Rick Gibson

Biological Grafts for Dialysis

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Angus Steer, Medical Device

Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 20, 1999. All rights reserved.

Take one carotid artery from an Angus steer’s neck

and use it to make an artificial blood vessel. Graft the blood vessel

into the arm of a patient who needs frequent dialysis. End the tiresome

search for healthy veins that results in a patient being "stuck"

over and over again.

Artegraft, a medical device manufacturer, was acquired from Johnson

& Johnson six years ago, funded by a private investment group. Last

fall it moved to 4,500 square feet at North Center Drive, and it is

growing by 15 percent a year (the company declined to provide sales

figures). Richard A. Gibson has been president and CEO since 1996.

Scott T. Waters is the manager, quality assurance.

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Rick Gibson

The son of a career naval officer, Rick Gibson majored in sociology

at Lycoming College, Class of ’68, and taught school for several years

before going into the medical products industry. He has worked for

C.R. Bard, Sterling Drug, and then Biosearch, a Branchburg firm (U.S.

1, October 28, 1998). Gibson then started a company, ENtech, for enteral

delivery; it provided nutrition support with nasogastric feeding tubes

and gastrostomy catheters. The firm’s largest investor merged the

young company into its medical division, and Gibson stayed on for

six years before accepting this CEO’s job.

The Artegraft product was developed by Norman Rosenberg MD at the

former Middlesex General Hospital, now Robert Wood Johnson. Three

of the eight employees actually make the vascular access grafts, and

two of them have been doing it since the technology was used for the

first time.

The arteries are detached from the steers at a USDA-approved slaughterhouse

in Texas and overnighted to North Brunswick. After being processed

and sterilized, they are shipped to hospitals within the United States.

The clients for this $700 item are vascular surgeons. They attach

one end to the patient’s artery and complete the loop by connecting

the other end to a vein. The implant is permanent.

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Biological Grafts for Dialysis

"We are the only ones who make this type of biological graft,"

says Gibson. "The artery is chemically processed to be a nonantegenic

implant so that it does not get rejected." As of now the only

competitive commercial arterial graft for dialysis uses polytetrafluoroethylene

(PTFE), known as Teflon.

Patients on dialysis come to a dialysis center to get their blood

cleansed three times a week. Two separate needles, one in the arterial

side and one on the venous side, are hooked up to the dialysis machine,

and the process takes several hours. When the grafted artery is made

from steer collagen, as with Artegraft’s product, it heals after the

hole has been used. In contrast, the hole in the "Teflon"

artery must be closed by the patient’s clotting blood, and this sometimes

results in clots that need to be surgically removed.

"The Robert Wood Johnson dialysis center is in our complex,"

says Gibson. Ironically, RWJ surgeons use only the PTFE today even

though the Artegraft artery was developed at RWJ’s predecessor, Middlesex

General. Says Gibson: "It is my wish that they would use it again."

— Barbara Fox

Artegraft Inc., 220 North Center Drive, North Brunswick

08902. Richard A. Gibson, CEO. 732-422-8333; fax, 732-422-8647. URL:


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