Project Description


Region: Coastal
Industry: Life Science
Research from Medical University of South Carolina
Funding Received: SBIR/STTR Matching Grant, PDF Grant, SC Launch, Inc. Investment

FirstString Research is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. Their breakthrough solutions provide therapies for inflammation and injury based medical conditions. The therapies mitigate excessive inflammation by calming the inflamed tissue and rebooting the body’s normal injury response. FirstString is focused on diseases associated with dysregulation of inflammatory processes and modulation of injury response, such as cutaneous radiation injury, radiation dermatitis, and wounds.

The company was formed based on technology from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2007 by Dr. Ghatnekar. While Dr. Ghatnekar was a post-doctoral fellow at MUSC he studied regenerative medicine and discovered the translational benefits of the aCT peptide, which led to the formation of FirstString Research. FirstString’s technology is based on connexin-based peptides (α-Connexin Carboxyl-Terminal or aCT peptides) and the company has an exclusive license from MUSC for the connexin technology platform.

Founder FirstString Research

“SCRA matched our federal SBIR Grant, increasing the impact of the grant and accelerating clinical trials of our lead product Granexin® gel.”

Dr. Gautam Ghatnekar, Founder and CEO, FirstString Research

Based on the value of the technology, the federal government awarded FirstString an SBIR Grant in 2007 and SCRA matched $100,000 of the grant through the SBIR/STTR Grant Matching Program. The company was also awarded a Project Development Fund Grant (PDF) and further SBIR/STTR Grant Matches from SCRA. Additionally, they have received four traunches of SC Launch, Inc. investments. FirstString has used this funding to continue research at its Mount Pleasant offices and to advance clinical trials.

What did FirstString’s Funding Pathway Look Like?

Learn more about each type of funding FirstString Research received from SCRA and SC Launch, Inc. Click the links below to find out how to apply for this funding.

Now a graduate company, FirstString is advancing their Granexin® Gel, a topical formulation developed for tissue regeneration that can help patients recover more fully and quickly from trauma. They have 3 clinical programs for the Granexin® Gel to improve treatment options and healing effectiveness for diabetic foot ulcers and chronic venous leg ulcers. The company has received $13 million in grants and over $18 million in investments with the most recent venture round of $15 million that closed in January 2018.

Firststring website


South Carolina Research Authority works directly with academic institutions and affiliated startups – creating partnerships to advance research capabilities and commercialize technology.



The South Carolina Department of Commerce has created the 3Phase program to help companies write grant proposals to receive federal SBIR/STTR funding. Learn all the aspects of writing SBIR/STTR grants including: eligibility, sources of funding and agency differences, understanding what reviewers look for and step-by-step writing instructions.