In today’s world, the field of aesthetic medicine is becoming increasingly popular and growing rapidly in demand.
From toxins to fillers to chemical peels, there is certainly a sea of products out there, but they all have one thing in common—they’re not natural.
Biomedical startup company EternoGen Aesthetics has set out to change that.
Based in Columbia, Mo., EternoGen is a clinical stage medical device company specializing in the protein engineering of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. It was founded by a team of academic researchers from the University of Missouri and operates out of the MU Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place.
Dr. Shelia Grant, professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and leader of the research team, was researching collagen and discovered a way to stabilize the protein with gold nanoparticles and increase its bioactivity.
Grant was initially trying to use collagen to create more effective hernia meshes, but after collaboration with the MU Biodesign and Innovation Program in 2009, the potential for her invention to be used as a dermal filler was realized and EternoGen was formed.
Through its patented chemistry process and platform CG Nanomatrix, EternoGen uses the natural properties of collagen to prime it for formation into skin. The company has essentially created tissue in a syringe—a clear, transparent liquid that forms into tissue within minutes of being injected into the skin.
By directly restoring lost collagen, EternoGen’s product stimulates tissue regeneration and strengthens the skin for results lasting up to two times longer than most current dermal fillers.
President and COO Luis Jimenez said EternoGen is currently targeting plastic surgery and dermatology to correct scars and signs of aging.
“It’s a product that is very much in need because there is currently nothing natural that can address the market needs for this application,” he said.
EternoGen has made quite the discovery, and its transformation from an innovative idea into a successful startup would not have been possible without the support from investors like the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC).
For the first few years after its founding, EternoGen was mainly a research and development project with a business behind it. The startup received its very first round of funding in 2012, securing a total of half a million dollars.
MTC was a major stakeholder in EternoGen’s first fundraising round, along with MU and local angel group Centennial Angel Investors.
A note from MTC Director Bill Anderson
“EternoGen is a prime example of a company that grew from university-based research into a successful startup, and even now, EternoGen continues to utilize the excellent resources available through MU. The company has demonstrated so much innovation and made huge advancements with its new product, so we’re really looking forward to seeing where EternoGen will go next.”
Jimenez said MTC’s expedited, streamlined evaluation process was a huge enabler and had a trickle effect on the commitment of the other two entities involved in the round.
He explained that support from MTC is invaluable not only in terms of dollars, but also terms of the inertia it produces in deals and the confidence it gives to other investors.
The company has since received five additional rounds of funding with MTC being a part of each and every one.
“I’m very confident that EternoGen wouldn’t be where it’s at and wouldn’t be what it is without the Missouri Technology Corporation,” said Jimenez.
With the financial support of several investors and the dedication of EternoGen’s team, the startup has made astounding progress over the last five years.
When EternoGen started in 2009, its staff was made up of only two MU faculty members and three students. Now at 15 employees, the company has been able to attract individuals with a significant amount of experience and talent from student interns to PhDs.
In addition to expanding the team, EternoGen has also made great advancements with its first product Rapid Polymerizing Collagen (RPC Pure-Collagen).
Jimenez said a major milestone for the company was fulfilling the requirements to do clinical trials with RPC Pure-Collagen in Europe. EternoGen’s team worked with top-notch plastic surgeons in the UK and Sweden to perform the trials, which they completed in 2015.
EternoGen is now preparing to mass produce and commercialize the product in the European market.
Although RPC-Pure Collagen is the first and furthest along, it is not EternoGen’s only product. As the company has progressed and advanced in its research, it has built a portfolio of multiple products and prototypes.
“We’ve been able to grow from basically a company with one idea to a company with a bright future that could make a significant impact in multiple medical applications,” Jimenez said.
Speaking of the future, it certainly is looking bright for EternoGen. Jimenez said its target, although very aggressive, is to become a $100 million-company in the next five years.
EternoGen is also very ambitious to be a company driving economic growth, fostering innovation, and meeting medical needs.
“I think that in five or 10 years that would be the most fulfilling thing to become a 100 employee, 200 employee company that actually meets that objective,” Jimenez noted.
There is no question that EternoGen is well on its way to achieving these goals and becoming yet another valuable addition to Missouri’s ever-growing startup scene.