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The huge void in innovative dermatological drugs has driven Dr. Tamar Tennenbaum, a renowned scientist in the field of skin research, to found her own company, HealOr Ltd. Ever since she was a young medical student, Dr. Tennenbaum has been fascinated with the physiology of skin and the way in which basic science evolves into drug development.
Tennenbaum says she has finally come full circle after being conflicted over whether to put her efforts into practicing medicine or conducting research.
"I am now in the business of providing medical cures," Tennenbaum says, "which combines my two passions: science and medicine."
Tennenbaum, an MD, PhD graduate of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, conducted her post-doctoral research in the US at the National Institute of Health- National Cancer Institute. At NIH, Dr. Tennenbaum developed a diagnosis system for skin cancer by detecting and studying early stage markers of the disease to predict later stage cancer progression. She returned to Israel to head a molecular dermatology research lab at Bar Ilan University, where her research focused on the elucidation of critical molecular and biochemical pathways in skin.
This research led to identifying critical involvement of specific enzymes, called Protein Kinase C, in wound healing. This scientific breakthrough, combined with Tennenbaum's personal experience of losing a family member to complications caused by a chronic wound that never healed, prompted her to start HealOr in 2002. The company is developing novel drug therapies for chronic wounds and various skin diseases.
"We harness the PKC family of enzymes to boost the body's natural healing process," explains Tennenbaum. "This idea of therapy is pioneering," she says, noting that the $6b. worldwide chronic wound market is largely directed at stabilizing the wound condition rather than curing it.
"There are several products but not a lot of success," Tennenbaum says.
The company's flagship product HO/03/03 is a drug that combines PKC modulating agents that act synergistically to enhance wound healing in hard-to-heal wounds. The drug's mechanism stems from a scientific rationale: activating all stages of wound healing including inducing the movement of the skin cells to close the wound gap, building up the matrix bed and improving skin aesthetics. The product is efficient on regular wounds, Tennenbaum explains, but has shown the most stunning results in diabetic patients who have extreme difficulty healing. In these patients, improved wound healing can mean they can avoid other severe medical complications such as extremity amputations.
Tennenbaum says there have been promising results in HealOr's latest clinical study, which was designed to treat only patients with chronic wounds that failed to heal after at least six months of another type of treatment. So far, the results show that 75% percent of the patients healed within 12 weeks of treatment.
Beyond the realm of science, Tennenbaum has proven her ability to transform a scientific idea into a pharmaceutical drug. Tennenbaum takes her role as CEO seriously: she tries to create a fun working environment at HealOr's offices in Rehovot's industrial park, but sticks to her guns when it comes down to business.
She says it was her reputation as a leading skin researcher that won the trust of investors in two rounds of financing. For the business side of things, Tennenbaum says she relies on her team of highly experienced scientists and business experts when it comes to bringing her endeavors to a fiercely competitive global market.
Dr. Tamar Tennenbaum
Status: Married with three children
* MD and a PhD in cell biology and pharmacology from Hebrew University
* One of the first two candidates accepted to the Foulk's program promoting medical students to excel in science and technology research
* Post doctoral research, Bethesda, Maryland at the NIH-NCI on identification of early markers for the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer
* Rothschild fellow
* Fullbright scholar
* ICRF fellow supported by ICRF and European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
* Senior lecturer at the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar Ilan University
* Focus Funding Associate - A biotechnology research and development program supported by Johnson & Johnson
* CEO and founder, HealOr Limited