Isis Biopolymer, Inc. moved into the severe, sandy-colored building at 233 Richmond St. this past November. The facility, previously home to a watch-making company, now ticks out about 6,500 transdermal drug delivery patches a day. Come this May, it will be both a bustling factory and full-fledged research lab with a staff of about 70, said Chief Commercial Officer Shawna Gvazdauskas.
It is this — the ability to conduct research and development while simultaneously putting a product on the market — that makes Isis Biopolymer stand out, she said. "That's what really makes us so unique."
Isis Biopolymer is the developer of the IsisIQ platform of drug delivery patches. The patches use three technologies: a selective barrier membrane, a single electrode and hydrogel. Patients can receive up to three different drugs from a single patch.
Conventional products often have two electrodes and consequently can over-deliver the drug, Gvazdauskas said. The IsisIQ, instead, operates at a low current and can halt the drug delivery process. The platform's patches work by "active delivery," meaning patients can control how much of the drug they receive by pressing a button to increase the dosage.
"By virtue of the materials and process of manufacturing, it's an extremely flexible platform," Gvazdauskas said.
Isis Biopolymer uses its Jewelry District location and proximity to medical institutions to its advantage. Brown's Molecular Medicine building and Lifespan are within walking distance.
The company leases its building from the University and works with Lifespan to conduct clinical testing of its products. Across the street sits 222 Richmond St., which will become the home of Brown's Alpert Medical School.
Isis Biopolymer's "Wrinkle Free Brow Patch" went on the market in January under the brand name of University Medical Pharmaceuticals. The company is developing a similar patch for the eye area that will be ready in June, Gvazdauskas said.
Less than two weeks ago, the company appointed Brown Professor of Emergency Medicine Bruce Becker '78 to the position of director of clinical research. He will supervise various research projects, including a new product to numb pain and work toward the elusive "pain-free hospital" experience, he said.
Gvazdauskas said it was "an anomaly" that the company would manufacture in the
United States, let alone in Providence. But the location is a "huge strategic advantage" and creates an opportunity to forge "really, really cool partnerships" with Brown, the city and Lifespan, she said.
Isis Biopolymer began in Warwick, R.I. in 2006 but was recruited by the cities of Providence and Cranston in Rhode Island as well as Annapolis, Md.
Though Annapolis offered "attractive" incentives, Gvazdauskas said, Providence Mayor David Cicilline '83 as well as Brown President Ruth Simmons launched the best campaign. Cicilline has visited the headquarters several times and has been "very supportive," Gvazdauskas said. Ultimately, the lure of working in Providence's Jewelry District surpassed Annapolis' appeal.
"We're really looking for this to be a microcosm of medical research and development and commercialization," Gvazdauskas said.