Client & Alumni News

Digestive Care Celebrates 20 Years of Dedication to Fighting Cystic Fibrosis

People living with cystic fibrosis (CF) rarely have any downtime with their disease. They have to keep meticulous track of medications, vitamins, treatments, exercise and diet.

CF patients have a defective gene that causes the body to produce an abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. These thick secretions also obstruct the pancreas, preventing digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines to help break down and absorb food.

Dr. Tibor Sipos knows that his medicine, geared toward helping those with cystic fibrosis, is making a difference for the 30,000 Americans living with CF. His Bethlehem-based company, Digestive Care, makes PANCRECARB®, an enzyme supplement for the treatment of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency associated with cystic fibrosis. Simply put, PANCRECARB helps CF patients digest fats more efficiently.

“I know how difficult life is for these patients. I knew one who died at 9 years of age,” says Sipos. “It left me with a strong feeling to continue to make better products for them. And when you talk with the parents of the kids, and you see how much you helped them, it gets to you. It touches you very deeply.”

A Long and Productive Relationship

Sipos founded Digestive Care in 1990 when he took early retirement from Johnson & Johnson to start his own business. He received investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) after he learned about BFTP’s programs through Dr. Ned Heindel, H.S. Bunn Chair Professor of Chemistry at Lehigh University and a longtime friend and colleague.

Seeing the potential in his technology, BFTP/NEP provided funding and space in its nationally recognized business incubator, where he could benefit from low overhead, business support and direct access to Lehigh University’s talented researchers.

“Technology companies need huge amounts of capital to grow, particularly in the pharmaceutical arena,” says Sipos. “That’s why financial support by BFTP is so critical.”

“BFTP played a significant role in the beginning of our development,” says Sipos. “They provided much-needed seed funds and incubator space for the preparation and manufacturing of drug supplies for clinical studies.” Sipos credits the constant attention, valuable business advice and financial support provided by BFTP as a major factor in Digestive Care’s early success.

Getting Through the Approval Process

Sipos’s dedication to those with cystic fibrosis has helped the company grow from an initial research-based organization to a fully integrated pharmaceutical company. Through a series of BFTP/NEP investments from 1990 to 1998, Digestive Care developed its flagship product, PANCRECARB, which is almost through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) New Drug approval process.

The cost of research and development to secure FDA approval for a new drug is substantial–measured in years and millions of dollars. Compared with deep-pocketed multinational pharmaceutical companies, Digestive Care had limited funds to invest in research and development.

“Technology companies need huge amounts of capital to grow, particularly in the pharmaceutical arena,” says Sipos. “That’s why financial support by BFTP is so critical.”