CEO: Christophe Bancel
Gecko Biomedical debuted its first product, a surgical sealant, in Europe this year. But the startup doesn’t bill itself as a sealant company—it’s a tissue reconstruction company, says CEO Christophe Bancel.
The sealant, Setalum, is built on a proprietary polymer created by Chief Innovation Officer Maria Pereira while she was working on her Ph.D. in bioengineering systems. The polymer is flexible, biocompatible and bioresorbable, and may be deployed in its liquid form and cured with light inside the body, or used as a 3D-printed construct.
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Working with MIT’s Jeff Karp—now one of Gecko’s scientific advisors alongside Bob Langer—Pereira and her team initially focused on designing a material to treat heart defects in babies. They drew the attention of Bernard Gilly and Christophe Bancel of the startup management company, iBionext, who envisioned that the polymer could be used for a wide range of other applications.
Setalum is CE-marked for use as a sealant for vascular surgery, where it is used alongside sutures to prevent leakage. But the polymer’s potential looms large—it could be used as an adhesive to anchor devices within the body, as a plug, or as an implantable, biodegradable device, Pereira said. It could be used as a barrier to delimit tissue, or as a scaffold to guide the growth of new tissue, Bancel said.
Gecko is taking a two-pronged strategy to develop its technology. In addition to running its own in-house programs, the company wants to work with medtech partners to expand the potential of the polymer platform and to develop solutions for specific problems they have in mind, Bancel said.
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Gecko picked up $25.5 million in series A2 financing in 2016 to flesh out its technology. It is investigating the use of the polymer in ophthalmology, lung surgery and urology, as well as in bone and peripheral nerve reconstruction.
While Bancel kept mum on names and numbers, he said that down the road, he expects the company to roll out a handful of products from its own R&D program, along with two to three additional technologies co-developed with external partners.