Rimon Therapeutics Ltd. (Toronto) has developed what it calls Theramers: medical polymers that have biological activity in and of themselves, without use of drugs. In essence, they are medical devices that act like drugs or biologics. Their first application is for chronic-wound healing, though other uses are being investigated.
The company was formed as a result of research at the University of Toronto. “It started with an observation in an academic lab of blood vessels growing around a polymer,” says Michael May, PhD, Rimon's president and COO. “From that evolved the concept of a therapeutic polymer. Normally you try to develop polymers that are inert, but when we saw blood vessels growing around polymers, we thought, ‘What if instead you developed polymers designed to get a specific biological response? That would be novel and unique.'”
Based on that research, Rimon has developed four core technologies so far. These include a Theramer that induces new blood vessel development in wounds; one that inhibits the activity of matrix metalloproteases (MMPs), which are enzymes that weaken or destroy tissues; a thermoplastic that kills certain kinds of bacteria without harming healthy cells; and a polymer that changes from a liquid to a strong gel.
Work with inhibiting MMPs could bear fruit in several fields, says May. “For example, MMPs are implicated in restenosis, so we are working with a stent manufacturer to use a version of our Theramer to coat stents,” he says. “MMPs are also associated with eye diseases, so perhaps Theramers could be used to coat contact lenses.”
Rimon was also given the award because of its ability to attract financing. Its business model—device timelines, drug-like margins, and versatile chemistry—has apparently proven very attractive. In Rimon's first application to FDA, the agency ruled that a Theramer used for external wound care was a device—a Class I device, at that—and not a combination product. (Other products may be classified differently.)
“Rimon's growth makes it a clear leader in Canada's biotechnology industry, not only through new technologies developed, but also through the company's ability to raise funding and begin clinical trials,” said a statement from BIOTECanada, which sponsors the awards program. The honors were bestowed in June at the CANMEDBIO show in Toronto.