Sometimes inspiration is a matter of “connecting the dots” from different experiences.
Such is the case for Fertram Sigurjonsson, who is now the CEO, President and Chairman of Kerecis, the company using fish skin and fatty acids to heal damaged human tissue.
The idea for Kerecis came from Fertram’s summer- job experience as a young man. As a college student in his native Iceland, Fertram worked on fishing boats and in a fish- processing plant. After completing his graduate degree, he worked at a company that makes artificial limbs for amputees and realized that most amputations resulted from wounds that would not heal. Later he drew from these two experiences and got the idea of using fish skin to prevent amputations.
In 2009 Fertram started systematically researching whether natural fish skin could help heal human wounds. He discovered that cold-water fish skin presents no risk of disease transmission and closes human wounds faster than other products. This research project grew into a commercial business that began selling its flagship product, Kerecis Omega3 Wound, in 2016.
Healing Wounds and Regenerating Damaged Human Tissues
The Kerecis Omega3 products are intact fish skin, which is very similar to human skin, with the same thickness, elasticity and chemical composition. Under a microscope fish skin looks a lot like human skin. This similarity means that the body does not reject the fish skin. Surrounding cells migrate quickly to the fish-skin graft, speeding up healing. “Fish skin is also rich in naturally occurring Omega3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and promote wound healing,” adds Fertram.
After the wound is prepared, Kerecis Omega3 Wound is grafted onto the damaged tissue where it recruits the body’s own cells and ultimately is converted into living tissue. The products typically combine with the body within 7 to 10 days, providing a bacterial barrier for the open wound, filling tissue deficits and creating healthy tissue.
“Our bodies possess amazing capabilities. Each cell possesses a blueprint of the entire body and senses its location,” explains Fertram. “When we are wounded, cells migrate to the wound site and immediately start to lay down new tissue to repair the damage. Sometimes this process is not enough, because the wounds are too big, the patient is too sick, or some other factors impede healing. In these cases, our products help the body heal itself.”
Two Product Lines
Kerecis has two product lines. Kerecis Omega3 fish-skin products are designed for use on wounds and burns. Clinical studies have found that these products heal wounds quicker than competitive products, provide an infection barrier, and reduce pain. Additionally, the products are non-allergenic and there are no cultural barriers to use. “Kerecis is the only company in the world supplying fish skin for these types of medical procedures,” adds Fertram.
The second product line, Kerecis Omega3 Viruxal, contains patented fatty acids, which help control infections. This system is used in Kerecis Primary Wound Spray, which has been on the market for years in multiple countries. The Viruxal technology has also shown promise as a treatment for early-stage COVID-19 when administrated to the oral and nasal cavities.
Transforming the Future
The Kerecis products have dramatically impacted people’s lives, including the life of Dennis Reneau, a former U.S. Marine and top U.S. body builder who developed two deep chronic wounds on his feet. For more than two years he was in such serious pain that he had trouble sleeping and could not walk, even on crutches. His wounds were so bad that his doctors recommended a double amputation. He had given up hope when he met Dr. Mark D. Suski, who treated him with Kerecis Omega3 Wound. Within two days, the pain had decreased dramatically. The wounds started to shrink within three weeks and were completely healed in a few months.
Dennis, who has since resumed his normal life, is just one example of how Kerecis is transforming lives. In the future the company will add to the scientific evidence of its technology, which has already been well-established in multiple clinical studies including some large, randomized, controlled studies.
The company now has three clinical trials underway. One is evaluating the effectiveness of the Kerecis Omega3 Viruxal system on early- stage COVID-19 patients, and two others focus on diabetic wounds. “Recently the Institut Curie in Paris used the fish-skin products to treat wounds after surgery for neck cancer. They found that patients had less pain and fewer infections with the fish skin than with the standard of care,” adds Fertram, who plans to submit several other products to the FDA for approval.
Overall, Fertram remains motivated by the same desire to help people by using natural resources that inspired the company in the first place. He continues to look for strategic ways to solve problems that matter. And Fertram inspires the Kerecis team to do their best because he’s created a community focused on making a difference.