Innovation machine: How one U of T researcher is having an outsized impact on the health startup space

Paul Santerre recently flew to Boston to help launch a cerebral catheter that incorporates an anti-clotting polymer additive created by Interface Biologics, the company he co-founded nearly two decades ago based on his University of Toronto lab work.

It was the sort of business trip that should be routine for the U of T biomaterials professor, given that Interface, by his count, has previously made five such announcements.

But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of one of the university’s most prolific entrepreneurs.

“For Interface Biologics to be entering the neural area is big,” says Santerre, who has appointments in U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry and the Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. “A lot of imaging tools are starting to rely on catheter technologies to peer into spots where they can’t get the resolution they need with an MRI.

“This is an innovative product in an area that’s going to be a game-changer. It sets the stage for the next phase of growth for this local company of ours.”

The extra-ventricular catheter drain in question is designed by Knoxville, Tenn.-based startup Arkis Biosciences. Called CerebroFlo, the catheter will employ Interface’s Endexo technology, which a press release states “has been proven to be highly effective for reducing catheter occlusions and thrombosis,” including in a recent study of 656 patients at the Ottawa Hospital.

Endexo grew out of Santerre’s lab research in the 1990s. It’s a polymer additive that essentially tricks the body to ignoring its presence, preventing the formation of blood clots that can break off and lodge in blood vessels. It’s already being used in everything from flexible PICC catheters to dialysis machine membranes – basically anywhere that patients’ blood and medical instruments come into contact for extended periods.

The technology also helps reduce the chance of infection, since blood clots tend to be a breeding ground for bacteria – a feature Santerre says is critical for neurological applications.

“You can imagine what happens if you get a bug crawling up those catheter lines into the brain,” he says. “It’s over, very fast.” Continue Reading