Fibromed Inc. is a new company taking a side entrance to thecrowded field of inflammation and tissue injury.

"Fibrosis is a major, lethal, under-addressed medical problem,"Edward Bernstine, the Boston company's chief executive officerand chairman, told BioWorld.

With $500,000 in seed financing, completed in November 1992,Fibromed has licensed research from Boston University (BU)featuring a potent inhibitor of the collagen cross-linkingenzyme that creates fibrosis.

This scarring causes cirrhosis in the liver, emphysema in thelungs and some types of arthritis, and can also pose problemsduring wound healing.

"Fibrosis has been ignored as a target of therapeutic agents,"Bernstine said. "What it's the other side of is inflammation,which everybody and his brother is working on. It results infibrosis. Nobody treats that."

Fibrosis has not gone completely unnoticed. Several companiesare working on developing lubricants and other physical meansto prevent scar tissue formation following surgery or withinjoints. Others, such as Celtrix Pharmaceuticals Inc., Genentech,Inc. and Telios Pharmaceuticals, have investigated growthfactors that influence collagen formation.

"It's quite new," said Michael Pierschbacher, senior vicepresident and scientific director of San Diego-based Telios."People have just begun to realize the possibilities andpotential for controlling fibrosis." His company becameinvolved in TGF-beta research as "the other side of tissueregeneration" after developing biodegradable scaffoldings topromote tissue growth.

Fibromed projects a preliminary potential anti-fibrotic marketof $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, with some 11 million patients thatcould use anti-fibrotic compounds in surgical adhesions,orthopedic surgery, liver disease, lung disease and burns.

The company is sponsoring research and development of afamily of anti-fibrotic compounds at the BU School of Medicineto determine efficacy in preventing scarring in wounds, liverdamage and lung conditions.

The compounds target the collagen cross-linking enzyme lysaloxidase, which Bernstine said "sort of staples, or spot-welds,"collagen fibers together into an inflexible mass.

Research by BU biochemistry professor Herbert Kagan suggeststhat the enzyme acts through a ringed co-factor that forms astrong, irreversible bond with inhibitors bearing a pair ofamino groups.

These inhibitors might be administered in a controlled fashionto halt and perhaps partially reverse scarring in living tissue.

Lysal oxidase was discovered in the 1950s and '60s, Kagan said,when farmers noticed that calves that ate flowering sweet peasdeveloped connective tissue defects. The plants contain beta-aminopropionitrile, whose effect helped point toward thediscovery of the lysal oxidase enzyme the plant compoundinhibits. This compound is not a potential therapeutic becauseit might be toxic.

Treating fibrosis would require developing improved means ofdiagnosing these often chronic conditions. Fibromed plans todevelop tests to assess fibrosis in vital organs and to createproducts for internal and external use. The company hasexclusive rights to three patents and two patent applications.The technology is primarily based on a U.S. patent, No.4,997,854, issued March 5, 1991, to BU.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.