is helping to improve the lives of patients who suffer from acute respiratory failure. The company is making plans to begin a sales and commercialization push in Europe in the coming year.
The big news in December 2012 was FDA clearance that paves the way for BlueBelt to begin marketing its NavioPFS, an orthopedic surgical system for partial knee replacement surgery. The procedure was also successfully performed in United Kingdom; plans call for commercial expansion across the UK and Europe.
While the company is based in Minneapolis, MN, the research center is in Pittsburgh where the system was first developed as a Carnegie Mellon spinoff in 2003.
Plasma-based plastics that allow bone to heal and repair itself is what Carmell is all about. The company’s highlight in 2012 was the start of a clinical trial in South Africa for its bone putty, which is successfully helping to accelerate the healing of bone injuries and connective tissue while reducing complications.
A major goal for the coming year is to complete financing that will enable Carmell to commence additional clinical trials in Europe and the U.S. The technology was developed jointly by CMU and Allegheny General Hospital. The firm is focused on the sports medicine market.
This University of Pittsburgh success story is developing absorbable surgical adhesives and sealants.
Highlights in 2012 include raising nearly $10 million (with more than $60 million in fundraising to date), the completion of two of the four requirements required for FDA approval and completion of the initial stages of R&D for Sylys Surgical Sealant, a proprietary bowel sealant. The company won several awards last year including a Carnegie Science Award for the invention of TissueGlu which will speed the healing of surgeries like tummy-tucks.
Cohera Medical plans to complete its submission to the FDA for TissuGlu Surgical Adhesive in late 2013, obtain CE Mark approval for Sylys Surgical Sealant development and grow the company in foreign markets such as Germany.
Another University of Pittsburgh success story, this biopharmaceutical company has largely flown under the local radar. The South Side firm is developing a new class of drugs for inflammatory and metabolic diseases. Complexa’s lead program targets Type 2 diabetes and has the potential to expand into the treatment of aspects of dysmetabolic syndrome.
The company is targeting mid-2013 to start clinical trials. The money raised--$3.6 million to date--will be used for pre-clinical work needed to get to trials. Complexa also plans to submit an investigatory new drug application to the FDA in the second quarter of 2013.
This drug discovery company is at an exciting stage in its research to halt the progress of Alzheimer’s Disease. Cognition closed on a $2 million round of additional financing in 2012 from angel investors who are committed to finding a cure and looking for robust returns.
Even more important, Cognition validated a new molecular target for the disease and generated orally viable compounds, drugs that can be taken daily by mouth. This year one of those drugs will be nominated for clinical development and additional capital will be raised to finance the advancement of the candidate into the clinic. The company also hopes to secure a pharmaceutical partner in the coming year.
This Oakmont company has hit its stride manufacturing and selling a remote monitoring alert system for nursing homes and private residences that is improving the health and well-being of the elderly population. The system is used by caregivers to keep track of the daily activities of those for whom they are caring.
The company is a spinout of Pittsburgh-based medSage Technologies, which was bought by Royal Philips Electronics in December of 2010. Highlights in 2012 include the market introduction of the ConnectCare Resident Attendant System and the ConnectCare Home Monitor. In 2013 NewCare will continue market penetration of the ConnectCare Resident Attendant System and the introduction of the SilentAlert System for mobile-assisted living residents.
This orthopedic technology company has developed a suite of operating room technologies for the medical professional. In 2012 the company entered into an exclusive global distribution agreement for its Quantum Shoulder Positioning System with Arthrosurface, Inc. in Boston, MA, and began production of its second product offering (the Quantum Surgical Arm Positioner), which grew sales 2500% over the previous year.
In 2013, Quantum OPS will launch its Quantum Arm Positioning System coupled with a newly redesigned version of the Quantum Shoulder Positioning System. Strong sales and significantly greater revenue generation are projected. The firm also hopes to expand its international presence and dramatically increase sales volume outside the U.S.
This South Side company received FDA authorization to begin marketing its initial prescription product this year, The Stork, a tool to help couples overcome one of several infertility problems and conceive in the comfort of their own home. 2013 will mark the launch of the product in Pittsburgh. Rinovum also plans to move into a larger facility this year where manufacturing will also take place.
Thar Pharmaceuticals is reinventing on-the-market drugs by improving their clinical performance and economic benefit. The company’s lead product is an oral form of a bone metastasis (cancer) drug, which was developed and is sold by a major pharmaceutical company.
The highlight for Thar Pharmaceuticals in 2012 was advancing this re-invented drug to clinical trials and receiving composition-of-matter patent protection on the drug that extends to 2030, providing double the typical patent-protected commercial life of most drugs. Thar Pharmaceuticals hopes to have its first phase human clinical data in the second quarter of 2013 and its second phase human clinical data in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Upon completion of the clinical trials, Thar’s oral drug should have the established clinical efficacy of the current drug on the market but with fewer side effects and greater savings.
Read the Pop City Top 10 Tech Companies to Watch in 2013
Deb Smit is innovation and job news editor at Pop City.