Special Startup Series: Silk based biomedical products to treat wounds

With its promising woundcare technology derived from silk, Bengaluru based startup, Fibroheal is all set to make a difference in the wound management sector

Most of us in India, especially women are aware of silk sarees being used across generations and would vouch for its excellent fabric and material property. Known to be one of the oldest fibers in human history, the application of silk in the medical field started during the 19th century when it replaced traditional metal wires as a suture material.
Over the period of time, the researchers found silk as one of the most diverse, model biomaterial due to its remarkable properties like high mechanical strength, biocompatibility, and being non-cytotoxic, thermo-stable, low-immunogenic, and biodegradable. The fabric certainly has got immense potential for use in medical applications.
In a unique effort to develop innovative, low-cost medical products from silk, Bengaluru based startup, Fibroheal Woundcare is working on the non-textile application of silk and utilizing the by-products of its production process. The company offers a wide range of products in different forms such as film, sheet, mesh, foam, powder, ointment, and gel to treat all types of wounds such as clean wounds, non-infected wounds, infected wounds, difficult to heal and slow or non-healing wounds.
Fibroheal Woundcare’s research facility is situated very close to the silk city of Karnataka, which has the largest market of silk cocoons in Asia,. Therefore, the sourcing of good quality raw materials for manufacturing is always a few steps away. Besides the products it has developed, Fibroheal is creating employment for many, enhancing farmers’ income, and improving the economics of silk production in India. As Vivek Mishra, its Founder and CEO puts it, the company always wanted to bring a socio-economic multiplier effect through innovation involving silk growers (farmers side), surgeons (user side), and patients.
“We look forward to making a difference in the wound management sector which is very promising with our superior technology derived from silk,” outlines Vivek, “We have built a state-of-art facility, which is ISO 13485 compliant and got a CDSCO license for manufacturing. We have installed automated machines to increase the production capacity with a 10x jump in output (approx. 1 Lakh units per month) to cater to the demand and for timely supplies.”
Idea, determination, and success
Incorporated on 6th April 2017 by Mr. Vivek Mishra, Fibroheal boasts of having a young and dynamic team in place with very experienced and stable management. On the board of the company are two eminent stalwarts as co-founders, mentors, and advisors. Mr. Bharat Tandon, an experienced techno-commercial professional providing guidance and strategies from lab to market, and Mr. Subramanian Shivaraman with over 26 years’ experience in new product development, production, commercialization, and finance in medical devices.
                    Weaving the silk magic: (L-R) Vivek Mishra, Bharat Tandon and Subramanian Shivaraman
Vivek who originally belongs to a small village called Rampur Khoribari in Uttar Pradesh but settled permanently in Karnataka explains the reasons behind choosing this path and the initial hiccups. “Due to increasing aging population worldwide and the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases and chronic diseases among the elderly and high cost of treatment, we wanted to work on newer biomaterial which can be cost-effective and affordable for patients and at the same time ease the work of doctors and nursing staff in the hospital.”
India depending solely on imports to cater to various wound healing requirements initiated the thoughts of the team. Silk being the most versatile, perfectly biocompatible material and its abundant availability in Karnataka made it an ideal candidate for the research. Moreover, a lot of research happened at various institution levels on silk as its biomaterial applications. They saw the economic multiplier potential of Silk – farmers, hospitals, and patients.
“All this put together guided us our path to develop products which can have a huge economic impact, can bring down imports significantly and product performance is much superior to the existing imported and marketed products while being cost-effective,” says Vivek adding, “We believed in the economic multiplier potential of silk and its various non-textile biomaterial uses of silk. The belief and vision of silk and its various applications committed us to invest time, efforts, and energies.”
While there were a lot of stumbling blocks initially, Vivek credits his team for believing in the top management besides the appreciation from the medical fraternity for the company’s initiative and efforts. “We were appreciated for being an Indian startup focusing on building world-class products and solutions through our innovation and research. This was a big morale booster that we are on the right path,” adds Vivek who is a B.Pharma graduate and holds an MBA degree from the University of Pune.
Strong product pipeline backed by affordability & accessibility
The research and development at the company are primarily focused on exploring the biomaterial property of silk proteins to develop various innovative wound healing solutions to address different stages of wound healing inactive and advanced wound management space.
“We are one among the few companies working across the globe on this versatile biomaterial called silk proteins. We have developed patented technological products in our basket catering to advance wound care management,” says Vivek.
The company has successfully developed 9 products derived from silk proteins which were softly launched in the market and have started generating revenues. The products are well accepted with users including doctors and renowned surgeons in more than top 50 major reputed hospitals across India. The company claims that the products are being used to treat the most complicated wounds.
Easily accessible products are affordable too, comparatively 40 percent cheaper than other imported products available in medical devices category.
Company eyes huge market potential
Globally, the advanced wound care market is estimated to be USD 10.43 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 15.53 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 5.1 percent during the forecast period. There is a huge need gap that exists in the present market scenario in India. With more than 85% of medical devices being imported, there is a high cost involved in the process.
Indian advance wound care market is about 2500 crore, and the company is looking forward to tapping a 5 percent market share by 2025. Fibroheal is eyeing a huge potential and sustainable business for its indigenously developed products that are cost-effective enough to fulfill the needs of the wound care market. It has, therefore, invested accordingly in its R&D, regulatory, manufacturing, and business development initiatives, taking necessary steps to achieve its aspirations of becoming the most comprehensive wound management company.
“We want to set a perfect example of ‘Being Local Going Global’. This is in line with our prime ministers’ vision of Vocal for Local and Atmanirbhar Bharat. Our products are available on GeM – a flagship initiative by the Government of India for catering to the needs of various hospitals across the country.”
Way Forward
Fibroheal aspires to be one of the most comprehensive wound care Indian companies catering to the entire wound care continuum. It has sustained the research work through many Grants and Awards supported by the Department of Biotechnology Govt. of India, BIRAC, CCAMP, and KBITS. It has also raised internal investment from existing promoters and started generating revenues from sales.
Vivek expects the Government of India to support startups which are at the scaling up and commercialization stage. Optimistic about the future, he shares a positive outlook. “Currently, we are on a growth trajectory, our products are well accepted in the market, users are satisfied with the performance of the products, and received fantastic response from surgeons as well as patients. Few newer concept-based products are in the pipeline which we are aiming to launch by 2021.”
“Additionally, we are in the process of getting CE approval for our product range. Post CE certification, we are planning to expand our business and hit the international market including developing and developed countries,” he concludes.