Columbia's EternoGen prepares to sell longer-lasting collagen in Europe, Asia

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | 4:41 p.m. CDT; updated 6:35 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 2, 2013

COLUMBIA — EternoGen LLC, a Columbia startup, will begin commercialization and production of its new injectable cosmetic collagen with nanotechnology to sell in Asia and Europe. This technology, developed by researchers at MU, is said to increase the life of a collagen injection from about two months to two years.

The company developed the injectable collagen with nanotechnology, which prevents the collagen from degrading quickly. Anna Lundvall, chief commercialization officer, said at a news conference Tuesday that there isn’t any collagen with nanotechnology on the market now, which gives EternoGen a chance to break into the market.

The company plans to start selling the new collagen and other products in Asia and Europe in late 2014, she said at the announcement in the MU Life Science Business Incubator.

Lundvall, who was introduced as the Steve Jobs of injectable cosmetics, said the barriers to commercialization are much lower in Europe and Asia than in the United States. She said she expects to see the product hit the market in the United States in four or five years because it first has to undergo studies with the Federal Drug Administration.

Adding nanotechnology to collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body, was developed in part by Sheila Grant, a biological engineering professor at MU and co-founder and chief technology officer at EternoGen. She said the invention has many other uses that they are also exploring such as cardiovascular and orthopedic repair. It might be developed for the military to help heal battlefield wounds, she said.

Different nanotechnology particles have different properties, Grant said. MU graduate students are researching how silver particles can be used in dressing wounds because silver has anti-microbial properties.

Lundvall said EternoGen is using gold particles for its cosmetic products.

"Gold particles prevent the degradation of the collagen," she said. "Bringing gold into the collagen has never been done before in injectable aesthetic medicine. It also has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, which are good when injected into the face."

EternoGen exists in part because of MU, CEO Luis Jimenez said. The company received a $200,000 investment from the university’s Enterprise Investment Program, which is meant to invest in new technology companies in Columbia. Jimenez, a graduate of MU’s Trulaske College of Business, learned about the new collagen technology in a class about entrepreneurship.

Jimenez called the initial investment "extremely important" because it validated that the technology could be commercialized and sold. He said the initial investment allowed EternoGen to receive other funds from Missouri Technology Corp., a quasi-governmental body, and Centennial Investors, an angel investment fund.

Even though EternoGen is an independent company, the university remains linked with it because MU owns the intellectual property of using collagen with nanotechnology.

"This is one way for the university to generate funds, through these businesses," Grant said. "Any success the business has generates success for the university."

Jimenez said that pharmaceutical companies are looking into buying EternoGen but that there are no plans to sell right now.

Although it is opening offices in St. Louis and Stockholm, EternoGen will keep its incubation space at MU for research and development, according to information presented at the news conference. Lundvall said the Sweden office will be used for commercialization purposes.

Dave Grant, a senior design engineer at MU and Sheila Grant's husband, said that they hope EternoGen will continue to grow in Columbia and bring economic development to the community but that there is the possibility of being bought out by a large pharmaceutical company if they’re offered enough money. Dave Grant also is co-founder and director of analytical development at EternoGen and helped invent the collagen nanotechnology.

"We’ll just keep going until it’s time to leave," he said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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