2018 World Premiere: a life-changing therapy for SCI patients

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The history of Neurogel

The NEUROGEL™ saga is sad but also meaningful and inspiring : sad because it could have led to a cure much quicker;  inspirational because several individuals have persevered despite setbacks and incredible odds so that practical results are now within reach !

THE DISCOVERY

In 1994, Pr. Stephane WOERLY from Laval University in Quebec discovered a hydrogel he successfully tested in rats. He founded his own biotechnology company. He obtained a prize and immediately captured the interest of the Banque Fédérale de Développement du Canada (BDC) and SOFINOV, an emanation of the Caisse de Dépôt et de Placement (CDP) (= deposit and investment bank.) Money flowed; a research team was formed and scientific publications were initiated. The media relayed the information and the patent was registered in 1997.

RIFT BETWEEN DR. WOERLY AND HIS SHAREHOLDERS

A power struggle ensued between the professor and his allies BDC and CDP who wanted to introduce and impose a pharmaceutical group to the operation. For lack of funding, the professor sought new partners, namely in France, with the support of an association of paralyzed people.

COMPETITION WITH OTHER THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES

Pr. Woerly’s discovery opened the door to a new therapeutic approach to repair medullar lesions.  Unfortunately, SCI research has always suffered from a severe lack of funding ; as a result, reseachers engage in a fierce competition for grants.

COMMUNICATION ERRORS

Convinced of the enormous potential of this discovery and hoping to obtain funding more rapidly, Pr. Woerly made the mistake of disclosing his invention with the SCI community  before completing his scientific publications. 

This risky decision was based on the results of his two pre-clinical studies.  Pr. Woerly had already obtained the green light for a clinical trial from the health authorities and did not see why he should he waste time,  on a publication on a finished product already approved by the health authorities , for the sake of the scientific community.

Unfortunately, researchers involved in competing therapeutic paths never forgave him and used his lack of official publications to discredit his work.

STRATEGIC DISAGREEEMENT

In spite of all these difficulties, the AFP‘s publications (Association des Paralysés de France –Association of Paralyzed people of France) supported the NEUROGEL™project.   Unfortunately, a  lack of money prevented Pr. Woerly from proceeding to clinical trials. On the brink of bankruptcy, he halfheartedly agreed to an exclusive contract with pharmaceutical group DEBIOPHARM. In the end, the professor was never able to form an alliance: in 2002, he had a falling out with his new partner.

A  LEGAL DECISION 

The exclusive contract marked the end of Pr. Woerly’s role as leader of the project. Neurogel en Marche Association took over the patent and its development. After a final political face off with the then president, the Association was able to start over with a new research team.