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Fe3 Medical raises $11 million to start clinical trials for iron-deficiency patch
March 2, 2016

Mir Imran, chairman and CEO of InCube Labs. Courtesy Photo

By Peggy O'Hare, San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio-based Fe3 Medical disclosed Wednesday it has raised $11 million from investors to fund clinical trials of a transdermal patch it has developed for patients suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves, those drug trials will start later this year.

Fe3 Medical is one of three companies that InCube Labs, a life sciences research and development outfit, moved to San Antonio from San Jose, California in exchange for $10 million in combined incentive grants awarded in 2010.

Since then, InCube Labs has created three additional drug and medical device companies in San Antonio. It is also expected to launch its manufacturing operations here. 

"From InCube Labs' perspective, this is a big milestone," chairman and CEO Mir Imran said Wednesday of the $11 million in funding.

"We have made enough progress that enabled us to attract a sizable pharma company and private equity investors," he said.

A large Chinese drug company, Jianmin Pharmaceuticals, and private equity and venture groups HG Capital and PingAn Ventures were leading investors in the funding round. InCube's venture capital fund, InCube Ventures, also participated.

If it can secure the required regulatory approvals, Fe3 Medical is aiming to distribute its product globally, said Phil Morgan, the company's president and InCube Labs' general manager. Jianmin Pharmaceuticals also could become a future distribution partner for Fe3 Medical in China, Imran said.

Fe3 Medical believes it is the first to make a drug capable of delivering iron through a patient's skin into the bloodstream. While drug makers already sell oral iron supplements, nearly half of the patients diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia can't take those pills by mouth, Imran said. The oral medications can cause constipation.

The patch designed by Fe3 Medical creates a tiny electrical current that forces the iron salt molecules painlessly through the skin to reach the bloodstream. It can be worn by patients overnight at home and can deliver weekly doses. That product would likely be introduced as a prescription-only medication, but is likely to later become available over the counter if the FDA approves.

The World Health Organization has identified iron-deficiency anemia as the most common nutrition deficiency to occur globally, Morgan said.
"It's a big problem in the United States, but it's an equally big problem in almost every country on the planet," said Morgan, who is based in San Antonio.

More than 25 million people nationwide suffer from the condition because of blood loss, kidney failure, cancer, Crohn's disease or gastrointestinal disorders, according to Fe3 Medical.

Physicians and patients surveyed for the company found that iron-deficiency anemia represents a substantial opportunity, potentially totaling $2.5 billion to $4 billion a year, Imran said. That analysis was conducted by the San Antonio office of market research company Frost & Sullivan.

InCube Labs now has 13 employees Morgan said.

Its other companies relocated here from San Jose were Corhythm and Neurolink. InCube Labs also has launched Theracle, iBridge Medical and Ephaptix here.

The company is contractually obligated to create 50 jobs in San Antonio by August 2020, paying an annual average salary of at least $50,000.

The incentive grants awarded to InCube Labs in 2010 came from the city of San Antonio, which invested $6 million; $2 million from Bexar County; $1 million from the Texas Research and Technology Foundation; and $500,000 apiece from the University of Texas at San Antonio and the UT Health Science Center.
Express-News archives contributed to this report


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