U.Va. Ventures Win State Funding to Advance Cancer Drug, Other Discoveries to Market

July 20, 2012

Three Charlottesville biotechnology firms and a University of Virginia professor are each a step closer to bringing their research discoveries to the market after winning state funding to commercialize their innovations.

U.Va.-affiliated ventures HemoSonics LLC, PocketSonics Inc. and Tau Therapeutics LLC and engineering professor Eric Loth were awarded a total of more than $500,000 from the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund.

Administered by the state's Center for Innovative Technology, or CIT, on behalf of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, the fund "advances science- and technology-based research, development and commercialization to drive economic growth in Virginia."

"Our innovative U.Va. researchers and ventures are developing game-changing new materials, devices and therapeutics that have the potential to make a major impact on our local economy as well as patient care," said Michael P. Straightiff, director of the U.Va. Licensing & Ventures Group. "We appreciate the generous support of CIT and the commonwealth of Virginia in advancing these discoveries to the public."

Part of the University-wide U.Va. Innovation initiative, the Licensing & Ventures Group commercializes University research discoveries through partnerships with industry and entrepreneurial ventures.

Tau Therapeutics will receive $200,000 to advance its novel cancer therapy, mibefradil, under the fund's Commercialization Program.

"We are very excited to receive this important grant to help fund our Phase I clinical trial," said Andy Krouse, founder, president and CEO of the company. "Through this grant, we hope to make a significant impact on the lives of those living with cancer."

Also awarded funding under the Commercialization Program, HemoSonics will receive $100,000 to support the development of its in vitro diagnostic device for assessing abnormal bleeding and clotting. PocketSonics will receive approximately $54,000 to improve the interconnect design of the SonicWindow, a pocket-sized medical ultrasound device that images vascular structures beneath the skin.

Loth, associate chair of aerospace engineering and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, will receive $150,000 under the fund's general Matching Funds Program. Providing a match to National Science Foundation funding, the award will fund the development and commercialization of an innovative coating that can be used to protect structural building materials from the elements.

"This low-cost, nano-textured coating is extremely water repellant, highly durable and mold resistant, providing Virginia-based manufacturing with a competitive advantage," said Loth, whose team at U.Va. is partnering with Southwest Virginia-based manufacturers Sips of America Inc. and AWFI to bring their innovation to the market in the building and home construction industry.

The fund awarded a total of $3.1 million to 20 organizations throughout the commonwealth in its 2012 cycle, following its initial distribution of $3.6 million in fall 2011.

"Innovation is strong in Virginia, and investing in these ideas will help the commonwealth strengthen its economic base in an increasingly competitive global economy," said Peter Jobse, president and chief executive officer of CIT.

In addition to the U.Va.-affiliated companies mentioned above, Charlottesville-based ElectraWatch will receive $250,000 under the fund's Commercialization Program.

To see a complete list of the companies and projects receiving funding from the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund in 2012, click here.

– by Morgan Estabrook