Mission and History
The Institute's principal mission and purpose, as described in its Certificate of Incorporation, is as follows: To conduct scientific and medical research in the interest of the general public, make the results of such research available to the public, and promote and support scientific research in the interest of the general public by granting funds for the conduct of such research or otherwise, and in furtherance of the foregoing (but without limitation), to conduct well-defined scientific and medical research to advance knowledge that leads to a better understanding of the molecular structure, function and medical utility of the matrix between and surrounding cells, its regulatory role in cell functions, and its therapeutic potential.
Consistent with this mission, the Institute has focused since its inception on investigating the biological activity and medical uses of hyaluronan. Hyaluronan is a unique polysaccharide molecule filling the space between the cells of the human and other vertebrate bodies. It is unique in the sense that it is present in all connective tissues of the body and is a pure polysaccharide. One of its most important qualities is that it forms a very viscoelastic fluid that fills the space between collagen and elastin fibers and the proteoglycans that fill the space between cells. This space between the cells is called biomatrix when one refers to this space in a living organism. Its elastoviscous properties make hyaluronan well suited for the medical treatment of diseases and disorders affecting a wide range of tissues and organs within the human body. The Institute is working to further medical knowledge on the therapeutic potential of hyaluronan by conducting laboratory research, publishing its research findings, and educating the scientific community and general public about research on hyaluronan.
The Institute (formerly known as the "Matrix Charitable Institute") was established in 1999 as a non-profit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization devoted to medical research. It was the successor of an organization with the same name and with the same objectives founded in 1980 by Endre A. Balazs, M.D. and Janet L. Denlinger, Ph.D. The Institute operates a medical research facility at 725 River Road, Suite 205 in Edgewater, New Jersey USA and the address of its internet website is www.matrixbiologyinstitute.org.
Endre A. Balazs, M.D., Ph.D.h.c, is a pioneering medical scientist in the study of hyaluronan, having worked with the molecule since he entered medical school in the late 1930s. His work concentrated first on defining the physical structure of this molecule and its biological importance in the biomatrix, a name he gave to the substance between the cells of the animal body. It is also called the intercellular matrix or intercellular substance when it is studied in in vitro cell cultures. In the 1960s, Balazs began to work on the medical use of this molecule. He was the first to purify hyaluronan for medical use and develop it for the treatment of various pathological conditions in the eye, joints, and in or on the surface of the skin. His newly developed hyaluronan therapeutic products were accepted worldwide in the 1970s. In the 1980s, after retiring as Malcolm P. Aldrich Research Professor Emeritus of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University (New York), Balazs, along with his wife, Janet L. Denlinger, Ph.D., and later his son, André Balazs, started a private for-profit biotechnology research and development company, Biomatrix, Inc. This company developed several new hyaluronan-based therapeutic products and marketed several of them worldwide in the 1990s. In 2000, Biomatrix, Inc. was sold to Genzyme, Inc., a multi-national pharmaceutical company. In 2011, Genzyme was purchased by Sanofi-Aventis, a multi-national pharmaceutical company with its main headquarters in Paris, France.
Balazs and Denlinger, having ended their relationship with Biomatrix, Inc. in 2000, continued their research on the development of hyaluronan for new medical uses at the Matrix Biology Institute, a charitable scientific endeavor dedicated to the public interest. Balazs and his private family foundation are the Institute's principal contributors.
The Institute's governing Board of Trustees is presently composed of six members, including Carlos Belmonte, Endre A. Balazs, M.D., Janet L. Denlinger, Ph.D., H. Stuart Campbell, Eric Fox, David A. Gibbs, Ph.D., William Stanley and Charles Weiss . Balazs also serves as the Institute's Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer. Denlinger serves as the Institute's President. Eric Fox is the Institute's Vice President and General Counsel.