Dendritech awarded $750,000 grant to continue blood substitute work


Nov. 15, 2005

(MIDLAND, MI) - Research conducted in a lab in Midland today could save lives on the battlefield tomorrow.

Midland-based Dendritech, Inc., the world leader in commercial dendrimer production, was notified last week that it has been awarded a two-year $750,000 grant from the U.S. Army to continue its research on a blood substitute that could save countless lives by keeping wound victims alive long enough to get proper medical care.

The lead scientist on the project is Dr. Steven Kaganove, who will work closely with scientists at Michigan Molecular Institute and the University of Michigan as the science is refined in the next phase of the project.

"Donated blood, while it serves a tremendous purpose in the proper circumstances, presents certain problems in a military setting," Kaganove said. "On the battlefield, time is of the essence - you don’t have time to determine blood types, and blood storage is an issue. Even in a controlled, everyday hospital setting, the shortage of donated blood can delay surgeries and present the risk of disease transmission, which, while relatively small, is real nonetheless.

"With that in mind, we set out to create a blood substitute that would avoid the problems that plague existing models - availability of hemoglobin, disease risk and costliness. Our solution comes in the form of water-soluble dendrimers, which will be contained in the blood substitute. This substitute will carry oxygen to the vital organs of the body, allowing medics enough time to get the wounded victim proper emergency care."

The grant is part of the federal government’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, and this funding is Phase II money, particularly difficult to obtain and indicative of an elevated level of faith in the research on the Army’s behalf. This is the second Phase II grant awarded to Dendritech this year; earlier, Dendritech scientists were given a $500,000 grant to continue their work on a coating that will prevent biofouling - by zebra mussels, for instance - on watercraft.

Kaganove said the oxygen-carrying dendrimers, unlike other blood substitutes, are not derived from human or animal sources, which means that in addition to overcoming the disease transmission dilemma, they are also available in bulk quantities. The dendrimers are also proving to be thermodynamically stable in the bloodstream, meaning the substitute can withstand the rigors of passing through the body until clearing through the kidneys in less than 24 hours.

The commercial potential of these oxygen-carrying structures is promising, Kaganove said. "There’s a significant need for a better approach to oxygen delivery in many different kinds of emergency situations," Kaganove said. "The battlefield isn’t the only place this blood substitute could save lives; imagine Emergency Medical Technicians having a resource like this on hand at the scene of an accident. It’s not difficult to see how this project could be a real success, both scientifically and commercially."

During Phase II of the project, Kaganove and his colleagues at MMI and Dendritech will continue to work on polymer synthesis and characterization aspects of the program, while his collaborators at U-M will be testing the improved dendrimers in blood substitute applications.

"This is an exciting project," Kaganove said. "We’re devising a new approach to solving a life-threatening dilemma, and we’re doing it with a world-class research and development team. This project could reap benefits on all sorts of medical fronts while at the same time presenting our local and regional economies with a potentially huge business opportunity."

The STTR program is administered by a group of federal agencies to help provide early-stage Research & Development funding to small technology companies like Dendritech, one of Michigan Molecular Institute’s two local spinout companies. Solicitations are released periodically from each of the agencies and small companies - defined as having fewer than 500 employees - are invited to compete for funding by submitting innovative proposals addressing the technical needs of the solicitation.

Dendritech, Inc. is a privately-held company established in 1992 whose main focus is the manufacture and sale of specialty dendrimers. From there it has grown to become the world leader in commercial dendrimer production, headquartered in a 10-acre multi-million dollar manufacturing plant located in Eastwick Industrial Park in Midland, Mich. For more information about Dendritech, call 989.496.1152.