Emory Female Inventors

Emory University is home to many brilliant female inventors, whom have contributed ground breaking research and innovation to the society at large. From new treatment methods to life threatening diseases to new accessible techniques of health education, Emory women help shape the world we live in today. March is Women’s History Month and we will be highlighting historical female inventors as well as Emory’s historical female figures and inventors through a series of five blog posts. Here five Emory inventor’s. We hope you enjoy.

  • Marcia Holstad: Consistent and regular dosage of antiretroviral medication is an absolute necessity for all HIV positive individuals. Without strict adherence to a daily treatment regimen these individuals risk further illness or spread of the disease. To combat this problem, Marcia Holstad DSN/RN-C/FNP created the LIVE network, a music program used to educate and motivate HIV positive individuals about living with HIV and the importance of regular medication. The network features multiple music genres; all of which contain original content that is not only accessible and enjoyable, but also informative. The initial response to this music program by a focus group of HIV positive patients was extremely positive with many participants asking to share the network with their loved ones. Holstad used this innovative education method to not only help improve HIV treatment, but also to make learning about the disease and its treatment more fun.

  • Lily Yang: Lily, professor of surgery and radiology, and Nancy Panoz, chair of surgery in cancer research, came to Emory with the goal of exploring the use of nanotechnology to fight disease, with a focus on cancer. She is currently conducting groundbreaking research to develop multifunctional tumor-targeting nanoparticles to detect and identify primary and metastic tumors. She hopes to further the use of these particles to deliver therapeutic agents to targeted tumors. Though a final treatment method has yet to be produced, Yang’s work shows great promise in revolutionizing cancer treatment. (Read read more on our website here.)

  • Cecilia Bellcross: Although the general population is acutely aware of the possible genetic heritability of certain strains of breast cancer, the referral process of at risk patients to undergo genetic testing has been historically erratic. Cecilia Bellcross (TITLE) noticed this discrepancy between at risk patients and genetic testing and saw the need for a more efficient screening tool that would suggest whether a woman should consider further genetic counsel regarding susceptibility to heritable breast cancer. Thus, the B-RST screening tool was born. This method asks women 6 basic questions regarding their personal and familial cancer history to identify individuals particularly vulnerable to heritable breast cancer. The results of this screening tool can then recommend whether those individuals should seek further medical council and genetic testing. The B-RST tool was such a success it is used by individuals and medical professionals around the world.

  • Sheila Angeles-Han: Approximately 5 million children in the U.S. suffer from some degree of visual impairment, however many available diagnostic surveys regarding visual ailments are written for adults. Recognizing the need for an age appropriate diagnostic tool, Sheila developed a new survey made up of questions to assess the effect of visual impairment on the quality of life and function in youth. This survey has vastly improved both the accuracy and efficiency of diagnosing and treating impaired vision in children. (Read more on our website here.)

  • Rani Singh: When it comes to metabolic disorders like Urea Cycle disorders or Phenylketonuria, the use of drug or vitamin supplement based treatments is often less successful than the use of a strict dietary regimen. These types of disorders are often negative reactions to intake of certain amino acids or compounds. Therefore, using a structured dietary plan, including restriction and or avoidance of certain foods, many metabolic diseases can have minimally disruptive symptoms. However, active and diligent adherence to medically suggested dietary guidelines is often extremely complex and arduous. Knowing this, Rani, the director of metabolic nutrition program at Emory’s division of medical genetics, developed a pocket-sized food list booklet that contains clear and accessible information on specific metabolic diseases as well as medically recommended dietary restrictions. (Read more on our website here.)

Interviews with two female inventors
Barbara Rothbaum – Treating Anxiety Disorders: Balancing the Real World and the Virtual World
Harriett Robinson – From Academic Researcher to Startup Scientist: Leaving the Lab to Pursue Your Innovation

EIDD & DRIVE: A Drug Developer’s Dream Brought to Life

Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) has a mission of early stage discovery, pre-clinical drug research, and training new generations of researchers in a drug discovery environment. The primary focus is on developing small-molecule therapeutics for commercially neglected diseases and rapid response to emerging infectious disease threats. Recently EIDD joined the fight against the Zika virus by attempting to identify and develop antivirals to treat the infection caused by the virus.

The EIDD facility is an interdisciplinary space designed to promote drug discovery and development by co-locating equipment for Medicinal and Process Chemistry, Virology and Molecular Biology, Bioanalytical Chemistry, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics including dedicated teams in each area. The facility was opened in 2012, and is currently home to both office space and fully equipped laboratories to enable research teams to focus on cutting-edge research and drug development. The facility is 12,000 sq. ft. which includes a 3,500 sq. ft. chemistry suite for medicinal chemistry, ability to support resynthesis efforts, a separate NMR room, and a hydrogenation lab.

In addition to their current work with the Zika virus, the Institute is working in a number of other areas and the following three projects illustrate this (find additional information here). The first project is focused on inhibitors of virally encoded RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP). Researchers are working to develop a new generation of ribonucleoside and ribonucleotide analogs. These analogs will be targeting diseases such as Dengue virus, Hepatitis C virus (HCV), Hanta virus, SARS, and MERS, and several types of encephalitis. The second project is focused on host-targeted, broadly acting antiviral therapeutics. The goal is developing compounds with a broadened antiviral target spectrum to move beyond traditional “one-bug one-drug” solutions. The current targets for this program are Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza A, Nipah virus, and Mumps virus. The third project is focused on optimization of non-nucleoside inhibitors of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) for the measles virus. The efficacy and resistance profiles of this compound are being investigated for measles and canine distemper.

Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, LLC, otherwise known as DRIVE, is the “industrial partner” of EIDD. DRIVE is a not-for-profit company separate from, but wholly owned by Emory, and the first initiative under Emory Innovations, Inc a 501(c)(3) corporation created to be the home for innovative new enterprises. This type of entity is highly unique in the realm of academic research and is designed to more effectively move drugs through lead optimization and pre-clinical testing and into proof-of-concept clinical trials. The transition from academic research and discovery to clinical trials is often referred to as “The Valley of Death.” It’s the goal of DRIVE to address this deficit and to move academic drug discovery further down the path. DRIVE is currently focused on five RNA based viruses – flaviviradae, myxoviridae, coronaviridae, bunyaviridae, and togaviridae.

EIDD & DRIVE are Emory’s answer to bringing together multidisciplinary capabilities to advance cutting-edge drug discovery and development in the preclinical stage.