by Patrick Gunti
Moneycab.com: Ms. Marino, Cutiss has developed a revolutionary method to produce human skin in the lab. How did that happen?
In 2001 the Tissue Biology Reseach Unit, a research lab of the Department of Surgery of the University Children’s hospital in Zurich started working on skin bio-engineering to solve an unmet clinical need mostly connected to burns. Unfortunately, standard of care to treat large, deep burns is scarce and ineffective leading very often to highly debilitating, disfiguring scarring. Via personalized skin tissue bio-engineering one could permanently treat large wound surfaces and minimize the scarring.
Can you briefly explain how it’s possible to produce personalized large area skin grafts?
We take a small piece of healthy skin of the patients, we extract the cells, expand them, and bio-engineer skin grafts using them and a matrix.
Which are the biggest advantages over the previous own skin transplantation?
Autografting is the standard of care. If you burn your left arm, the surgeon takes a thin layer of healthy skin from a healthy body part (donor site), meshes it to enlarge the surface and transplants it onto the deep burn wound. If the burn is large, donor site shortage is a real challenge. If the wounds are deep, the thin skin which is transplanted on top will very often develop into a scar.
We can grow large quantities of thick skin grafts starting off from a stamp-size thin biopsy of healthy skin. Since our grafts are thick, we minimize the scar and we aim at significantly improving life quality of millions of patients that suffer from skin defects every year.
The potential for the technology is enormous. Who will benefit?
Patients that suffer from acute (burns and trauma ) and elective skin defects (e.g. scar revisions, tumors, giant nevi, etc.)
Do you think that cosmetic surgery will also be an area of application?
We aim at addressing the burn need first, that is our major motivation to push our product asap to the market, but, of course, aestetic applications may represent a huge opportunity in mid-long term.
Once, robots should be able to breed the patient’s skin on the spot. How far is the automation of production at this time?
We are aware of the fact that manufacturing and commercializing this kind of products is a real challenge. And we know that our product must be produced in a safe and cost-effective way. That is why we are focusing on automation. We would like to position our skin grafts as the first-in-class automatically produced skin tissue therapy. A therapy that will be sold in large scale to help as many patients as possible.
„The B round will need to provide 30-40 million CHF to support the market access.“
Currently, denovoSkin is being evaluated in three Phase II studies to verify the safety and efficacy of the product. Until when is a market launch realistic?
We will need 4-5 years to be on the market, of course the burn patient population is not predictable, so we maybe faster, but it’s hard to tell.
The development up to the possible market introduction costs a lot of money. What is the capital requirement?
We have already raised 16 million CHF since incorporation but the next round, the B round will need to provide 30-40 million CHF to support the market access.
„It take sacrifice, passion and support from your family and friends and I have got it all :-)“
You have been dealing with this topic for over 10 years now. Where does the fascination for this topic come from?
The need, the kids that suffer, the fact that in 2019 we can hear the sound of wind blowing on Mars but can’t regenerate skin on earth! It drives me crazy!
Last question: You are the founder and CEO of a major startup, but also the mother of two children. How do you manage to reconcile everything?
I became a mother because I decided to, and it is my responsibility to give my kids all that is needed to be loved, happy and grow to become great adults! Being a mother is extremely challenging but extremely rewording and, literally the best thing that could have happened to me. NOW: Change the word mother with CEO and the word kids with START-UP…reshape a bit the sentence and there you have it… It take sacrifice, passion and support from your family and friends and I have got it all :-)