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‘Eye-opening moment’ inspired BioLab Sciences, Scottsdale biotech company specializing in advanced wound healing

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 3/1/2020 Georgann Yara, Special to Arizona Republic
a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: BioLab Sciences founder Bob Maguire stands at his company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona on Feb. 18, 2020. © Thomas Hawthorne, Michael Chow and Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic BioLab Sciences founder Bob Maguire stands at his company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona on Feb. 18, 2020.

Software industry veteran Bob Maguire walked away without a scratch from a roll-over accident that should have killed him.                                  

And across the country, patients who suffer from severe skin wounds – some so resistant to treatment that amputation appeared to be the only option – have found relief.  

For the last two years, these seemingly unrelated scenarios have been connected by BioLab Sciences, the Scottsdale biotech company that focuses on advanced wound healing that Maguire founded in 2018.

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“When we’re showing before and after pictures to people here, they see them and get emotional. They well up in tears,” Maguire said of employees’ reactions to patients’ photos.

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Making important advances

BioLab’s latest regenerative product MyOwn Skin is turning heads for its success in the skin graph segment. The technology uses a 1-cm square sample of the patient’s skin to grow a larger size to accommodate what is needed to cover and treat the area. In most cases, skin is taken from behind the ear. Podiatrists take the sample from an inconspicuous spot below the knee.

Because it perfectly matches the patient’s DNA, the chances of rejection are greatly reduced. Unlike traditional methods, it also doesn’t require taking large swaths of skin from the body, creating another wound that, depending on the patient’s health, could create another problem. Some physicians say it’s less expensive, too.

Since the product became available last year, 80 medical doctors have used it and more than 265 hospitals, private practices and surgery centers have pre-registered to use it, Maguire said.

BioLab is part of a global biotechnology market that’s expected to exceed $775 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. More specifically, it’s in a tissue engineering and regeneration segment that in 2017, was valued at $123.4 billion. And it also falls into the advanced wound care industry that was worth nearly $2.5 billion in 2018, according to Grand View Research.

While the feedback has been tremendous with many requests for it, Maguire said those calls are often a last resort, usually when a doctor sees amputation as the only solution.

Company data indicates that in 80 percent of the cases where MyOwn Skin is applied, one application is all it takes for unprecedented healing to occur.

“Typically, we’re called in as a last option. What we’re trying to do is have them make us the first phone call,” he said.

It started with 'a tiny bit of skin'

For Eric Roberts, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon in St. Petersburg, Florida, BioLab came calling to him six months ago when a representative showed him the product.

Roberts admitted that in these situations, he usually listens out of courtesy and as soon as he can get the rep out of this office he tosses whatever he’s being sold on.

But this was different. The ability to use a tiny bit of skin to grow an exponentially larger piece that resembled a traditional graph with more benefits was intriguing.

“Instead of kicking him out, I asked questions,” he said. “There is nothing really out there that’s similar to it, in that it’s just the patient’s own skin.”

Roberts did the first trial in September 2019, making him the first in Florida to do it and among the first in the nation. His patient was a woman who suffered from several medical conditions and had leg wounds so deep that tendons were exposed. 

To treat this particular case with traditional methods, Roberts said it would cost about $20,000 every week over a period of several weeks. Roberts did not reveal the cost for MyOwn Skin but said it was “significantly” less.

Roberts sent the patient’s 1-square centimeter of skin harvest to BioLab to be grown. Seven days later, he received enough skin to cover all of the wounds on her legs.

He’s done five procedures since. One was for a man Roberts has been treating for two years with a large wound that resisted all other treatments. Three months after applying MyOwn Skin, Roberts said the wound is the smallest it’s ever been.

Roberts likes that the treatment is designed to be used once, making it more cost effective while giving a better chance of healing. He said it works well on large wounds and those that have been difficult to successfully treat.

“You can’t really do that with other autografts that are out there,” Roberts said.

a man wearing a suit and tie: BioLab Sciences founder Bob Maguire stands at his company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona on Feb. 18, 2020. © Thomas Hawthorne, Michael Chow and Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic BioLab Sciences founder Bob Maguire stands at his company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona on Feb. 18, 2020.

Making a change after an 'eye-opening' moment

Maguire spent his entire career in the telecommunications and information technology software industry when, at the age of 50, he decided to go back to school to earn his MBA at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. His goal was to sharpen the professional tools he had. But, he ended up learning lessons from his classmates that went beyond academia.

“They’d talk about decisions they made in their pasts…” Maguire said.

On the last day of graduate school in April 2013, Maguire was driving on the 202 and about to get onto the 101 ramp. He admitted he was driving distractedly when he ran into a guard rail, flipped over and rolled three times into the gully below.

He emerged without a scratch.

“There were cars pulled over. I remember women were screaming because they thought it was a fatality. The police officer told me, ‘Dude, you don’t know how lucky you are. I’ve seen cars messed up less than that where people died,’” Maguire recalled.

The next day he was on a plane en route for a new position in the software industry. It gave him time to think about where he was in life and decisions he’s made, likely similar to what his fellow MBA students discussed with him in class. He questioned whether he should even be alive, let alone flying to another high-powered meeting in the lucrative industry that had become a staple in his life.

“It was definitely one of those eye-opening moments. I was in an accident that should have killed me,” Maguire said. He paused. “I started asking myself, ‘Am I really making a difference? Am I really helping people?’ The answer, painfully, was ‘no.’”

It didn’t take long for Maguire to leave his steady job and enter the biotech industry. His voracious appetite for researching regenerative technology was an asset. He went on to found two companies in this field, with BioLab being the second.

'It’s exciting to see we’re making a difference in the world'

BioLab was already creating regenerative products when a Valley doctor introduced Maguire to the technology that would become MyOwn Skin. It was developed by a plastic surgeon in South America to heal chemical burns. BioLab took it from there.

BioLab has an exclusive license for the patent and is the only company in the nation to do this, Maguire said. He plans to go global with it within a year.

The company recently signed an agreement with Red One Medical, a government-affiliated entity in Savannah, Georgia, that provides advanced medical and pharmaceutical technologies for veterans. This allows the innovation to be used by VA hospitals and the Department of Defense.

While Maguire’s family was supportive – his daughter works for the company – not everyone was. His decision to leave a stable career to start a small business in a field that, at the time, he knew little about drew its share of naysayers. Today, some of those doubters are calling, wanting to work for BioLab.

“They thought I was crazy. Now, they’re like, ‘I knew you’d be successful.’ And I’m like, ‘No you didn’t,’” Maguire said as he chuckled.

To him, that life-changing development paled in comparison to the one that triggered it. He didn’t question what others deemed as financially risky at best. Today at 58, Maguire acknowledged he’s aware of time and wants to use his remaining years helping others in a more impactful way that he had in his previous career.

“I believe if you do the right thing, the money follows. I never looked at it as a money thing,” he said.

Maguire talked about the many before-and-after photos doctors have shared with him. One set was of a girl, 3, that was born with her fingers joined together. Her surgeon was able to separate her fingers without harvesting skin off her body and causing her additional pain and damage.

“When we see pictures of patients and hear their stories, it’s very touching,” Maguire said. “It’s exciting to see we’re making a difference in the world.”

BioLab Sciences

Where: 13825 N. Northsight Blvd., #101, Scottsdale

Employees: 14

Interesting stat: The global biotechnology market is set to exceed $775 billion by 2024, according to market research and strategy consulting firm Global Market Insights.

Details: 480-207-1884, biolabsciences.net

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ‘Eye-opening moment’ inspired BioLab Sciences, Scottsdale biotech company specializing in advanced wound healing

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