WisBusiness: Novel wound dressing uses silver to control infections

By Greg Burke

For WisBusiness.com

MADISON – Wound infections and painful dressing changes routinely cause stress to nurses and patients undergoing care. A biological dressing created by Madison-based Imbed Biosciences may curtail these worries.

More than 5 million Americans are affected each year by at least one form of chronic wound, and another 2.1 million need medical care for burns. In the United States, wound infections account for 100,000 hospital deaths and an additional $3 billion in hospital costs annually. Conventional approaches to treat wounds require frequent painful dressing changes and exposure of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

Developing antibacterial dressings that contain minute amounts of silver helps with many of the problems sometimes associated with healing. Most people think of silver as something used in jewelry, but it is often used for its antibiotic properties. However, doctors have had difficulty with silver in dressings since the dosage is often too large, thus killing skin cells as well as the bacteria.

Imbed Biosciences Inc. may have found a way to manage those application issues. The company is led by Ankit Agarwal, co-founder and CEO, who has been researching and developing advanced materials for medical care for eight years.

Imbed Biosciences has created a technology that would require 100 times less silver than in leading dressings to prevent wound infections, reducing clinicians’ concerns about silver overdosing. The technology is able to maintain silver in the wounds for days, which reduces painful dressing changes, while managing concerns about silver toxicity.

In short, Imbed Biosciences is developing ways to make wound dressings easier on the skin and harder on dangerous bacteria. The dressing provides other improvements such as cellular growth, shorter healing times, shorter hospital stays, reduced patient pain and lower overall treatment costs.

This technology has lately generated support from a research arm of the federal government. In April, Imbed Biosciences received a $326,000 grant from the Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

“This award provides important validation and support for our technology to develop next-generation wound dressings for surgical and chronic wounds,” Agarwal said.

Medical care providers are hopeful that Imbed’s biologic dressings can be put to use soon. Dr. Michael J. Schurr, trauma injury surgeon and professor at the University of Colorado’s medical school in Denver, said the dressings hold great promise in solving the problems associated with current products. Those products help close hard-to-heal burns and chronic wounds, but are also associated with a high incidence of wound infections.

Imbed’s market competition includes 12 companies that manufacture and distribute silver dressings in the United States, with three capturing 80 percent of the market. The advantage for Imbed Biosciences, Agarwal said, is the lack of biologic dressings containing silver – despite their urgent need.

“This technology uses a method that does not affect the structure or activity of the biologic dressings,” Agarwal said.

— Burke is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.