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Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership, with support provided by JobsOhio for the Cleveland Innovation District, awards $1.9 million in funding and support for promising biomedical engineering university technologies

The Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership (CCTRP) at Case Western Reserve University, with support from JobsOhio as part of the Cleveland Innovation District initiative, has announced more than $1.9 million in funding and support for 10 promising university-based biomedical technologies. The School of Medicine’s Council to Advance Human Health further supported two of these projects with an additional $300,000.

“The infusion of resources from the JobsOhio program is part of a multiyear commitment from the State of Ohio and Case Western Reserve University to grow the local innovation economy,” said Mitch Drumm, the university’s interim vice president for research and technology management.

Ten projects were selected for large program awards, which range from $50,000 to $200,000 each. Several additional pilot projects have or will be awarded pilot funding by year’s end. All projects involve partnerships between a clinician and a biomedical engineer, and focus on solving unmet health care needs.

The 15-year-old CCTRP program invests more than $1.1 million annually in direct funding and support services to help teams from Case Western Reserve and its partner institutions advance products from the laboratory to the marketplace, where they can improve patient care.

Funding focuses on preparing projects for commercialization and includes support for such efforts as demonstrating technical feasibility. So far, 69 full projects have been supported to date, leading to 38 licenses, 30 startup companies and the delivery of 38 technologies to patients. For each dollar invested by the program, the university technologies received an additional $25 investment, mostly as at-risk capital.

“The Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership continues to be a cornerstone of our department, filling an essential gap to transition university biomedical technologies from research to products, where they can significantly improve the health of our society,” said Robert Kirsch, the Allen H. and Constance T. Ford Professor and chair of the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The Case-Coulter oversight committee reviewed 25 proposals for 2021 funding and support. To be chosen, projects must have the potential to advance to a commercial entity within 12 to 30 months.

“As a group, the quality of the evaluated technologies continues to improve each year, demonstrating the robustness of the biomedical research-based technology pipeline,” said Steve Fening, CCTRP managing director. “Even with the infusion of additional capital from JobsOhio, we still had many more proposals that deserved to be included in the program than we could accommodate, making the selection process as challenging as ever.”

The 10 projects selected and their inventors are:

BAFF CAR-NK cells—an immunotherapy with less side effects

Reshmi Parameswaran, assistant professor of medicine, and Umut Gurkan, the Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor of mechanical engineering

B cell Activating Factor Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Natural Killer (BAFF CAR-NK) cells can specifically kill B cell cancers in a very effective manner with minimum side effects. This is a potential therapy to address patients not responding to current cancer treatments.

Safety and pharm-tox evaluation of Neutrostat: neutrophil-targeted nanomedicine for VTI

Evi Stavrou, assistant professor of medicine and staff physician at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, and Anirban Sen Gupta, professor of biomedical engineering

The NeutroStat technology consists of a nanoparticle loaded with specific neutrophil signal inhibitory drugs. The nanoparticle can specifically target activated neutrophil-platelet complexes that are the hallmark of developing clot niche in venous thrombosis and weakens the clot growth by decreasing neutrophil-driven thrombotic mechanisms.

Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic-efficacy and safety studies of humanized monoclonal antibodies to treat inflammatory and immune diseases

Yunmei Wang, associate professor of medicine, Xin Yu, the F. Alex Nason Professor of biomedical engineering, and Daniel Simon, professor of medicine and chief clinical and scientific officer and president of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center

They developed novel monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against a key extracellular signaling protein, the myeloid-related protein-14 (MRP-14, aka S100A9), that acts as a potent driver of inflammation and thrombosis. MRP-14 has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several human diseases including SLE, thrombosis, atherosclerosis and acute lung injury.

Microfluidic impedance red cell diagnostic assay (MIRCA-Dx): a revolutionary new way to assess targeted and genetic therapies for inherited red cell disorders

Umut Gurkan, the Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor of mechanical engineering, Pedram Mohseni, the Goodrich Professor of Engineering Innovation and chair of electrical, computer and systems engineering, and Sanjay Ahuja, professor of pediatric hematology/oncology and staff physician at University Hospitals

New genetic therapies can correct unhealthy red blood cells, but can’t assess the health and functional properties of the newly made red cells in a patient. The researchers offer a novel reproducible, portable diagnostic test for physicians and pharmaceutical companies to measure how well the new genetic therapies work for a red blood-cell disorder, such as sickle cell disease.

