How alligator embryos advanced thinking on scar healing and wound reduction

Renovo, a University of Manchester spin-out company established to commercialise novel treatments for wound healing and scar reductions, is one of the largest university spin-out companies in the UK. Listed on the London Stock Exchange in April 2006, the company was valued at £348m in 2007.

Research at Renovo has been directed at addressing the unmet medical need for pharmaceutical products to effectively aid wound healing and scar reduction. However, the basic science underpinning this research was discovered unexpectedly, by its co-founder, Mark Ferguson.

During the late 1980s, as a professor at Manchester, Mark conducted studies on alligators as part of his research into ways to correct cleft palates. He made the accidental discovery that, when working on alligator embryos, the incisions which he made healed without scarring. Over the course of 15 years, Mark and Renovo co-founder Sharon O’Kane worked on developing a synthetic formulation to mimic these healing properties.

Renovo now employs 180 staff, and its lead product, Juvista, has been licensed to SHIRE plc in a deal worth up to $825m.

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