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Vertellus PC Biomaterials History


The PC Technology story traces its beginnings to the 1970s and the work of Professor Dennis Chapman FRS (1927-1999) at the Royal Free Hospital in London, England. Professor Chapman and his colleagues were responsible for fundamental research in the area of membrane structures and biocompatibility - the ability of a material to interface with the body without provoking an adverse biological response. It was identified that phosphorylcholine (PC), a substance present in the human cell membrane, was one of the primary natural materials responsible for biocompatibility.

Cell membranes are made up principally of phospholipids (molecules with polar head groups attached to long, non-polar chains) that self-assemble to form bi-layers. Previously, it had been recognised that PC is the predominant phospholipid head group found in the outer leaflet of red blood cell membranes. PC groups contain both positive and negative charges but are overall charge neutral. In contrast, the inner layer of the cell membrane contains negatively charged phosphatidylserine lipids, which are known to play a regulatory role in blood clotting . This was the significant finding that led Chapman, amongst others, to make the connection between PC and the natural biocompatibility that exists between cells, which enables them to interact without adverse reaction and allows blood to flow without clotting.

Professor Dennis Chapman (1927-1999).

In 1984 Professor Chapman founded Biocompatibles to develop and commercialise materials containing PC. The company was successful in patenting and trade-marking the technology (‘PC Technology™’) and was listed on the London stock exchange in 1995. During the 1990s, the company developed a family of PC materials and established several operating divisions to exploit the technology. These included contact lens and coronary stent businesses, both of which were sold in 2002 to CooperVision Inc and Abbott Laboratories respectively for a combined total of $335 million.

In 2006 PC Technology was exclusively out-licensed by Biocompatibles to Vertellus Specialties UK Ltd (excluding certain rights already granted) in a transaction that included specific patent rights, process technology, applications and trademarks associated with PC Technology. This was an excellent fit for Vertellus, which was already commercially producing PC materials and allowed the newly formed Vertellus Biomaterials business unit to leverage the company’s manufacturing and marketing strengths. Key personnel also moved from Biocompatibles to Vertellus.