For the majority of projects this means attracting commercial investment into projects at later stages, for instance to enable clinical trials to be completed much sooner than donations would allow. RAFT has developed expertise in finding creative and innovative ways to attract this funding in a way that both delivers patient benefit faster and secures a future income stream to enable RAFT to carry out further ground-breaking research.
A good example of this is the story behind the Smart Matrix® product , where RAFT was involved in creating a standalone commercial company (Smart Matrix Limited) which raised over £5 million to carry out clinical trials and advance the products development. RAFT retains both a shareholding in this company and the entitlement to a royalty stream which both will enable RAFT to carry on new research.
Other RAFT inventions that require substantial funding to get them to patients are planned to be commercialised and different models of how best to do this are being explored.
Smart Matrix®- the culmination of 15 years of research and development by RAFT – is poised to become one of the most important developments in the charity’s 30-year history. The product is a dermal scaffold which works by encouraging the proliferation of skin cells and the growth of new blood vessels. This is critical to healthy inner skin formation and repair, mimicking the natural process of healing in the body. Smart Matrix® provides a treatment solution for deep wounds which the body has difficulty healing; for example, those created by the surgical removal of cancerous tissue. Such wounds are routinely treated with the use of skin grafts, which require the creation of a second wound (at the ‘donor site’) and thus additional discomfort for the patient, along with further time in surgery. A treatment which negates the need for a graft will therefore bring benefits to the patent, clinician and health services.
By establishing a separate company for Smart Matrix®, RAFT was able to attract private investors who would benefit from any eventual sale of the product while RAFT retains the royalties that would translate into a steady income for the charity. Patients would also benefit from this invention many years sooner as a result . A win-win for everyone.
Enterprise Investment Scheme
Getting Smart Matrix® onto the medical market, of course, involves clinical trials. RAFT set up a separate company and made use of the Enterprise Investment Scheme, a government sponsored scheme that aims to encourage research and development by offering tax relief.
The new company planned around inward investment of £2 million over six months. Instead, they levered in £2.6 million in just three months and £5.5 million in total, enough to launch their first clinical trial in 2014.
Clinical trials and Further Research
The results of the trial showed that Smart Matrix® regenerated both the dermis (the inner layer of the skin) and epidermis, and indicated that successful healing could occur without the use of a skin graft .
A second clinical trial, assessing the use of Smart Matrix® to heal surgical excision wounds without the application of a skin graft, commenced in 2018, with commercialisation on track for 2021.
A further benefit brought about by the creation of Smart Matrix Ltd, is that it has allowed RAFT to retain its focus on research and development. While Smart Matrix Ltd invests it’s resources into the management of the clinical trials, RAFT continues to develop innovative new treatments, to improve the lives of those affected by physical trauma.
The scientists that created Smart Matrix have continued to conduct wound healing research and are now using there skills and knowledge to tackle the challenges presented by chronic wounds, such as leg ulcers.
Click here to support RAFT’s Chronic Wound Project.