Tag Archives: bioengineering

Technology

Arizona’s High-Tech Sector Has Grown And Diversified Over The Years

Intel. Boeing. The Mayo Clinic. Try finding anyone who hasn’t heard these renowned names. Fortunately for Arizona, they and other companies like them have been key to our state’s technology scene growing dramatically over the past quarter century.

There is one name, however, many may have forgotten. Although no longer a huge presence here, one company paved the way for others, as well as gave birth to offspring that garnered their own recognition. Its name? Motorola.

After World War II, the Signal Corps asked officials at radio communications pioneer Galvin Manufacturing Corp. to move parts of their operations out of Chicago for fear an atomic bomb could wreck needed production capabilities. Following the Windy City’s snowbirds, Motorola headed West and eventually built its landmark 56th Street facility in Phoenix, signaling the start of phenomenal growth. Eventually creating other electronics as well as semiconductors, the company grew to more than 20,000 Arizona employees at locations across Phoenix and the East Valley. You could argue that our high tech golden era began a little more than 25 years ago, when Motorola unveiled a device that changed the world forever: the portable cellular phone for commercial use.

Another significant presence began when the Valley proudly proclaimed “Intel Inside” and the company’s “fab” plants and related campuses became part of Chandler’s landscape. Now using the innovative 45nm technology, Intel is the city’s largest employer and has about 10,000 employees in the state.

Also in the mid-80s, biotechnology research started with the opening of Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City. The following year, the Mayo Clinic opened its campus in Scottsdale. The next year, Arizona State University granted master’s and doctorate degrees in bioengineering.

When it came to getting the United States and other nations into orbit and keeping them secure, the world already had discovered Arizona. Key to that reputation is Honeywell. In 1986, it purchased Sperry Aerospace and became the world’s leading integrator of avionics systems. At the end of the 1990s, Honeywell made major headlines again when it merged with AlliedSignal. When the dust settled, Honeywell Aerospace called Phoenix its home.

Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems also claimed a piece of history when its Patriot missile became the star of the Persian Gulf War.

By the end of the 20th century, Boeing was ready for the next conflict, as its Apache Longbow helicopter took off.

The new millennium brought a new order and the beginning of the end for Motorola as we knew it. After ON Semiconductor was spun off, the company sold its Scottsdale-based government IT division to General Dynamics, and its life-sciences arm to Britain’s Amersham. Motorola spun off its Freescale Semiconductor operation in 2003, shrinking Motorola’s Arizona payroll to 3,500. Some observers now put that number at 500 after Emerson Network Power acquired the Embedded Communications Computing group in Tempe last year.

The real growth was happening in biotechnology. One of the biggest coups occurred when the International Genomics Consortium announced it was moving to Phoenix to create the Translational Genomics Research Institute. Also in 2002, Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, began outlining recommendations for the state to become a national biosciences leader.

ASU and the University of Arizona joined the effort. The first building of ASU’s acclaimed Biodesign Institute opened in late 2004, followed by the facility’s completion two years later. UA’s BIO5 Institute was launched to pursue life sciences research.

As you can see, the infrastructure is in place for the future to bring even more. Everyone has a chance to share the rewards. The technology industry is viewed as the bright spot of what has been a dismal economy. Arizona companies already are reporting new hires to help serve new contracts. There’s no doubt we live in a top-tier technology state.

Healing Powers

New Product By Valley Company Offers Innovative Way To Treat Wounds

Bandages have changed very little over the years, but a new wound-care treatment called Prosit, developed here in the Valley, is shifting that paradigm.

Prosit is a single-layer polyester fabric dressing that covers a wound like a bandage. But when moistened, it generates a micro-electric current that kills microbes — bacteria, viruses, fungus, mold, yeast — and stops them from penetrating skin. It also diminishes pain, speeds healing and can be cut to fit any size wound. Prosit was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006 as an antimicrobial barrier to infection. Last year, the FDA cleared Prosit for use in the care of all types of wounds, the number of days it can be used and for over-the-counter sales. Consumers can expect to see Prosit on store shelves later this year.

Jeff Skiba, product inventor and chief executive officer of Vomaris Innovations (formerly Silverleaf Medical Products) in Chandler, says local doctors and hospitals have been using Prosit for more than a year to effectively treat chronic wounds, surgical wounds, diabetic ulcers, cuts, burns and pain from laser resurfacing and shingles. Shingles patients reported feeling no pain after covering the rash with the antimicrobial dressing, and after a week the shingles were gone.

Skiba himself had laser skin resurfacing to understand the pain level after the procedure and test Prosit on facial burns. Pain afterwards was an eight out of 10, he says, so he used the antimicrobial dressing to cover the wounds on his face. Prosit eliminated the pain and helped heal the skin in four days instead of a few weeks, Skiba says.

“The pain from this procedure was excruciating, so without Prosit I would have needed to take a narcotic to kill the pain,” he says. “Most doctors prescribe Percocet to calm it down.”

Sun Lakes resident Ed Foster, 66, met Skiba by chance one day when the inventor stopped in at Tolivers Carpet One in Tempe to buy flooring for his office. Foster says Skiba noticed the wound on the stump where he had a finger removed 20 years ago, and he said he had a product that might help it. Foster had surgery on the stump a few years ago to remove a piece of metal. Due to the way it was bandaged, bone pushed out the end of the finger and wouldn’t heal.

“I went to see the top hand surgeon in the Valley right before I met Jeff, and he recommended getting my digit removed down to my hand, which I didn’t want to do,” Foster says. “So I gave Jeff a call and started using Prosit. New skin grew over the bone that was sticking out, so now you really can’t tell what it is, and the wound closed completely. Prosit was simple to use and now I’m completely healed. I couldn’t be happier.”

Major military hospitals around the country are also seeing promising results from the wound-care treatment. Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., is treating seriously injured soldiers from Iraq. One particular soldier was scheduled for an amputation, but was able to cancel it after Prosit was applied to the open wound on his leg. The bioelectric dressing stimulated the skin around the wound and prompted skin tissue to start growing back and cover the bone and tendons. After two weeks, the entire wound was healed.

“We’ve tested Prosit on the worst of the worst wounds and we’re seeing remarkable results,” Skiba says. “The only thing it does not work on is cancer wounds. The cancer has to be removed first, and then it can be applied to heal the surgical wound.”

Tucson dermatologist and oncologist, Dr. Scott Sheftel, was so impressed with the results of Prosit after testing it on patients, that he got involved conducting research for Vomaris Innovations.

“No one across the board has ever addressed wound care like this,” Sheftel says. “Prosit is an amazing wound treatment that will one day show up on drugstore shelves as an option next to band-aids.”

Skiba raised $3.5 million in angel financing to pay for FDA approvals and product testing. Skiba is a graduate of Arizona State University and has degrees in both bioengineering and business.

Vomaris Innovations manufactures Prosit at its plant in Tucson. The company has 10 employees and plans to add 15 more this year between its Chandler office and the Tucson manufacturing facility.

“We already have a few big box retail chains that are interested in carrying Prosit,” Skiba says. “We’ll put it on store shelves so it’s available for simple things like bug bites, scraped knees and cuts. But we will continue focusing on chronic wound patients who have had nothing, until now, to help them.”