After bioscience investment, CT Children's eyes innovation center

Dr. Christine Finck, Connecticut Children's Medical Center
Q&A talks with Connecticut Children's Medical Center's Dr. Christine Finck, and President and Chief Operating Officer Gil Peri.

Q. Connecticut Children's Medical Center recently invested $100,000 in a Holliston, Mass.-based biotechnology company, Biostage Inc., that's developing bioengineered organ implants to treat cancers and other life-threatening conditions of the esophagus, bronchus and trachea. Why?

A. A core mission of Connecticut Children's Medical Center is innovation and discovery in cutting-edge techniques that would improve the care delivered to children.

CCMC's Dr. Christine Finck and her lab have been working on this regenerative technology for more than five years. What these organ implants offer is the ability to bridge long gaps of missing tissue and enable the body to repair itself. For babies, this applies to esophageal atresia where the two ends of the esophagus are separated by a long distance. This is something a child is born with.

The goal of these implants is to bridge the gap, allow the esophagus to grow together and then remove the implant so what's left behind is natural tissue.

This would completely revolutionize the standard of care for babies born with esophageal atresia and mean a better quality of life for them all the way around. Supporting this kind of innovation and technology is crucial as we continue to advance medicine and improve health care for children and families right here in Connecticut.

Q. How have Biostage and Connecticut Children's been working together?

A. Biostage is working on creation of a scaffold that can be used to enhance the body's ability to regenerate. Biostage approached Dr. Finck due to her expertise in pediatric surgery and tissue engineering. Together they are working to optimize the bioengineered scaffold and bring it to the Food and Drug Administration. The scaffold design came from Biostage.

Q. Can you talk about the science behind treating esophageal atresia?

Surgical correction for esophageal atresia can be complicated and lead to numerous operations. It also significantly impacts the patient's quality of life. The goal of this technology is to offer a patient a specific, off-the-shelf solution to this problem.

The purpose of Connecticut Children's esophageal tissue engineering work is to take cells from the baby, grow those cells in the lab, put those cells on the Biostage scaffold and eventually transplant the cells and scaffold back into the baby so they have their own esophagus that was grown in a dish but able to be implanted back to them.

Being able to create a tube to bridge the gap in the esophagus that is personalized to the baby would be very innovative and helpful to prevent some of the complications they would otherwise have during their life.

Personalized medicine is of the utmost importance because then you don't need anti-rejection medications. Not only that, but tailoring a potential cure not only for the size of the baby's specific gap, but also with cells that are specific to the baby, would be very novel and very exciting.

Q. Is this the first time Connecticut Children's has invested in an outside bioscience company? Are such outside investments going to become part of the hospital's long-term strategy?

Research is a part of Connecticut Children's mission and we continue to look for innovative ways to create partnerships to advance our mission. We co-develop and support companies such as Biostage that are working on solutions that improve the health of children.

Connecticut Children's will be developing a Connecticut Children's Center for Innovation, which will establish a formal platform and infrastructure for co-development and clinical validation of innovative products and services that benefit kids in Connecticut and around the world.

The Center for Innovation will provide external companies and entrepreneurs/startups with a seamless bridge to work with Connecticut Children's to co-develop and commercialize innovations that have market potential, enabling Connecticut Children's to reinvest in our mission.

Currently, the Center for Innovation is in the development phase.