Follow the Science: A Palm Harbor physician uses medical technology for everyday pain
Chronic pain, or discomfort, exacts a heavy toll on overall health. As the months turn to years, and little relief is found, patients suffer both physically, and emotionally, with often dire mental health consequences.
As a young boy, Dr. C. Randall Harrell witnessed the daily suffering of his mother and watched as that suffering was compounded by the confusion of multiple doctors, and specialists, who could not make a diagnosis nor offer any effective lasting treatment. As a young student at Emory University, immersed in immunological research, Harrell first became aware of the possibility to use medical technology specifically for people plagued by everyday pains.
Fast-forward a few decades to Palm Harbor and you’ll find Harrell at the unassuming headquarters of Regenerative Processing Plant, Harrell’s cutting-edge research center founded with the motto, “follow the science.” Their newest product, Regener-Eyes, does exactly that. It follows the latest in biologic care to relieve the discomfort of chronic dry eyes, a condition affecting more than 340 million people worldwide, exacerbated by our modern relationship with computer screens both large and small.
As Harrell, founder and CEO of Regener-Eyes explains, “Biologics (biological drugs) refers to treatments made from living organisms, a cell or a bacteria, an animal or human. They’re a lot more complex than pharmaceutical drugs but that allows them to offer many other benefits than a pharmaceutical. Our focus with Regener-Eyes was to really help regenerate the cornea and other components that cause dry eyes.”
Development took decades, but creating an effective biologic was only the first step. Harrell admits educating patients, and physicians, about the technology behind biologics is always the biggest challenge. With Regener-Eyes, they first narrowed their focus. To best provide transparency, and accurate diagnosis to patients, Harrell and his team decided to only release Regener-Eyes through medical professionals.
“We decided, from the start, that it would be crucial to build trust among eye care professionals,” he says. “We made Regener-Eyes available only through Optometrists, and Ophthalmologists, because we wanted the patient to visit an eye care professional so that we could ensure there weren’t any other problems that might not be diagnosed.”
Harrell’s team then forged relationships with a growing network of doctors, focusing on building trust by sharing knowledge.
“When you’re dealing with cutting-edge technology, what doctors learned in medical school doesn’t really apply anymore. There’s also so much information out there on a wide range of conditions, so it’s too much to expect doctors to keep up with it all,” Harrell says. “But the exciting thing is, once they understand biologics it makes perfect sense because that’s how the body heals. To simplify it, the human body is making new cells all the time, if you think about how a small cut heals naturally. Every organ has some ability to regenerate itself, so we’re trying to use the proteins that are in the body already. It isn’t just about stem cells, as there are many proteins that work together towards healing. We’re basically trying to help the body heal itself.”
Regener-Eyes offers two versions of its biologic eye-drop, professional-strength and Lite. The launch for Lite was in the midst of the pandemic lock-down, last April, but the situation actually allowed doctors to have more time to understand biologics well.
“The doctors were fascinated and, in retrospect, it really was a silver lining,” Harrell explains. “To have the extra time with the doctors, uninterrupted, and it was such an advantage to be able to give them cutting-edge technology that they could offer to their patients during this time. The doctors are very appreciative, as they see the results compared to what the other treatment modalities are available, and are very appreciative of having a better treatment to offer.”
The success of Regener-Eyes validates the innovation of biologics and Harrell believes the technology will continue to expand. They are currently researching products for arthritis, pulmonary disease and Covid-19.
“Our financial payoff, even in the midst of the pandemic, supports how biological medicine will revolutionize the medical industry,” says Bob Colucci, chief operating officer. “When we introduced the new Regener-Eyes Lite, it also spurred the sales of the professional drops with 100 percent growth, plus the new product’s success. So, we’ve seen 400 to 500 percent growth in the last year.”
Adds Harrell, “The biologics industry will continue to grow and the Tampa Bay area is actually already a nationwide center point, even nicknamed ‘Bio Bay,’ with quite a few regenerative medicine companies in Florida. We have no doubt that pharmaceutical companies will take more interest in biologics in the future.”
One final way Regener-Eyes “follows the science” is by creating paths for future research. They just launched a $10,000 scholarship open to applicants in the U.S. or Canada who have recently been accepted to an accredited college or university. Another recent initiative saw them partnering with Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. For a special holiday drive, Regener-Eyes donated $1 for every product sold to support Prevent Blindness. As Harrell sums up, “we follow the science by our external motto but internally we always say, ‘doing well by doing good.’ It’s important to us to give back to the community and support paths to the future.” ♦