Skin deep

Skin deep

Has a P.E.I. summer resident cracked the code on how to prevent body piercing infections?

Norman Silber can thank his daughter for a decade-and-a-half-long journey that has him on the verge of something big.

In 2002, Silber’s daughter Michaella complained about an infected pierced ear from the back of the family car. She wondered why the nails from piercing guns weren’t designed to dispense antiinfection medicine. The complaint got the 66-year-old summer resident of P.E.I. and a law professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., thinking. “Body piercing has become a lot more popular in the past decade,” Silber says. “So why can’t you treat these infections from the inside out? I thought it was a pretty clever idea.”

Fast forward 15 years and Michaella’s clever idea has turned into a biomedical startup called BioPierce Canada Ltd. based out of Silber’s summer home near Souris. Silber, Michaella and his longtime friend and cardiologist Mark Nathan have come up with a unique design to minimize infection, pain and deformities in human piercing. The design would encapsulate the piercing studs or pins with biomaterial that have drugs in them. As the biomaterial degrades they release drugs into the body to prevent infection.

Silber has also received help from Mitacs—a government-funded non-profit organization with a mandate to pair start-up companies with researchers. In this case, Mitacs connected BioPierce Canada with the University of P.E.I.’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering. The school’s assistant professor Ali Ahmadi is supervising Mitacs researchers as they try to advance the technology.

Silber says it hasn’t been easy getting this far, but the company should have a prototype in place by 2018, and will work on testing its effectiveness and finding a partner to commercialize it. With the value of the piercing industry estimated at $722 million annually, the market for BioPierce’s technology is large. And if it is commercialized, Michaella’s idea will result in new employment opportunities for the region. “I hope we’d partner with a P.E.I. manufacturer and create jobs in P.E.I. and the Maritimes,” Silber says.

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