Noxsano’s Innovative Approach to Preventing Amputation

The Columbus-based startup, Noxsano is a reminder that not all medical technology comes from state-of-the-art laboratories in large research institutions. Like Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, the technology at the core of Noxsano was born in a garage.

“Two colleagues and I developed the idea ourselves,” said Alan Willey, founder and CEO, “and yes, we did the initial work literally in my garage.”

Today, Noxsano has established a laboratory and headquarters at Rev1. “We are excited,” Willey said, “to be with a proven startup partner and to be part of the expanding biotechnology landscape in Ohio.

Electrochemical approach to healing chronic wounds

Chronic wounds are a huge health issue, affecting around 6.5 million patients in the U.S. More than 80,000 amputations every year are due to foot ulcers alone.

Chronic wounds, such as bedsores or diabetic ulcers, can take months or even years to heal.

“The reason for that,” Willey said, “is that they are dysfunctional for nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is a very interesting molecule in that it used to control multiple biological processes.”

One of those processes is wound healing. All stages of wound healing utilize this one material. When the healing process is working properly, the body sends a high level of nitric oxide to the wound site to break up and kill bacteria. Then the supply of NO subsides as new tissue grows and the wound heals.

You might think that a resolution to chronic wounds would be to deliver nitric oxide to the wound site. It’s not so easy as that. NO is very short-lived and hard to control.

“Nitric oxide is a gas,” Willey said. “It’s an unstable molecule, even in water or air, and has a lifespan of literally a few seconds; it’s transported in large cylinders, and even with an open wound, it’s not easy to figure out how you could use the gas, it’s so difficult to control.”

Noxsano’s proprietary technology uses an electrochemical approach to generate nitric oxide in-situ and deliver controlled, localized doses of this wound repairing molecule to the wound site using a small, easy to operate device paired with a topically applied wound salve.

“It looks like a band-aid,” Willey said. “You put it on the wound and can leave it there for days or even weeks. It will operate manually, or we can program it to mimic the proper nitric oxide profile. Based on the patient’s healing, we can change the rate of nitric oxide to the wound environment. We all have the same processes, but that doesn’t mean that every person’s manifestation is identical.”

Tackling healthcare system hurdles

Noxsano is in early testing. “The technical challenge is to prove that we can deliver the NO profile not from the inside but from the outside,” he said. “How does the human biology deal with transfer of NO into the wound from an exogenous source. The last 10 years of research shows that if we can deliver the NO correctly, it will improve wound healing.”

Dealing with the FDA and the insurance system can be more of a hurdle. “One of the biggest challenges is in positioning this solution within the U.S. healthcare system to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement,” Willey said.

Although Noxsano founders live in Cincinnati, the founders chose to base their business at Rev1.

“Headquartering Noxsano in Columbus says how much we value Rev1,” Willey said. “We are naturally cautious scientists, and connected with Ray Shealy at SafeWhite to look at our pitch deck and idea. Ray introduced us to Rev1. The support that exists at Rev1 in terms of connections and expert networks was completely compelling to us. It’s a 100-mile commute one way, 200 miles every day I go to the office. But it’s completely worth it. They are an outstanding place for us to be. The great facilities and support they give us have been phenomenal. They are clearly on a mission to create startups and grow companies in Ohio. There is a zeal.”

Willey is a research scientist. As a corporate researcher for Procter & Gamble, over his career, he worked in many of the firm’s different lines of business.  He is a champion for more product-based startups that develop intellectual property and build and ship products all over the world. “These types of businesses can provide good jobs and build Ohio’s economy,” he said.

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