Category: Translational funding opportunity

Translational funding opportunity

Engineering Faculty’s Research on Retinal Cells, Brain Tumors Given…

Engineering Faculty’s Research on Retinal Cells, Brain Tumors
Given Boost with Cohen Fund Grants

July 29, 2019

Two faculty members from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering have received grants for their research through the Cohen Translational Engineering Fund.

The fund, made possible by a generous commitment from Neil Cohen (class of 1983) and his wife, Sherry, serves as a catalyst for translating cutting-edge research into practice by providing faculty with critical early funding. The grant is designed to help researchers move their work out of the laboratory through assistance with tasks such as developing patents, obtaining materials and supplies and building prototypes.

Since its inception five years ago, the Cohen Fund has awarded more than $750,000 in grants for more than 20 projects.

During the most recent grant cycle, an outside panel of independent researchers and investors, innovation executives and venture investors heard presentations from five applicants in May at the 1812 Ashland building. Benjamin Gibson of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, who oversees the grant process, said the applications represented the diverse interests and technical strengths of Whiting faculty.

“The Cohen Fund Advisory Board meeting represents an excellent opportunity to bring WSE faculty together with experienced business professionals to showcase their strengths and provide valuable feedback regarding the commercialization of their technologies,” says Gibson, manager of JHTV’s Commercialization Strategy Group.

The winners will meet with JHTV staff at the end of the project and create a one-page marketing summary for their work.

Check JHTV’s website for when the next round of requests for proposals opens for the Cohen Fund.

Jin Kang

Fiber Optic Distal Sensor Controlled Drug Injector

Principal investigator: Jin Kang, Jacob Suter Jammer Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Whiting School of Engineering

The pitch: A compact robotic tool that improves the safety and effectiveness of one of the most delicate surgeries.

Retinal diseases are the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide and among the leading causes of vision loss in the United States. Treatments for the diseases are being developed, but they require the precise delivery of genes and stem cells to a specific layer of retinal tissue. Kang, who is internationally known for his work with fiber optic sensors and devices, is developing a handheld microinjector for transplanting retinal cells directly into the correct retinal layer. The tool uses advanced optical coherence tomography technology that allows surgeons to see transparent tissues more easily, maintain safe surgical positions and assess the depth of the microinjector’s penetration on a micron level.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures helped Kang obtain patent protection for the technology, which is available for licensing through JHTV. Kang also founded a company, LIV Medtech Inc., through FastForward to develop the microinjector and other, similar tools.

MRI-Compatible Functional Cranial Implant for Pump-Assisted Chronic and Direct Medicine Delivery to Treat Neurologic Pathology

Chad Gordon

Principal investigators: Mehran Armand, director, Biomechanical and Image-Guided Surgical Systems (BIGSS), Whiting School of Engineering, and Chad Gordon, director, neuroplastic and reconstructive surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

The pitch: A novel way to treat a deadly brain tumor.

Each year, 18,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumors and live on average just another 14 months. The tumors have a 90% recurrence rate after initial treatment, and their rapid growth makes removal impossible and radiation difficult without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. Armand, Gordon and their team have developed a therapeutic delivery system embedded in a patient’s own skull or synthetic implant, allowing both chronic and direct medicine delivery to treat GBM. The MRI-compatible device sits between the scalp and brain to optimize safety and minimize visual deformity. In the future, the device could be used to treat any other chronic intracranial neuropathology and could be adapted for patient-specific dosage or timing of release.

JHTV has pursued patent protection for the technology, which is available for licensing. The researchers have consulted several neurotechnology/cranial implant manufacturers, including Longeviti Neuro Solutions, a FastForward startup.

Translational funding opportunity

3 Researchers Awarded Grants from Thalheimer Fund

3 Researchers Awarded Grants from Thalheimer Fund

July 17, 2019

Three Johns Hopkins University researchers have received technology development grants through the Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research.

Established through a generous $5.4 million gift from businessman and philanthropist Louis B. Thalheimer, the fund provides seed funding for vital proof-of-concept and validation studies of valuable technologies at Johns Hopkins.

Since 2016, the Thalheimer Fund has awarded more than $1 million to 14 projects. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000, and all recipients have formally reported their inventions to Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

“We are pleased this year to fund a veteran drug hunter, a translationally focused biological engineer and an early-career otolaryngologist,” says Nina Urban, former associate director of FastForward, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ program for startups. “The funding will help support the development of a potential new therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, ocular gene therapy and a surgical tool for ear surgery.”

Twenty-five researchers applied for the latest funding round. Finalists pitched their proposals in June at the 1812 Ashland building to an outside panel of independent researchers and investors, innovation executives and venture investors.

Click here to see all of JHTV’s translational funding opportunities.

Safe and Effective Nonviral Ocular Gene Therapy

Jordan Green
Jordan Green

Principal investigator: Jordan J. Green, professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology

Collaborating principal investigator: Peter Campochiaro, professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience

The pitch: A better way to treat blindness with safe and effective ocular genetic medicine.

More than 2 million Americans suffer from retinal vascular diseases that lead to blindness. Treatment generally involves expensive and uncomfortable repeated protein injections into the eye, up to 12 times annually. Yet, many patients still will not regain significant vision and may suffer complications from the procedure. Green and colleagues have developed biodegradable nonviral nanoparticles that can carry large and multiple genes in a single injection with the potential for treatments to last longer than a year.  Through a novel approach, the nanoparticles efficiently carry the genes throughout the retina without stimulating an immune response and an injection can be done in an outpatient setting.  The same technology can also be utilized to treat inherited retinal degenerations, providing noninvasive gene replacement.

The researchers are pursuing patent protection for their technology through JHTV, which also has had discussions with companies interested in collaborating or sponsoring the team’s work. The technology is available for licensing through JHTV. 

Barbara Slusher

Development of a Novel Small Molecule GCPII Inhibitor to Treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Principal investigator: Barbara S. Slusher, professor of neurology (primary), psychiatry, neuroscience, medicine and oncology, and director, Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery

The pitch: An oral therapy for patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

The U.S. market for prescription drugs to treat inflammatory and irritable bowel syndromes is expected to reach nearly $8 billion by next year. But approximately one-third of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) do not respond to any given therapy, and there is no cure. Researchers led by Slusher have shown that a particular enzyme, known as GCPII, is 300%-3,000% more active in patients with IBD than patients without the disease. The team developed an orally administered GCPII inhibitor that reduces the enzyme’s activity by 90% and prevents disease in multiple murine IBD models.

The researchers eventually plan to seek investigational new drug status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures is pursuing patent protections for the technologies.

Autonomously Retractable Endoscope Holder for Otologic and Associated Procedures

Principal investigator: Francis “Pete” Creighton, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

The pitch: A robotic endoscope holder that monitors head motion and allows a surgeon to operate on ears with two hands.

Endoscope holders are common in many surgical fields, allowing a surgeon to use two hands during the procedure. While stationary holders have gained popularity among ear surgeons, the devices pose a variety of safety hazards. A spontaneous movement by a patient could cause the endoscope to damage critical structures of the ear, for example, resulting in loss of hearing, balance or facial muscle function. Creighton, working with Russell Taylor, director of the Whiting School of Engineering Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics, is developing a “smart” endoscope that can detect unintended patient head motion and move the endoscope accordingly. Smart endoscopes could decrease surgery time and provide cost savings for surgical centers. The researchers estimate there are approximately 100,000 cases per year that would benefit from their endoscope holder.

The technology is available for licensing through JHTV.

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