November 22, 2010 — University of Virginia spin-out PluroGen Therapeutics Inc. commemorated the start of the company's new relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense at a reception held Nov. 5 on U.Va. Grounds. PluroGen recently entered into an agreement worth up to $8.6 million with the Department of Defense as part of its Limb Salvage and Regenerative Medicine Initiative.
The contract is expected to fund the regulatory approval process and expanded manufacturing of PluroGen's lead technology, PluroGel® PNN Topical Antimicrobial Gel. PluroGel® is based on technology developed by U.Va. researchers George T. Rodeheaver, Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Sherry Sutton to treat patients with severe burns and wounds and to prevent infection.
PluroGel® is unique in that it thickens at body temperature and liquefies at cooler temperatures. As a result, the topical treatment effectively delivers healing medication when applied to the body but is easily removed by cool water, making it much less painful to remove than other existing therapies.
This revolutionary technology, for which the U.Va. Patent Foundation received a U.S. patent in 1997 and has filed for additional protection, is estimated to have treated more than 9,500 patients at the U.Va. Medical Center. Through the Limb Salvage and Regenerative Medicine Initiative, PluroGen's co-founders hope to take the "yellow miracle" through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulatory process so that it can be made available nationwide as a commercial product.
"I'm hopeful that in a short time we will be saving the lives of our wounded warriors, saving people from infection and helping thousands of individuals with chronic wounds and traumatic injuries," Rodeheaver told reception attendees. "I'm very optimistic that this dream is going to come true shortly."
Director of the U.Va. Wound Healing Research Laboratory and Richard F. Edlich Professor of Biomedical Research in U.Va.'s Department of Plastic Surgery, Rodeheaver founded PluroGen with Dr. Adam J. Katz, an associate professor of plastic surgery and biomedical engineering at U.Va. In 2008, Rodeheaver was named the U.Va. Patent Foundation's Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year for his role in developing PluroGel® and related wound dressing technologies.
"Signing this contract with U.S. Department of Defense is a terrific opportunity for PluroGen to contribute in a most significant and important way to our wounded service members," said Neal G. Koller, president and CEO of PluroGen.
The Limb Salvage and Regenerative Medicine Initiative is a pilot program funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and managed by the Office of Technology Transition within the Directorate for Defense Research and Engineering. The initiative's goal is to shepherd needed and beneficial advanced medical technologies and products through the transition process for Defense Department and civilian use.
According to the Department of Defense, two out of every three wounded U.S. military personnel are injured by blasts from "improvised explosive devices." Such injuries can include massive tissue damage with high risk of infection.
Rodeheaver called PluroGen's entry into the defense contract a "momentous occasion and milestone in our early development" and also cited the role of the U.Va. Patent Foundation, the Darden School of Business' business plan competition and start-up incubator, and the T100 program in fostering the company's development.
"PluroGen's success has been paved by these U.Va. programs," he said.
W. Mark Crowell, U.Va.'s executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization, said these programs are key components in the University's evolving "innovation ecosystem."
"As we further develop the innovation agenda within the University and expand our partnerships in the region and beyond, we hope and expect that there will be many more success stories like PluroGen's," Crowell said.
Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications U.Va. Innovation