Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Where are they now?

Michael Moore

 

Courtesy Photo

Michael and Lisa Moore visited family in Kimball recently and took a moment to pose for a photo with their children. From left, Esperanza, 13, Lisa, Evelyn, 11, Michael and Cecilia, 7.

Michael Moore grew up in Kimball and moved to Scottsbluff, where he graduated high school. He followed up with college at University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he married his wife Lisa just prior to graduation.

After his engineering degree from UNL, he attended graduate school at the Mayo Clinic and received his degree in biomedical engineering.

"I was working on nerve regeneration research (at Mayo Clinic) and we developed a biodegradable insert you could put into the spinal cord," he said.

He moved on to a short post-doctoral research fellowship at MIT where he worked on a similar product for the optic nerve with applications for those suffering from nerve loss due to glaucoma.

"Those two experiences were really instrumental, because it made me realize, looking at something as complicated as nerve regeneration, there was really no good way of studying it except for trying something in an animal," he said. "You learn something interesting, but it is really hard to know where to go from there. The only thing you can do is change it a little bit, put it in more animals, kill all those animals and look at their tissue then start over."

Michael became interested in a model system that would be more simple than an animal but still give researchers the information they needed.

"Back in those days, 10 – 15 years ago, there just wasn't anything available," he said. "So I got a job on the faculty in the biomedical engineering department of Tulane University in New Orleans and I decided that I wanted to work on, for my own research, to make model systems a little bit more complicated than cell cultures but a little less complicated than the whole animal. So that is what we started doing."

During his early research, Michael paid close attention to the anatomy of the nerve structure, as all of the organ systems have a particular anatomy. His team found a way to make a model from gels and the organs were cultured on a device that resembles a microchip – nerve on a chip.

At some point he became interested in a different application, focusing on using the technology to screen drugs

"We became interested in helping drug companies identify their lead candidates for new drugs, quicker and for less money," he said. "The drug industry right now is going through a difficult realization, because for every single drug that makes it to the market, typically a drug company has spent more than $2.6 billion, just to get that drug to market."

Michael explained that the research and development of each drug introduced to the public is accompanied by research and development of hundreds of other medications that never go anywhere.

"That is why drugs are now so expensive. They have spent millions on the hundreds of drugs that never make it. We should be able to do better.," he said. "It is less costly, they can get the information sooner for less money and they don't have to sacrifice as many animals. We are trying to create these model systems out of human cells, so the biology is more relevant."

Michael and his team were working on the new biomedical technology in the Tulane lab, but progress was slower than what he wanted.

"I was getting a little antsy and impatient, so I really wanted my work to have more of an immediate impact," he said. "We decided to form a start up company. We went through this program called Innovation Corp, which takes University researchers and puts them through small business boot camp."

During this he learned the importance of a market fit, that the product fits the needs of the market and whether it was better to license the technology to an existing company or start a new company.

Enter AxoSim Technologies.

"We, Michael and his partner Lowry Curley, talked with more than 120 people in the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory agencies and drug companies and we discovered that we had an interesting product idea," he said. "So we formed AxoSim. Within the first year of starting the company we got over $700,000 in grant funding and we were surprised, but we had already signed some customers. We raised about $350,000 in angel investments so we weren't dependent solely on grants."

Though they are not yet using human cells for the model systems, interest in the company is building and Michael hopes human cell systems will be available soon.

"Having a start up company has its own set of challenges," he said. "It has been a lot of fun and we feel like we are having an impact."

 

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