Memphis-Based Startup May Provide Sweet Benefits for Those With Tooth Loss

December 18, 2015 - To many people, honey is a sweet treat used for cooking and baking. To SweetBio Inc., a Memphis-based biotech company, it's much more.

The medical device startup company, a graduate of the accelerator program ZeroTo510, is commercializing a membrane with initial applications in oral surgeries to help regenerate soft tissue and support bone growth as a requirement for restoration procedures. SweetBio's unique membrane uses Manuka honey, which has antibacterial and wound-healing properties that would be of great benefit during oral restoration surgeries.

SweetBio has raised more than $1 million to take its novel GTR (Guided Tissue Regeneration) Membrane through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. Investors include Innova and MB Venture Partners.

It's estimated that by 2027, 200 million Americans will suffer partial tooth loss. Without proper treatment and restoration, bacteria growth may cause oral infections, which can lead to diabetes, heart and lung disease – even death. Dental clinicians try to reduce these risks by installing a membrane as a barrier to allow the bone and gums to heal before placing a dental implant. Current products are often difficult to handle and may fail, reversing the healing process. SweetBio has licensed its patent-pending technology from the University of Memphis to create a dissolvable membrane that uses honey as a component to promote healing, combat infections and produce better outcomes.

Dr. Gary L. Bowlin and his team at the UofM developed the technology in the Tissue Template Engineering and Regeneration Laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Isaac Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO of SweetBio, was a member of the team that developed the patent-pending formulation.

"As a biomedical engineer focused on translational research, it is always exciting and rewarding to watch your collaborative project develop from a clinician's need into a product that will be sure to help improve quality of life issues," said Bowlin, professor and Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Biomedical Engineering in the Herff College of Engineering. "More rewarding is the aspect of watching an individual I have mentored take the novel technology that we developed and lead commercialization, as well as drive local economic development via a startup company mechanism with tremendous support from the local business and investment community."

Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, the University's chief innovation officer, added, "The FedEx Institute of Technology is pleased to have seeded the early development of this technology. We will be accelerating the commercialization of more technologies and innovations from the University's laboratories and research clusters. I am sure this success will motivate other professors across campus to join this exciting innovation journey."

As a result of his innovations and their impact on the quality of life, Bowlin recently was elected a 2015 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Contact: Gabrielle Maxey