P-O-C Fund Gears Up to Help Bridge the V-O-D

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Those in technology transfer know all too well “The Valley of Death” between basic discoveries and proof of concept as well as the challenges involved in bridging this gap. Here at Emory OTT we’re fortunate to have a new tool in our toolbox to help promising discoveries take that next step. Its official name is the “POC Fund” Or “Proof of Concept Fund.” Yes – we know the name isn’t that creative but you might be surprised at how difficult it is to create a jazzy name that everyone agrees upon. Having said that, one thing we can all agree on is that we have made our first investment and we’re pretty excited. Take a look below for some details on the fund itself and our first investment.

The Fund

The POC fund was launched to provide support for prototype development and proof-of-concept testing of biomedical innovations, medical devices, and software technologies. The goals for the fund are to:

The fund is managed by OTT and all investment decisions are determined by the office. Candidate technologies must be unlicensed Emory inventions that have been disclosed to the office. Investments will range between $5,000 and $30,000 depending on project objectives, and OTT anticipates making three to five investments per year. These funds can be used to support both internal and external costs for prototype development and proof-of-concept testing.

Candidate technologies must meet the following criteria

  • Intellectual property position: prior art search completed, patent application(s) filed or contemplated;

  • Some market research conducted and competitive advantages of the technology clarified;

  • Prototype development or testing presents a challenge towards patenting, further funding, or development; and

  • The likelihood that the funds will achieve the desired outcome.

Our First Investment:

Extensive research is being done using various types of stem cells to regenerate or repair damaged hearts. A major problem has been the poor retention and survival of viable stem cells in the heart. Currently these cells are being delivered during open heart surgery through several methods but unfortunately most techniques include injection of the cells into the heart, and those cells are washed out in just a couple of hours. In fact, less than 10% of the originally transplanted cells are present in the heart two hours after treatment which leaves little time for them to have their beneficial effect.

Recent pre-clinical research focuses on embedding stem cells on scaffolds of bio-compatible materials or gels prior to delivering them via stem cell or cytokine ‘patches’ to the heart; however, this strategy still requires open heart surgery. Professor Rebecca Levit, MD, cardiology, has designed a catheter that would allow delivery of biomaterial embedded stem cells or cytokines to the heart without cardiac surgery. The POC Fund will enable Dr. Levit to refine device specifications and design concepts as well as create a prototype.