Gastrointestinal liner for diversion of intestinal contents

Steve Schomisch, assistant professor of surgery, and Jeff Marks, professor of surgery

People sometimes develop a wound connecting their intestine to their skin. This complication is incredibly debilitating and costly. The intestinal contents leak out onto the skin causing injury to the skin and muscle, dehydration and malnutrition, and there is currently no way to stop it. The researchers are developing a novel management strategy to greatly reduce the leak, which reduces cost of care and helps patients recover faster.

3D-UBS for fast volumetric evaluation of ocular injuries and disease

David Wilson, professor of biomedical engineering, Faruk Orge, professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics and staff physician at University Hospitals, and Mahdi Bayat, assistant professor of electrical engineering

This technology will be the first high-resolution, 3D microscopic ultrasound system to provide novel visualizations of eye structures to better understand pathophysiology, plan treatments and assess treatment results. Ultrasound is an effective ophthalmic imaging method that allows structures behind the iris, including the lens and ciliary body, as well as key portions of the aqueous outflow system, to be seen. This region of the eye plays a critical role in glaucoma—which affects over 2.7 million people in the United States alone—and cataract, which are leading causes of reversible and irreversible blindness.

HXB-319 as an engineered mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) based treatment for the rare/orphan autoimmune disorder Goodpasture Syndrome

Hulya Bukulmez, associate professor of pediatrics and staff physician at MetroHealth, and John Chae, professor of biomedical engineering and vice president of research and sponsored programs at MetroHealth

They have developed a novel cell therapy (HXB-319) based on naked MSCs, engineered to enhance immune responses to reduce inflammation and its resulting organ damage. The work proposed will help to advance HXB-319 cell therapy toward clinical use by targeting systemic autoimmune inflammatory diseases that cause end-stage organ damage such as pulmonary hemorrhage and end-stage kidney disease.

Nanobubble contrast agents as an enabling technology to manage prostate cancer

Agata Exner, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, Jim  Basilion, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, and Lee Ponsky, professor of urology and staff physician at University Hospitals

This project is a new ultrasound contrast agent (nanobubble) that can improve the detection and treatment of prostate cancer by targeting the prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA)—a biomarker overexpressed on prostate cancer cells—to allow highly specific detection and focused therapy, which affects only cancer cells and leaves normal cells unaffected. The nanobubble is a versatile technology with several potential uses within prostate cancer management including improved delineation of tumors, guidance of focal therapies and targeted therapy.

Toxicokinetic (TK) analysis of BG34-200 immunotherapy

Mei Zhang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Alex Huang, professor of pathology and staff physician at University Hospitals

A significant portion of patients with solid tumor cancers don’t respond to immunotherapies due to a lack of T-cell-inflamed tumor microenvironment. This novel plant-derived non-toxic BG34-200 molecule can be intravenously injected to modulate macrophages and create a tumor microenvironment that is vital for the generation of antitumor T-cell responses. The team is launching a clinical trial targeting canine metastatic osteosarcoma to collect key and gap data in preparation for a first human clinical trial targeting pediatric osteosarcoma.

Enabling closed-loop baroreflex activation in the treatment of refractory hypertension

Jonathan Baskin, associate professor of otology head and neck and staff physician at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, Dustin Tyler, the Kent H. Smith Professor II of Biomedical Engineering, Gilles Pinault, assistant professor of surgery and staff physician at University Hospitals, and Steve Majerus, research scientist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

High blood pressure or hypertension is a serious health care problem associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. Physicians rely heavily on drugs to treat hypertension, but there is a significant and growing population that is drug-resistant. Their approach employs an implanted neuromodulatory system to address this unmet need. They have demonstrated efficacy of their novel stimulation system in an acute human model, however, a vital element in this treatment modality is sensing blood pressure.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at

This article was originally published Oct. 12, 2021.