Collagen Breakthrough Pays Off

What started as a simple transaction—buying collagen for soft-tissue engineering research—is now a commercially viable license for Rutgers and the School of Engineering. Since 2011, biomedical engineering doctoral candidate, Kathryn Drzewiecki, under the guidance of professor David Shreiber, has been researching and developing collagen modifications to expand its use in medicine.

Collagen scaffolds were one of the first FDA-approved biomaterials for use in wound care. However, the properties of collagen scaffolds are very difficult to control, limiting its medical use. The Shreiber group developed a method to couple methacrylic acid to collagen, yielding collagen methacrylamide, or CMA. CMA can be “crosslinked” using light and yielding control over the biological and mechanical properties of the collagen-based material.

Producing CMA is a difficult, weeklong process. According to Drzewiecki, if CMA were mass produced, more labs could use the material to conduct beneficial research—a prospect that gave her the idea of approaching Advanced Biomatrix, one of the companies from which she purchased collagen, to license the process developed by Rutgers.

“Our goals are very similar, so we should work together,” she thought. The company agreed, and they will begin selling quality-controlled CMA, now called Photocol, beginning later this year.

According to Shreiber, commercially licensing this manufacturing process benefits Rutgers financially and contributes to further research and scientific advancements.

“We are working on identifying clinical uses for CMA,” Shreiber said. “But if someone else, based on their research with CMA, develops a use for it in patients, they have to come back to Rutgers to license the material.”