Veti-Gel, the name chosen by NYU student Joe Landolina uses plant polymers to rapidly solidify when applied to open wounds, and by a bizarre coincidence was initially being developed under the name Medi-Gel, the name of a fictional healing gel from the Mass Effect video game series with almost identical properties.
Humans Invent spoke to Joe Landolina about the development of Veti-Gel, and how in just a few years he went from high-school science geek to possibly securing a deal with the US military.
“In all of our tests we found we were able to immediately stop bleeding,” says Landolina. “Your skin has this thing called the extracellular matrix,” he explains. “It’s kind of a mesh of molecules and sugars and protein that holds your cells in place.”
Landolina synthesises his own extracellular matrix (ECM) using plant polymers, which can form a liquid when broken up into pieces. He says, “So it goes into the wound and the pieces of the synthetic ECM in the gel will recognise the pieces of the real ECM in the wound and they’ll link together. It will re-assemble into something that looks like, feels like and acts like skin.”
In all of our tests we found we were able to immediately stop bleeding
If Veti-Gel works as well as Landolina claims, it would be of obvious interest to the military, where a quick response to severe bleeding can make the difference between life and death. Current blood-clotting agents still require a medic to apply pressure, and take up to three minutes to take effect.
“We haven’t entered formal talks, but I’ve been talking to a few officials in the military who really like the product,” says Landolina. “I’ve spoken to DARPA about it. We’re definitely looking at the military as one of our main customers,” he adds.
Interestingly, Veti-Gel doesn’t just stop bleeding but seems to initiate the healing process. “It works in three ways,” says Landolina. “The first way is it works as a tissue adhesive,” he explains. “It actually holds its own pressure onto the wound so you don’t have to do it. Secondly, when it touches the blood, it does something called activating Factor 12.”
This activates fibrin, which is the polymer you need to make a blood clot, explains Landolina. “Finally, it activates platelet cells.” The gel causes these to bind to the fibrin, causing a tight seal. Landolina says the speed at which this process happens is what triggers the healing process. “We don’t have all the testing to back it up yet – but it should allow it to heal faster over time,” he says.
Landolina was interested in science from a young age, and having a vineyard in the family gave him access to a lab when he was a child.
He says, “I was always very interested in the medical field since before I was in high-school. My family had a winery in upstate New York, so we had chemistry labs there and I used to be able to experiment around. I learned the ropes very early, my grandfather taught me everything – he was a wine maker and a chemist.”
Landolina laid the foundations for his later work while still in high school: “I did summer programs at Columbia University. While I was there I learnt how to do tissue engineering, which really got me interested in the bioengineering side of medicine.”
But it was after he graduated from high school that Landolina started to attract attention with Veti-Gel. Back in 2011, he entered two college competitions with his business partner Isaac Miller, and it was their success in those competitions that led to the formation of their company, Suneris, Inc.
Landolina says, “We ended up getting second place at the business school which is where [Isaac Miller] was from and we took first place at the engineering school which is where I was from. And with that we got so much interest that we decided to keep going and turn it into a real company.”
The past two years have seen Landolina and Miller develop their company and their product, now working under the supervision of cardiovascular surgeon Dr Herbert Dardik at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey. Landolina is also currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in biomolecular and chemical engineering and a masters in biomedical engineering simultaneously. Needless to say, the future looks promising for Joe Landolina and his miracle healing gel.
We’re definitely looking at the military as one of our main customers
He says, “The gel is what we call a platform technology, it’s very biocompatible – your body recognises it, and you can mix just about anything into it. We’re doing tests to see if we can actually make it work for healing wounds that won’t heal by adding in therapeutics or drugs; you can put antibiotics into it, you can put just about anything you want into it.”
Landolina has begun the process of securing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. He says, “The gel, once it gets FDA approval, has a huge amount of ramifications, not only having something that can be available to every medic, so that you can immediately stop traumatic bleeding, but also something surgeons use in the operating room, so that if you have some bleeding that arises on the operating table you don’t lose the patient.”
But Landolina also envisages more everyday uses for Veti-Gel: “Every mother has something in their purse, just so that if their kid cuts themself, you can slap it on, and it takes the place of a liquid bandage. All the way to care of the elderly where you have bed sores, you can put this on – hopefully it can work on healing the ulcers. We’re just trying to work out where it fits into the grand scheme of things.”
Clinical trials will begin around the same time as Veti-Gel is released for the military, Landolina says, which may take up to a year and a half. But until then, you’ll just have to settle for a plaster and a couple of paracetamol.
For more information go to Suneris, Inc.
Image credit: Oksana Bratanova (Shutter Stock)