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Matrix Design/DermaPlus is making human materials that were not
available before; synthesized forms of human tissue molded and cast like an engineering
Matrix Design, Inc./DermaPlus, Inc.
1027 Hylan Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10305
Dr. Burt Ensley
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published July 6, 2007
BIO: BURT D. ENSLEY, PHD CEO - has been a Director of
the Company since its inception. Dr. Ensley also served as the VP of Research and
President of NuCycle Therapy, a subsidiary of Integrated BioPharma, a publicly traded
(INB) nutraceutical Company. From 1993 through its sale in 2000, Dr. Ensley was President,
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Phytotech, Inc., a phytoremediation company.
Previously, he served as Director of Advanced Technology at Envirogen, Inc., a
microbial-based bioremediation company and headed the Specialty Chemicals Group at Amgen,
Inc. Dr. Ensley received a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in
1974 and 1976 and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Georgia in 1979. Dr.
Ensley has served on the National Science Foundations BIO Directorate Advisory Board
and as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology since 1996.
Company Profile: Matrix Design was formed in 1993 in
Princeton, N.J. to capitalize on opportunities presented by rapid progress in the fields
of genomics, the study of the structure and function of genetic material, and proteomics,
the systematic analysis of protein expression in healthy and diseased tissue. These
scientific tools are being used to design entirely unique products with enhanced
performance in the areas of personal care and wound healing.
Matrix Design manufactures
bio-identical human proteins for tissue regeneration, wound healing, and skin
care. Matrix has synthesized the human elastin precursor Tropoelastin (TE) and
patented its use. Matrix now manufactures commercial quantities of TE, under the name
Elastatropin®, for over-the-counter products. The Matrix
subsidiary DermaPlus, Inc. uses Elastatropin® in a branded
anti-aging skincare line, DermaLastyl, launched in September 2005. DermaLastyl sells only
by internet with current annualized revenue of $2 MM. Sales are now self sustaining with
annual growth of 300%. Matrix Design is collaborating on the use of
its Elastatropin® with organ regeneration organizations.
Matrix is seeking
financing (1) to conduct clinical trials on Elastatropin® for use
as an injectable filler for anti-aging use, (2) to develop wound healing gels and cell
scaffolds for regenerated human organs, (3) to conduct clinical trials on Elastatropin®
to promote rapid, scarless wound healing, (4) to continue development of a proprietary
database of Elastatropin® polymorphs.
CEOCFO: Dr. Ensley, what was your vision when you
started Matrix Design/DermaPlus and where are you now?
Dr. Ensley: The original vision for Matrix
Design/Dermaplus was to use biotechnology to develop the components that make up the skin.
Our goal was to synthesize these components into a high quality pure entity at a cost that
would make it reasonable to use for treating wound healing, tissue and organ regeneration.
In addition, we realized it was possible that we would be able to successfully use these
materials in consumer products. We would be able to generate revenue based on the consumer
application then use that revenue to help support more fundamental and expensive research
that is required for using materials like this to treat wounds, or for injuries, or to
CEOCFO: How is the plan working?
Dr. Ensley: We are pleased that it is working
well. What we did was
we were able to get the material made; we make a lot of it and
make it high quality. My partner, Larry DeLuca, and I decided to do the branding
ourselves. We picked our own brands and design our own labels and it has been well worth
the price. We used other products as examples on what they did, how they did it, and what
they look like. In addition, we set up a website in August 2005 to sell our first skincare
product that we call DermaLastyl-B. We brought people to the site by advertising on
Google, for example, and advertising in magazines. Now, almost two years later, we have
18,000 customers. We sell five products; the fifth one we launched on June 11th,
a line of mens products. We are probably going to do $2 million in revenue this
year, and we are break-even with no debt. Now, we have started to spend some money on
basic research aimed at using the same molecules, the same material moving toward medical
products that require FDA approval.
What is the state of tissue rejuvenation today? What is it that Matrix Design/DermaPlus
has to offer that is different?
Dr. Ensley: Actually, the tissue regeneration
and wound healing industry is still very early on. It is not as advanced as the treatment
of certain diseases. Things like organ transplants and certain forms of cancer are now
very treatable. Wound healing and tissue rejuvenation has not made as much progress; it is
..let the body heal itself
..kind of approach. What we are doing
though brings a new paradigm to the scene. We are actually making materials that were not
available before. Many kinds of skin that you hear about today are either cells grown in
tissue culture or coming from animals or from human cadavers. That all brings about the
usual concerns with infections, Mad Cow disease, Alzheimers or various other
viruses. You have an issue here of what exactly are the sources of the material being
used. The products that we are making are new and sterile. They are human, but not from
human beings. They are molded and cast, almost like an engineering material, but instead a
synthesized form of human tissue. It is a completely new approach to this field.
CEOCFO: Where does Matrix go from here?
Dr. Ensley: We have a thriving ongoing business;
a biotechnology company with 18,000 customers, cash flow and no debt. The next step is to
move our products to the medical grade and science level which is expensive. While we
could probably slowly pay for it through our cash flow, it would take many years for us to
pay as we went along. Since we now have an impressive balance sheet, we think that we
could probably get money through venture capital or a private placement financing. We
would raise approximately $2 to $4 million and use that money to bring us far enough along
towards the FDA clinical trial process to the point where we could attract interest from
some of the bigger bio-pharma companies. They have teams in place and their management is
accustomed to dealing with the FDA. Once you start making a medical product it is then all
about dealing with the FDA, managing relationships with the FDA, and managing experiments
and research projects in a way that wins the approval of the FDA. At the present time, we
have this one business that is kind of happy-go-lucky. There is a lot of competition, but
we have a unique product that is a lot of fun. But once you move into the medical side,
even if you have a wonderful product that performs wonderfully in the consumer world, if
you do not manage the FDA and clinical trial process well, it will never be approved or
see the light of day.
CEOCFO: In closing, why should potential investors or a
venture capital company look at Matrix?
Dr. Ensley: First, we recognize the weaknesses
of many ethical product development companies. We address those weaknesses upfront by
protecting our payout with revenue from the consumer product side of our business. Most
similar companies cannot do that. The second reason is that we are focused on a long-term
goal. For us, the long-term is only a few years at which point we intend to make a deal
with an outside company that generates a return for the investors. Even though the project
may be six to ten years long, the investors are not looking at that long of a timeframe
before they recover their initial investment and get a return. We have two exit
strategies: one is developing the consumer products side of the company, and the other one
is developing the FDA approved ethical medical products side of the company. An investor
would share in the liquidation of both of those entities. Biotech is still one of the most
exciting and lucrative of businesses you could be in. Ours is a much lower risk than
discovering a new treatment for cancer. We already have a successful consumer product in a
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