Biocoat Inc, a Montgomery County-based maker of high-performance coatings for medical devices, has a new home.

Written by John George, Philadelphia Business Journal

The company last month completed the first two-phases of its new $10 million headquarters in Horsham — less than a mile from where it was previously based.

Biocoat Inc. President and CEO James K. Laird in the lobby of the biotech company’s new… more

A unique amenity planned for the new space, which features technologically advanced manufacturing facilities and more room for offices, will be a research innovation center expected to be built during the second half of this year or early 2018. The 12,000-square-foot innovation center will be a place where BioCoat scientists and technicians can work side-by-side with medical device manufacturers and researchers.

“We are looking to collaborate more with our industry customers and potentially with academia and other private entities,” said Jim Laird, the company’s president and CEO.

Laird said the company knew back in 2014 that it would soon outgrow its current facility, and spent the next year evaluating new space options. While there was a strong rationale for Biocoat to consider moving closer to where its customers — medical device manufacturers — are clustered, the company’s board and its management had no interest in pulling up stakes and moving to Minnesota, California or Massachusetts.

“We fought that idea,” Laird said. “We’ve been very successful growing our business here for the past 25 years and we remain committed to this region. We believe southeastern Pennsylvania is an important and growing life sciences hub with a rich and diverse talent pool.”

Biocoat expects to expand from its current total of 45 employees to 60 by the end of next year and to about 75 by the end of 2019.

The company, which last year had sales of more than $10 million, supplies customized coatings to medical device industry heavyweights Abbott Laboratories, Cordis, Stryker, Medtronic and Boston Scientific. It specializes in providing lubricious hydrophilic coatings, under the brand name Hydak, for interventional surgical devices such as catheters, guidewires and intraocular lens injectors used primarily in the neurology, cardiology, peripheral vascular and ophthalmic markets for minimally invasive procedures. The coatings are based on hyaluronic acid [HA], a natural lubricant found throughout the body. The coatings are used for a variety of reasons but most notably for reducing friction theerby making the devices easier to insert and navigate within the body, or, in the case of antimicrobial coatings, lowering the risk of infections.

“While we do not produce a finished medical device,” Laird said. “We make the coating components which makes the finished medical device perform better, improve patient outcomes, and lower health care treatment costs. ”

Mike Longo, vice president of research and development at Intact Vascular, said the Wayne, Pa.-based medical device company has been working with Biocoat for about a year. “They are great to work with and very knowledgeable about their products,” Longo said.

Intact Vascular is the developer of the Tack Endovascular System, which is used in the treatment of peripheral artery disease. The system features a minimal metal implant that is designed to improve peripheral balloon angioplasty results.

Longo said the company conducted Biocoat’s hydrophilic coatings with those of several competitors in new products Intact has under development and found Biocoat’s to be superior.

The company’s new 39,750-square foot facility, located in the Pennsylvania Campus is nearly twice as big as the company’s old space, and significantly expands the volume of products it can produce “We estimate we will increase our production capacity by at least five-fold,” Laird said.

Currently, he said, the company’s technicians will engage with prospective clients about their coating needs for new products. At the innovation center, research and development engineers from companies will be able to have direct access to the company’s coating technology, applications development equipment and staff. Laird is also hopeful the innovation center space will lead to more educational partnerships, such as internship programs, and research and product partnerships with universities with strong biomaterials programs.

“We want to work with academic centers to help commercialize their research and get it licensed out to industry partners,” he said, noting Biocoat could serve as a conduit for matching emerging technologies being developed at universities with its customers in private industry that would have an interest in such discoveries.

Laird has already had preliminary discussions on the Innovation Center’s concepts with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University and Wake Forest University. “The idea is to reach out to a small group of universities with strong biomaterials departments [others are Georgia Tech, Rice University, M.I.T.] that could give us strong geographic coverage,” he said.

Jason Burdick, a Penn bioengineering professor who runs a 15-person polymeric biomaterial laboratory at the university, has talked with Laird about the innovation center concept.

“I can’t speak for Penn, but the idea sounds really interesting to me,” Burdick said. “It would be a great way to interface with the industry. “

Burdick’s lab studies medical applications for biotmaterials known as hyrodgels, which are cross-linked networks of water-soluble polymers used to deliver drugs. He said while his lab’s focus is research, his team may one day explore advancing one of its own discoveries into the clinic. “Working with a company like Biocoat could be a great way to expedite that process because of their knowledge,” he said.

Biocoat was founded in 1991 by Ellington Beavers, a former Rohm & Haas polymer research scientist. Beavers was required to retire at age 65 – but decided he wasn’t ready to stop working. The company’s first product was a coating he developed for hard contact lenses. Beavers continued to work actively in the business well into his mid-eighties.

Laird noted Biocoat differentiates itself by being the major medical, hydrophilic coatings producer that uses HA in most of its coatings. This is important because HA is naturally occurring in the human body making it easily absorbed, as opposed to its competitor’s coatings which are mostly made of synthetic polymers.

That distinction, he said, could become a key attribute in the future if the Food and Drug Administration considers imposing stricter guidelines concerning the quantity and make-up of particulate matter that might be shed into the bloodstream by these medical devises during routine interventional surgical procedures. The concern is that if these particulates are not easily broken down by the body’s natural defenses, they could cause a blockage that might trigger a stroke, a heart attack, or even death.

The company, Laird said, is now on the radar of many private equity investors that are interested in potentially providing funding that would allow the company to expand its product line and geographic reach. Laird said he has identified at least three companies that could be potential acquisition targets and each of these would enable Biocoat to diversify into other coatings market segments and to expand into important developing markets such as China, India, Russia and Brazil.

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