Our 12th Annual Celebration

Our 12th Annual Celebration of Technology & Innovation was another big hit last night (Thursday, March 15, 2018). There were opening comments from Christopher Augostini, Emory’s new Provost and Vikas P. Sukhatme, the new Dean for the School of Medicine. For just the second time we handed out an Honorary OTTer Award to Lee Herron from the Georgia Research Alliance. Do you know who the first Honorary OTTer was awarded to? It was Emory’s own Chris Kellner, Associate General Counsel.

Enjoy a few pictures from last night’s festivities.

Awards 2017 Crowd 1 Annual 2017 OTTer
Annual 2017 Crowd 2 Annual 2017 Crowd 3

Below are this year’s awardees.

Innovation Award 2017

Innovation of the Year
Messenger RNA-based Biopacemaker
Hee Cheol Cho, Ph.D.

An arrhythmia is a problem with irregular heartbeat. It may feel like the heart skipped a beat, added a beat, is “fluttering,” or is beating too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). This is a result of any change from the normal sequence of the electrical impulses in the heart that originate from a tiny region in the heart, which is the pacemaker that we are born with. Millions of people experience arrhythmias due to coronary heart diseases, aging or congenital defects. When the heart beats too slowly, the only medical intervention is implantation of an electronic cardiac pacemaker. The hardware consists of electrical wires that are fixed to the heart muscle and an electronic generator implanted under the chest skin, delivering electrical currents to stimulate the heart to beat. Although they work well, the devices can get infected, cannot adjust the pacing rate on-demand, need battery changes, and are too big for pediatric patients. Dr. Cho and his colleagues have envisioned hardware-free “biological pacemakers” that mimic the natural pacemaker in the heart and solve all the problems associated with device pacing. They have developed a gene therapy, successfully converting ordinary heart muscle into a biological pacemaker in vivo, to provide a safety profile for clinical translation. Dr. Cho teamed up with Dr. Philip Santangelo at Georgia Institute of Technology to deliver the gene as a messenger RNA which sidesteps the problems associated with viral gene therapy vectors. They envision that, for the first clinical trial, the biological pacemakers will serve as adjuncts to electronic devices for patients with temporary pacing needs. If successful, the initial trial will open the door to a global pacemaker industry of $5B/year and growing.

Deal Award 2017Deal of the Year
Meissa Vaccines Inc. – RSV Vaccine
Martin Moore, Ph.D.

In 2017, Emory University entered into a license agreement with Meissa Vaccines for vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms with most adults recovering in a week or two. RSV however can be serious, even deadly, especially for infants and older adults with compromised immune systems. Each year in the United States, more than 57,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection. Additionally, about 177,000 older adults are hospitalized annually in the U.S. with an RSV infection, resulting in approximately 14,000 deaths. Dr. Moore and his colleagues developed a live attenuated RSV vaccine using synthetic biology and reverse genetics to recode non-essential RSV genes and improve stability. This vaccine is the lead product being developed by the licensee. Meissa Vaccines has been awarded a Fast Track SBIR grant by the National Institutes of Health entitled “Development of live attenuated respiratory syncytial virus vaccines with novel thermal stable fusion protein” with a total value of $1.56 million in 2017. It also received a seed investment from FundRx, an innovative healthcare & life sciences venture capital platform based in New York City. This investment is intended to help finance the Company as it moves toward to an investigational new drug (IND) filing for the vaccine.

Startup Award 2017Start-Up of the Year
Felmont Eaves, III, M.D.

Felmont F. Eaves III, M.D., F.A.C.S., leads the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director. He is a previous President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and serves as Director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the board that certifies plastic surgeons nationally. During his career, Dr. Eaves has received numerous awards and honors including being recognized as one of the Best Doctors in America continuously for more than a decade. Dr. Eaves is the founder of Emory startup EMRGE, LLC. EMRGE is a medical device company developing simple, cost-effective solutions for wound care, wound closure and scar treatment. The company’s three-part platform consists of force-modulating tissue bridges, variable resistance backings and bidirectional linear fixators. Together, these technologies offer a few key needs in wound care: approaches that don’t require anesthesia, don’t need active removal, minimize risk of infection and reduce scarring. EMRGE plans to market products by the end of 2018.

Significant Event 2017Significant Event of the Year
Sanguina – AnemoCheck 510(k) FDA Approval
Wilbur Lam, M.D., Ph.D.; Erika Tyburski

Anemia is a condition in which someone’s blood has a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin. This condition results in the body not receiving enough oxygen rich blood. Currently anemia is monitored via a traditional complete blood count (CBC) test done at the doctor’s office. Due to the nature of the blood drawing, this type of testing is both invasive and not appropriate for home testing or self-monitoring purposes. Dr. Lam and Ms. Tyburski, along with colleagues, developed a disposable color-based screening test for anemia, AnemoCheck. This test is used for the determination of hemoglobin level and estimation of hematocrit percentage in whole blood. Each test requires less than half a drop of blood from a finger stick, making it considerably more practical for home use. Blood is collected from the finger stick into a small round device containing a proprietary mix of reagents which react with hemoglobin present in the sample, eliciting a color change. After mixing and waiting for 2 minutes, the resulting color correlates to the patient’s hemoglobin level. In 2017, Sanguina, Emory’s licensee developing the technology, received 510(k) market clearance from the FDA, and in 2018 plans to launch the product for consumer sale.