A 31-year-old built a material that could change the way we reconstruct and heal the body

Maria PereiraCourtesy Gecko BiomedicalGecko Biomedical chief innovation officer Maria Pereira

A company developing a honey-like substance to heal wounds and reconstruct tissue is hoping to change the way we approach certain surgeries.

Gecko Biomedical is a Paris-based company that got its start in 2013. Maria Pereira, Gecko’s chief innovation officer and one of Business Insider’s top leaders under 40 in biotech and pharma, developed the technology during her work as a Ph.D. student in bioengineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During that time, she worked on a project with the Boston Children’s Hospital, working on better ways to repair and regenerate hearts, particularly in babies. In the end, Pereira, now 31, developed a material the consistency of honey that when a certain light’s applied turns into a bendable, dissolvable structure.

“I always liked to create,” Pereira said. From there, she was able to turn her project into a company.

Here’s how it works: The polymers, which are resistant to water/blood, are applied to a particular tissue, in this case a heart to repair a tear.

Once it’s on the incision, the surgeon can shine a light, which firms the material up. Now, instead of a liquid, it’s a flexible solid material. From there, the material will stay as the body starts to heal, while slowly degrading and leaving the body.

Because the biodegradable materials allow the body to heal on its own, it could transform certain surgical procedures that currently leave lasting implants in your body.

Right now, Gecko’s first product, a sealant, has received a CE Mark approval (sort of like a FDA approval, but for Europe). Gecko CEO Christophe Bancel said the plan is to make it available commercially through the help of partners, so that the company can focus on building out more applications for the polymers. For now, that includes uses inside the body, as opposed to say, competing with stitches to heal injuries on the outside of the body.

Gecko’s platform of polymers have the potential to work not just as a sealant, but also as a 3D structure that acts like scaffolding to help tissue grow around it, and as a way to deliver drugs that slowly release as the material breaks down. The hope, Bancel said, is to have surgeons or partners with ideas of how to use the polymers come in and play around with it, leading to new ways to use the technology down the road.

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