Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Elastrin Aims to Battle Degradation in Critical Tissue, Improve Quality of Later Life

Jun 14, 2023 05:28PM ● By John C. Stevenson

The founders of fledgling biotech startup Elastrin Therapeutics Inc. have an ambitious goal of helping people to live healthier longer, and hope that successfully competing in the inaugural $30K PowerUp Competition will bring them closer to making their goal a reality.

Elastrin is one of 21 finalists vying for the top prize in the competition, which is presented by Integrated Media Publishing, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine, and Erik Weir, an investor and expert on entrepreneurism.

Building on the research of Elastrin co-founders and Clemson University professors Naren Vyavahare and Charles Rice, the company is working to develop a procedure that will “restore hardened and damaged arteries and tissues by specifically targeting degraded elastic fiber,” according to the company’s Executive Summary. According to Elastrin, the human body produces elastin fibers for only the first few years of life; after that, the fibers “become damaged over time, arterial walls weaken, and the body’s physiological response results in aortic wall stiffening, aneurysms, and hypertension.”

Company CEO Matthias Breugelmans explained the company’s goal in lay terms: “What the company is trying to do is repair tissue that is damaged while we age. It’s something you cannot prevent; it’s going to happen.”

In the 2023 version of Elastrin’s Executive Summary and Business Plan, the company described an “unmet need” in the current market: “Elastin degradation and damage is linked to chronic diseases affecting over (1 billion) patients globally, including coronary and peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. No approved therapy exists that has demonstrated reversal of the course of disease in any of these indications.”

At the heart of Elastrin’s research is the DESTiNED (Degraded Elastin Specific Targeting Nanoparticle-based, Efficacy-optimized Drug-delivery) platform, which, according to Elastrin, “can restore vascular health by removing pathological calcification specifically from sites where elastin has been degraded.”

“You can be the most healthy person and you can still die from cardiovascular (disease),” Breugelmans explained. “At one point, there’s going to be a time when your arteries and your heart give, and that tissue is what we’re trying to repair. It’s not to live forever, but it’s to live forever healthy.”

Breugelmans said the company is currently working to raise $5 million “to complete preclinical development and file an (investigational new drug application) for a Phase 1 study in normal healthy subjects.” It has a two-year goal to raise a total of $25 million in venture capital. And while the possibility of winning $15,000 in a startup competition might not sound like a big deal, Breugelmans insisted that participating in such competitions can yield several valuable results.

“I think it’s extremely important to take part in competitions,” he said. “As a small startup company, it’s not easy to get recognition – to get people to know you – and that’s really important. If you’re not known, you won’t attract any funding or any key employees. You need to find those top-notch researchers working at universities and other companies to come work for you.”

Breugelmans also noted that the prize money – $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place – would allow the startup to add valuable testing to its current plans.

Winning the top prize would “help us to run a couple of safety studies in addition to testing our compound. The $25 million is strongly controlled. Everything which comes on top of that really gives you a chance to get more safety data and improve safety for patients.”

According to Breugelmans, it is imperative for the medical community to provide a better quality of life for people as they age.

“It’s important because we have an aging population that will need to be healthy,” he said. “We don’t want to be sick from 50 years old until we are 120. We want to be healthy and in good condition until we’re maybe 85. That’s one of the puzzle pieces we are trying to solve.”