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Marine Biotechnology in the Twenty-First Century: Problems, Promise, and Products
as needed for specific uses, suggests that the polyphenolic protein could be the key component in an effective surgical adhesive.
BioPolymers’ strategy was to commercialize specially designed adhesive formulations through licensing, cooperative development programs, and joint ventures with companies in the targeted markets. Customers in biomedical research have been using the adhesive to simplify the manipulation of cells and tissue outside the body.
BioPolymers, Inc. spent 5 years focused on developing and commercializing novel adhesives and coatings for the medical and industrial markets. That concept was spawned in 1985 after Dr. Waite’s discovery of a decapeptide (sequence of 10 amino acids) which repeated 85 times to comprise the mussel adhesive protein (MAP). After licensing this technology from the University of Connecticut (patents 4,585,585 and 4,687,740), the company selected the patented 10 amino-acid sequence and variations of it for commercial development, although it was not known at the time which amino acid in that sequence was the proper starting point for the decapeptide.
The mussel in its sea environment adheres to many substrates, and laboratory research indicated that extracted and synthetic protein polymers could stick to almost any substance, such as rock, plastic, metal, glass, Teflon, and skin. Even though the original concept was never demonstrated to work as an adhesive or coating in a medical or industrial environment, the fact that the mussel anchors itself by a collagen byssus thread to these surfaces supported the notion that the MAP could also adhere to the collagen of biological tissue. Proof of that theory was part of the responsibility of the new company.
During its first 2 years, BioPolymers extracted the natural MAP and developed a product, CELL-TAK, to enhance cell attachment and, where appropriate, cell growth, in laboratory culture dishes. However, the market was small, and financial return too limited to warrant further expansion in this area. Hence, a distribution agreement was signed with another cell-culture product company. Also, during the first 2 years, the company’s attention focused on the medical field. A patent application was filed covering a myriad of end uses for formulation of mussel-based adhesives.
In 1986, BioPolymers also conducted gross feasibility tests of the MAP in several ophthalmological in vitro and in vivo models. Some were successful, but recognizing the limitations in the supply of mussels and the degree of difficulty in moving a natural material through the FDA’s regulatory approval process, a significant research and development emphasis was