Personnel File - June 2008: Research
Tom Fischer, VP/Chief Scientific Officer
Entegrion Inc., Research Triangle Park
When Stan Eskridge wanted to help Tom Fischer make an inexpensive bandage that quickly stops bleeding, he turned to his connections. “You can’t be a North Carolina native and not know somebody in the textile industry,” Eskridge, 65, says. His friends helped find the materials to develop Stasilon, a bandage woven from bamboo yarn and glass filament, approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September.
The military probably will be the biggest customer. The bandage was requested by the Office of Naval Research, looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional clotting bandages. Entegrion has been in the business of stopping bleeding since its inception as Hemocellular Therapeutics in 2002, spun out of research done at UNC Chapel Hill and East Carolina University. It was formed to produce a freeze-dried form of human blood platelets for use in severe injuries. Now in clinical trials and expected to reach the market by 2012, Stasix could revolutionize how care is provided for battlefield injuries because of its long shelf life — five years as opposed to five days for traditionally harvested platelets.
When presented the bandage challenge, Fischer, who also is scien- tific director of UNC’s Francis Owen Blood Laboratory, took a crash course in textiles. “I had to learn a lot about weaving,” says Fischer, who received samples of about 40 types of fibers from National Spinning Co. in Glen Raven and Winston-Salem-based Carolina Narrow Fabric Co. While he knew glass helped clotting, he needed something to wick blood to the filaments. He found it in bamboo.
Eskridge calls Fischer, 53, a “fantastic scientist with a good business head.” They met six years ago when Fischer was among a team of scientists taking a course on entrepreneurship at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Eskridge was a volunteer on a panel of executives listening to pitches. A Kinley native and Carolina graduate, Eskridge had started several businesses, including the Aviation Group, a cargo airline launched in Chapel Hill in 1977 that became part of United Parcel Service. He saw commercial potential in the team’s research. Fischer had come to UNC in 1981 as a post-doctoral researcher. After earning a bachelor’s in physical chemistry and a doctorate in biophysics from Florida State, the Tallahassee native worked on cell membranes at Duke before being lured to Chapel Hill by research being done at the blood lab.
Being close to both a premier blood-research center and the heart of the country’s textile industry played a major role in how quickly the 15-employee company was able to develop Stasilon, according to Eskridge. “I always said it couldn’t have happened anywhere else.”