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CollaFirm: Helping Healing

The future of getting hurt will get less and less intimidating, so long as Surendra Batra keeps making medical tech advances at his 800-square-foot office at 7 Deer Park Drive. Readers may remember Batra and his company, CollaFirm, as the developer of a post-dental implant membrane that advances the healing process related to oral surgery (U.S. 1, September 28, 2011).

Collafirm’s latest product broadens its horizons to the rest of the body. Rather than developing a product for a specific area like the gums, the company has turned its healing eye to wherever someone might be wounded. Collafirm, which uses porcine (pig) collagen technologies to create healing products for trauma treatment, has received the FDA’s green light to market its new collagen wound dressing product. The product is a highly purified porcine dressing that, when applied to a wound, absorbs fluid and “maintains a moist wound environment” to allow for more rapid healing, according to the FDA.

It has been proven to work on ulcers, burns, abrasions, surgical cuts and several other kinds of wound.

Though Batra is tight-lipped about the product — he can only say what has been proven in scientific studies — he does say he is excited that the dressing has reached the stage at which he can market it. He hopes to repeat Collafirm’s success with the dental membrane, which the company sold to a Texas firm in 2011 and is quickly becoming a favorite among oral surgeons, Batra says.

The dressing, according to the FDA, is intended for a broad array of wounds and surface traumas, including ulcers, donor and graft sites, abrasions, traumatic or surgical wounds, and first and second degree burns. It will only be available to medical professionals.

Batra, Collafirm’s founder and president, has been a collagen scientist for nearly 30 years. Before he established Collafirm, he was a vice president of R&D at Integra LifeSciences, based at 313 Enterprise Drive in Plainsboro.

Born and raised in India, the son of a housewife and a civil servant, Batra earned his bachelor’s in physics, math, and chemistry from Agra University in 1965. He earned master’s degrees in organic chemistry from Meerut University in 1970 and in medical biochemistry from Maulana Azad Medical College in New Dehli in 1977.

In 1983 Batra received his Ph.D. in invented and synthesized radioactive azidoacridine studies at Reading University in England. He also holds a post-doctorate in enzymology and protein chemistry from the University of Delaware, which he earned in 1986. Batra served as chief scientist at Semex Medical in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he worked with bovine collagen, developing products for wound care and tissue regeneration. His collagen studies then took him to ABS LifeSciences in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he served as chief scientist and developer of the firm’s chicken collagen manufacturing process for wound healing, periodontal procedures, and cartilage regeneration.

In 1991 Batra joined Integra, where he spent eight years as the chief developer of two of the company’s skin and tissue regeneration products. He also helped develop a dural membrane, which is used in brain surgery the same way CollaFirm’s dental product is used in implant surgery — as a barrier against infection.

In 2000 Batra took a job as a consultant with Davol, a division of the largest hernia surgery products company in the world, Bard. He worked part time with Davol because it is based in Providence, Rhode Island, and he did not want to move there. But for nine years Batra made the trip to Providence once a week, often for several days at a time. He was chief consultant of all collagen-based agents used in general surgical applications at Davol.

In 2009 Batra tired of the commute — though he says Davol treated him like royalty, paying for his travel and lodging, and providing him with good money. “My family kept saying ‘Why don’t you do that here?’” he says. “So I finally said OK.”

When he founded CollaFirm Batra had already decided to only do research into porcine collagen. It was shortly after the world was introduced to mad cow disease and the issues of safety and contamination were hot topics in bovine collagen research. Part of the focus for Batra and CollaFirm was to find ways to make a sterile product. Because collagen is an animal product — it is the group of proteins found in connective tissue — it is subject to animal diseases, particularly viruses. This has been another issue with membrane products used post-surgery, Batra says.

CollaFirm’s lab work is outsourced, Batra says. He develops the science, but there is little room for lab work at Deer Park Drive. His wife, Saroj, who handles the company’s accounting and public affairs. She is part of what Batra refers to as “a real family business.” His son-in-law and daughter, each of whom have MBAs, help run the company as well.

The firm is developing a new product for hernia and general surgical applications including plastic and reconstructive surgery. That product “is very active in development,” Batra says, but has just started. He expects it to be some time before the product is ready and does not say much about it other than that he foresees great things with it. “We’re looking for a partner for [the product],” he says.

CollaFirm LLC, 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite M-7, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-823-1051. Surendra Batra, CEO & founder.

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