Written by Shailesh Maingi, CEO & Founder, Kineticos
I’m in the comfort zone. My heart rate is at 152. I’ve been running on the treadmill for 27 minutes. Compared to 10 years ago, when I was running marathons, 27 minutes seems insignificant; however, considering what has happened in the last 8 years, the fact I’m running at all is a miracle of science.
Now it’s time to push the speed. I begin to increase my speed to 9.5mph. My heart rate creeps up to 158, then 164, and higher to 169, 173, 176, and then 178.
For the last 30 seconds, I max out at a 6 minute per mile pace, and I can’t go any faster. My chain is jangling around my neck. My left knee, with 4 procedures in the last 18 months, is not slowing me down at all; I’m limited by cardiovascular conditioning.
I am running all out. My heart rate has topped out at 182. I feel great.
I’m only able to do this because of the science of regenerative medicine. Just a decade ago, it’s unlikely I would have had the same outcome.
How did I get here? Growing up, I would have rather played any sport than watch any sport on TV. There were no seasons for sports. Play tennis in December? Absolutely. Basketball in July? Why not? Run outside in 95-degree weather? No problem. Youth at its best.
Later, with a family and career, it became more difficult to find time to play; I tried to keep in shape by playing basketball in recreational leagues and running marathons, and play the occasional tennis match.
But then about 10 years ago, I began to have severe knee pain. The diagnosis – osteoarthritis. My orthopedic surgeon recommended microfracture surgery. I had the surgery and did the rehab but my knee just didn’t respond. Well, what now? I thought.
Prior to having the surgery, I knew there were other options in case the microfracture did not work. I chose Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation. I knew this would be a long process; optimal outcomes required 2-3 years. The good news is that the success rate1 was 88%.
The first step in ACI involves a minimally invasive procedure to harvest a patient’s chondrocytes, which are the cells that produce and maintain cartilage. Then, the chondrocytes are sent to a laboratory where they are isolated and grown. Following this, there is an open incision surgery where the chondrocytes are re-implanted. Rehab requires 8 weeks of non-weight bearing activity, plus exercises to increase range of motion and re-gain strength.
My MRI had indicated osteoarthritis on my femoral condyle (weight bearing cartilage), and upon inspection during surgery, I had also developed a problem on my trochlea (the patellar groove). Finally, I had to have a high tibial osteotomy to re-align my knee, which was 3 degrees valgus.
My ACI surgery was a success, but the rehab required strict diligence on my part. Of course, I was highly motivated, since this was last chance to run again. My marathon running days are likely behind me, but that’s ok; I can play basketball, tennis and run 3-4 times a week if I want.
This is the promise of regenerative medicine.
What we do in life sciences research is difficult. We have to focus on science and business. Sometimes this duality forces us to think of the general (disease states) rather than the specific (actual patients).
But isn’t helping patients the reason we all do this?
All patients, like me in this story, have a narrative. I want to realize my potential. I want to live a full life, without compromises; I don’t want to be limited by disease. I want to run, play basketball, and tennis again.
And if a biotech impacts enough patients, it changes a society’s narrative. Is there any higher purpose than this?
1 Success was defined as no repeat surgeries (revisions)
Shailesh Maingi is the Founder and CEO of Kineticos and has a passion for the role R&D plays in improving healthcare outcomes. Mr. Maingi is also an adjunct professor at the Kenan Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina and serves on the board of directors for a number of biopharmaceutical, diagnostic and contract manufacturing companies.
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