Biomedical Innovation Fund Awards $290,000 for U.Va. Projects

December 9, 2009 — From research identifying early markers of heart disease in diabetics to the development of a device to disrupt epileptic seizures, seven University of Virginia projects are moving forward with $290,000 in new support from the Biomedical Innovation Fund. The funds are provided through the Ivy Foundation and the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology.

"The pace of innovation at U.Va. is accelerating rapidly, thanks to the Ivy Foundation's vision," said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research. "This year's project teams span critical areas of science and technology serving human health, including new drug compounds for cancer, microdevices for brain therapy and diagnostic methods for preventing complications of diabetes. U.Va. is emerging as a world hub for biomedical innovations."

The Ivy Foundation is a major benefactor for U.Va.'s biomedical research programs, providing funds for endowed professorships in pediatrics and fellowships for researchers in the basic medical sciences and other areas.

Last year the foundation established the Biomedical Innovation Fund to support collaborative research projects with the potential to yield leading-edge diagnostics and treatments for a range of human health problems. In 2009, additional support was raised through the Johnson and Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology. The goal is to accelerate the process of bringing research from the labs to patient care.

"The pool of projects this year was very good and included many new areas of exciting research," said David Chen, one of the program managers for the Biomedical Innovation Fund and director of translational research for the School of Medicine. "This is just one part of a diverse constellation of translational research programs at U.Va."

The grants are awarded through a rigorous review process run by a committee composed of corporate researchers and venture capitalists and overseen by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Funded recipients in the current round include:

• Dr. Coleen McNamara and Dr. Angela Taylor, Department of Medicine; and Patrick Concannon, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics: Identification of early markers of heart disease in diabetics.

• Kevin Lynch, Department of Pharmacology, and Tim Macdonald, Department of Chemistry: Drug target research to treat late-stage human cancers.

• John Lach and Maite Brandt-Pearce, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Jeffrey Barth, Donna Broshek and Jason Freeman, Department of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences: Remote gait analysis to detect disturbances for patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus.

• John Hudson, Department of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Jaideep Kapur, Department of Neurology: Deep-brain stimulation to disrupt epileptic seizure.

• Marcel Utz, departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Chemistry, and Dr. John Jane, Department of Neurosurgery: Non-invasive microfluidic flow meter to monitor shunt malfunctions in patients with hydrocephalus.

• Dr. Peter Pollak, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellow; Dr. Srijoy Mahapatra, departments of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering; and George Gillies, departments of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering: Improved pericardial access during heart surgery procedures.

• Dr. Paul Yates, Department of Ophthalmology: Non-dilating retina camera to screen for retinopathy in diabetic patients.

— By Fariss Samarrai