At Advanced Biohealing,
a Critical Product
Requires Critical Care
BY ROBERT J. BOWMAN
The maker of a highly specialized living tissue to treat diabetes sufferers takes a chance on creating a sec-
ond distribution point for its product—with the strictest possible requirements for climate control.
alk about a niche market.
Advanced Biohealing Inc.
makes Dermagraft, a living skin
substitute that is grown from
newborn foreskins and used in
the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. The
highly specialized product can help
stricken patients to avoid leg or foot
amputations. Yet this extremely delicate
tissue calls for the utmost care in storage,
handling and transportation.
Start with the making of the substance.
It takes months to produce, has a shelf life
of no more than six months, and must be
stored at temperatures of minus 75
degrees Celsius, says Kathy McGee, senior
vice president of operations with
Advanced Biohealing. During transfer
from freezer to carrying container, it can
only be exposed to ambient temperatures
for a matter of minutes or even seconds.
Handlers stand by with stopwatches to
ensure that this requirement is met.
Dermagraft was first developed in the
early 2000s by a company called Advanced
Tissue Sciences, which never made a profit
and went bankrupt in 2002. The product,
which nevertheless had huge potential in
treating diabetes patients, was revived
when rights to it were acquired by the venture capital firm Canaan Partners and a
handful of other investors.
Canaan-backed Advanced Biohealing
had been in existence since 2004, but didn’t acquire the assets of Dermagraft until
2006, McGee says. In 2011, the firm went
through yet another transition when it was
bought by Shire plc, an Irish company that
sells biopharmaceuticals for the treatment
of a range of diseases.
The transaction didn’t alter the com-
pany’s basic operations. Advanced Bioheal-
ing continues to make Dermagraft at just
one location in La Jolla, Calif., just north of
San Diego. From there, the company dis-
tributes throughout the U.S. The primary
carrier is UPS, which picks up from the
plant on a daily basis.
A Second Shipping Point
The solution lay in creating one additional
location for storage and shipping in the
eastern part of the country. McGee says