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College of Medicine researchers named finalists in technology commercialization program

From Penn State Health News

Two technologies developed by Penn State College of Medicine researchers have advanced to the final round of a program that seeks to develop life science research and development projects with high potential for improving human health. One is a new small molecule that could be used to treat an aggressive form of breast cancer. The second technology is a device that may help plastic surgeons better perform procedures.

The two projects are among twelve finalists in the University City Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Program. The Science Center typically receives up to 50 applications annually from 22 universities and research institutions across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for the program, which aims to prepare the most promising new technologies for commercialization to transition from bench to bedside faster.

All finalists will receive guidance and support from business advisors, patent attorneys and regulatory experts, and access to the Science Center’s network of investors and partners as they develop a proof-of-concept commercialization plan. Three of the 12 finalists will be selected to receive up to $200,000 each in funding and will be announced in early 2022 following investor-pitch style presentations by the finalists to a selection committee of life science and medical device executives and investors.

Arun Sharma, associate professor of pharmacology and researcher at Penn State Cancer Institute, is partnering with Chendil Damodaran of Texas A&M University to develop a new therapy for metastatic, triple negative breast cancer patients. These patients represent up to a fifth of all diagnosed breast cancer cases, with less than 12% expected to live for five or more years. Sharma is working on a small, drug-like molecule that targets both breast cancer stem cells and breast cancer cells, with the goal of suppressing tumor growth and extending the life of breast cancer patients.

Dr. Dino Ravnic, associate professor of surgery and researcher at Penn State Cancer Institute, is working with Mohammad Tofighi, associate professor of electrical engineering at Penn State Harrisburg, and Anilchandra Attaluri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State Harrisburg and researcher at Penn State Cancer Institute, on a device that may help plastic surgeons assess flap survival during and after surgery. Flaps are pieces of tissue that are moved to a different body location to reconstruct wounds. Up to 9 percent of flaps fail due to poor blood flow, which may lead to additional surgery or extended hospitalization. Ravnic and team propose a device that will help plastic surgeons assess the suitability of flap blood flow. If successful, the device could reduce post-surgical complications for an estimated 350,000 patients in the United States who require major flap surgery each year.

“The fact that two scientists are representing the College of Medicine as finalists in this program is a testament to Penn State’s unique ability to bring researchers from different disciplines together to create novel solutions for unmet medical needs,” said Kevin Harter, associate dean for medical innovation and director of Penn State Center for Medical Innovation. “The Center for Medical Innovation is proud to support these projects and looks forward to seeing these ideas develop further.”

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