U.Va. Projects and Faculty Honored by Local Business Council

May 26, 2009 — PluroGen Therapeutics Inc., a University of Virginia start-up; ecoMOD, a unique design/build partnership of U.Va.'s schools of Architecture and Engineering; and David Chen, a U.Va. faculty member, were honored Thursday by the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council.

The Charlottesville Innovation Awards, given at a gala event at Farmington Country Club, commend individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions over the last year to the local community and economy by advancing technology and innovation.

PluroGen Therapeutics received the Breakthrough Award, given to businesses or individuals who translate basic discoveries into huge advancements. PluroGen is a skin care and wound-healing company. Its core technology, based on the research of U.Va. plastic surgery professor George T. Rodeheaver and collaborators, is PluroGel, a revolutionary antimicrobial gel designed to reduce the suffering of patients with severe burns and chronic wounds. Rodeheaver founded PluroGen with Dr. Adam J. Katz, also of the U.Va. Department of Plastic Surgery.

PluroGel, for which the U.Va. Patent Foundation received a U.S. patent in 1997, has been used to treat patients throughout the U.Va. Health System. More than 2,000 patients – some referred from up to 400 miles away – have benefited from the treatment.

Invented by Rodeheaver; Dr. Richard F. Edlich, professor emeritus of plastic surgery; and Sherry Sutton, PluroGel is unique in that it thickens at high temperatures (such as body temperature) and liquefies at cooler temperatures. As a result, it effectively delivers healing medication when applied to the body but is easily removed by cool water.

PluroGen recently partnered with Welcare Industries to successfully introduce PluroGel to the world market.

ecoMOD earned the Spotlight Award for bringing positive press and attention to the area. Directed by John Quale, U.Va. assistant professor of architecture, and P. Paxton Marshall, U.Va. professor of engineering, ecoMOD is a design/build project that engages students in designing, building and evaluating affordable, modular homes that use green building technology.

ecoMOD has partnered with the Piedmont Housing Alliance and Habitat for Humanity to build houses in Charlottesville and has attracted national awards and media attention. It was a finalist for a 2009 World Habitat Award.

David Chen, director of the Coulter Translational Research Partnership, won the People's Choice Navigator Award for leadership in the local business community.

Chen manages the U.Va.-Coulter Partnership, which funds research projects that have the potential to be translated into technology that improves patient care and generates start-up companies. Last year Chen helped to attract additional funding for biomedical translational research from Johnson & Johnson.

The Coulter Partnership's key partners at U.Va. include the Patent Foundation; the schools of Engineering, Medicine and Nursing; the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and the Darden School of Business.

"These three awards to U.Va. people and projects show the impact of university innovations on society," said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va.'s vice president for research. "David Chen has transformed U.Va.'s ability to connect laboratory inventions with corporate partners and to the clinic where they help people in need. PluroGen is a U.Va.-based company now helping patients with burns and chronic wounds around the world. And ecoMOD is at the forefront of national energy policy to provide low-cost, high-tech housing to all segments of the population."

A list of all the honorees and finalists is available on the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council Web site.

— By Melissa Maki