Lab scientist wearing glove holding petri dish and using liquid dropper

Four CWRU Medtech research projects selected for Ohio’s focused commercialization training

I-Corps@Ohio program aims to advance research into products for medical treatments or surgeries

Four medical-technology research teams at Case Western Reserve University will participate in focused entrepreneurial training through I-Corps@Ohio, an Ohio Department of Higher Education initiative created to advance their work from the lab to a commercial market. Each project has potential for a product of value to medical treatments or surgeries.

Universities, colleges and community colleges in Ohio are eligible to participate in I-Corps@Ohio, which provides $15,000 to each selected research team in the seven-week training program. The curriculum helps the teams better understand the market for their technology, develop a commercialization strategy and attain new skills for ongoing research and development.

Teams chosen for the 2017 Medtech category are from various institutions across Ohio. The four from Case Western Reserve include three from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and one from the School of Medicine. I-Corps@Ohio seeks to help them develop business models to launch startup companies. The program identifies and selects potential new ventures that could attract funding and encourage collaboration between academia and industry.

I-Corps@Ohio provides hands-on training to Ohio faculty and students in a business model process for evaluating market need and commercial potential.

“At the conclusion of the technology commercialization training program, teams will be able to make market-based judgments on the potential fit of their technologies with customer needs, and make informed decisions on whether to go forward with startup companies or other forms of technology commercialization,” said Wayne Hawthorne, senior licensing manager at Case Western Reserve’s Technology Transfer Office.

The teams will participate in educational sessions in Columbus in May, with weekly updates leading to presentations July 12 to possible investors or industrial partners.

In addition to a principal investigator, each team has an entrepreneurial lead (EL), or sometimes two ELs. Each typically is a postdoctoral scholar or graduate student with relevant knowledge of the underlying technology and a strong commitment to pursuing commercial opportunities.  An EL is responsible for leading the team’s customer discovery process and presenting the team’s lessons learned each week during the training program.

“In addition to being a valuable resource for technology vetting and faculty engagement, the I-Corps program is an immersive and overall outstanding training experience for graduate students who are interested in a career in technology commercialization for small or large companies,” said  Stephen Fening, director of the Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership at Case Western Reserve’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. Fening is a point of contact for anyone who is interested in participating in the I-Corps@Ohio program.

Case Western Reserve’s four I-Corps@Ohio research projects are:

Anti-oxidant coatings for neural implants designed to reduce inflammation and improve function (Principal Investigator is Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Jeffrey Capadona; Entrepreneurial Leads are Griffin Rial and Andrew Shoffstall)

The technology: Advanced materials used in neural interfaces that mediate the inflammatory response in implants involving the central nervous system. The technology’s goal is to control the interaction at the molecular level by inhibiting cellular pathways. An anti-oxidant coating on the implant device reduces the amount of inflammation.

Computational scalpel (Principal Investigator is Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Satish Viswanath; Entrepreneurial Lead is Jacob Antunes)

The technology: An imaging analysis tool to determine surgical margins for rectal cancer patients. Tumor margins are small. The precise technology allows a surgeon to access the cancer cells and leave the good tissue behind, offering better treatment planning for about 50,000 patients who undergo rectal excision surgery annually.

Point-of-care device used for the measurement of lipase enzyme (Principal Investigator is Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Miklos Gratzl; Entrepreneurial Lead is Zhehao Zhang )

The technology: A device that measures lipase enzymes (a biomarker) found in people with acute pancreatitis. This device will measure that level quickly, from one or two drops of blood rather than taking a vile and sending it off to a more expensive central lab.

Cell-permeable CD40-TRAF2,3 blocking peptide for the treatment of acute retinal ischemia (Principal Investigator is postdoctoral fellow Jose-Andres Portillo at the School of Medicine; Entrepreneurial Leads are Yalitza Lopez Corcino and Youjoung Kim)

The technology: A blocking peptide for the treatment of acute retinal ischemia. A peptide is a compound containing two or more amino acids. Retinal ischemia is a form of stroke caused by decreased blood flow in the ophthalmic branches of the internal carotid artery. The blocking peptide allows for healing through control of inflammation.

This article was originally published April 6, 2017.