Gary Chinga Carrasco
Senior ForskerContact Gary Chinga
The company consists of only two people, but their product has the potential to radically improve the quality of life for millions. Together with RISE PFI in Norway, Oxy Solutions has developed a wound healing gel where ordinary oxygen is the solution to overcoming slow-healing wounds. And when the product needed upscaling the company turned to RISE in Sweden.
Let’s start by defining the problem: slow-healing wounds do not include, for example, severe shoe chafing that takes a few extra days to heal. Slow-healing wounds are wounds that can cover the patient’s entire abdomen or leg, take months to heal, or never heal and are suffered by the patient until their death. Old people with bedsores lose a lot of fluid through the wounds, so they avoid leaving home because the wound smells and, in some cases, the infected wound eventually requires the affected limb be amputated.
“In total, it’s estimated that around ten million people in Europe live with this type of problem, which accounts for between two and four percent of total healthcare costs,” says Jostein Grip.
He has a doctorate in wound healing and is also CTO at Norwegian biotech company Oxy Solutions, which expects to be able to introduce a new, relatively simple solution to the problem within a few years: a hydrogel, or wound healing gel, with added oxygen.
“A wound normally has four phases: haemostasis, inflammatory, proliferative, and maturation. But in order for a wound to progress from the inflammatory phase to the proliferative phase, oxygen is required for the white blood cells to do their job.”
The problem is that some patient groups have rather poor oxygen saturation. When the body part with the wound does not get enough oxygen, the wound does not manage to heal and remains in the inflammation phase.
“So far, several different methods have been tested to increase the oxygen level, such as placing the patient in a hyperbaric chamber, but it does not work. On the one hand, it’s very expensive, and on the other hand, even though the hyperbaric chamber increases oxygen concentration in the blood, it doesn’t help if not enough blood reaches the wound.”
And this is where Oxy Solutions’ hydrogel comes in. By adding extra oxygen to the gel and then applying it directly to the wound, the immune system immediately gets the oxygen required to heal the wound.
“Furthermore, we have seen in experiments on mice that if oxygen concentration occurs in one part of the body, the body forms more new blood vessels at that place in order to be able to process the oxygen, which further increases oxygen saturation in the area.”
It sounds simple when Grip explains the principles, but, as he mentions, developing medical devices is difficult, expensive, and takes a long time. For a small company like Oxy Solutions to succeed, good partners are a necessity.
“This development started when Gary Chinga Carrasco at RISE PFI in Trondheim, an expert in nanocellulose, introduces nanocellulose to us. Later we established projects together and he helped us develop the hydrogel at lab level.”
“The nanocellulose gel we have developed for wound healing at RISE PFI is based on several years of research in close collaboration with other Norwegian and European research groups”, says Gary Chinga Carrasco. “The nanocellulose we produce shows antibacterial properties, can maintain a moist environment and forms a good microenvironment for skin cells. These properties are important for an effective wound healing process.”
With RISE, we have saved so much time that we could instead devote to our goal of getting the product on the market
When the time came to scale up development from lab level to the preclinical phase, Oxy Solutions turned to RISE in Södertälje, which had both the expertise and infrastructure.
“There we got very good help in finding ways to scale up production to the next level, and they also helped us prepare the hydrogel for the commercial phase.”
Oxy Solutions also received help from RISE in Gothenburg to test the product’s efficacy on mice.
“It was in those tests that we really got confirmation that our wound gel causes the body to form new blood vessels to a much greater extent than traditional hydrogel treatment of slow-healing wounds.”
Grip expects the hydrogel to be on the market within two years. The effects can be enormous. But, as mentioned, development has taken time, so Grip is therefore pleased that Oxy Solutions started working with RISE at such an early stage.
“We are a small company and they are a one-stop-shop, and they can always refer us further within RISE if needed. If we had to work with a lot of different suppliers, it would be very time-consuming. With RISE, we have saved so much time that we could instead devote to our goal of getting the product on the market.”