Clemson University

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Clemson targets fix for mask shortage see more

    (Courtesy, Paul Alongi, Clemson College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences)

    Melinda Harman of Clemson University is volunteering her time to explore how hospitals could wash and sanitize medical masks without having to ship them elsewhere or buy an expensive piece of equipment.

    A device that Harman designed to hold multiple N95 masks is central to her idea. It would help ensure the masks maintain their shape while being washed so that they continue to fit securely around the mouth and nose, said Harman, an associate professor of bioengineering and director of Clemson University’s Medical Device Recycling and Reprocessing program, or GreenMD. 

     Melinda Harman, right, works with GreenMD students at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, or CUBEInC.

    The masks help prevent healthcare workers from inhaling the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and have been in short supply since the pandemic began.

    As part of her work, Harman said she has engaged three leading healthcare companies that offer expertise in detergents and decontamination. She is testing different kinds of detergents to find the best solution for cleaning mucus and proteins from the masks. 

    The detergents are commercially available and already used by hospitals to clean other types of medical equipment.

    Harman said that her goal is “to validate a cleaning process that is compatible with existing capabilities and equipment commonly available at hospitals in South Carolina and worldwide.”

    The challenge is “to avoid interfering with mask performance, while effectively cleaning the masks without degrading their filtering capacity,” she said.

    Harman added, “Working with innovative industry partners is a considerable advantage, with everyone on the team willing to contribute a potential solution. They are providing reliable products that are already proven to meet routine reprocessing challenges in healthcare delivery.”

    Harman said one of the advantages to her approach is that many hospitals already have the ability to clean medical equipment, even if they aren’t yet applying it to the masks. That means hospitals wouldn’t need to buy any capital equipment, she said.

    Further, the masks would stay at the hospital, reducing travel time, the risk of spreading contamination outside of the hospital and the additional burden on an already-stressed logistics system, Harman said.

    “The technology I’m working on is meant to be used broadly, compatible with existing reprocessing practices that are already in hospitals,” Harman said. “It’s intended for rapid deployment in health care settings, and it’s meant to be compatible with any sterilization system.” 

    Harman added, “Cleaning masks before sterilization enables more masks to be reused Right now, guidelines for sterilization require N95 masks to be inspected and discarded if they are ‘soiled.’ My idea is to reliably clean masks to remove both the visible and ‘invisible’ soils, making the entire reuse process safer.”

    Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering, said that Harman is well qualified to lead the work.

    Harman has conducted extensive research into reuse and reprocessing of medical equipment. As director of GreenMD,  she engages students in industry-driven research targeting healthcare needs in South Carolina and broader global health challenges. GreenMD is the nation’s only engineering-focused program for medical device design targeted for reprocessing and reuse.

    “Dr. Harman has built a career on developing innovative ways to reprocess and reuse medical equipment that is normally disposable, which uniquely positions her to have a global impact,” LaBerge said. “I thank her for her service to South Carolina, the nation and the globe as we join together in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.”

    Harman said that if her idea works, used masks would be sent to central sterilization facilities within hospitals. The device she designed would hold the masks while they are cleaned.  After cleaning, the masks would go through a separate sterilization process to get rid of any lingering microorganisms, including coronavirus.

    The mask-holder that Harman designed could be 3D-printed, she said. However, she is focusing on more rapid manufacturing approaches using common acrylic materials. The technology could be readily adapted in hospitals from South Carolina to India, Harman said.

    She recently disclosed the technology to the Clemson University Research Foundation, setting it on the path to commercialization and raising the potential for widespread use.

     Harman said what’s been most interesting to her is that her previous work with resource-poor countries has come home to the United States, with disrupted supply chains and inadequate supplies at the point of need.

     “That’s exactly the situation we’ve been working on with other countries,” Harman said. “For me that’s just been a startling change. It’s been amazing to see how many people have become interested in the topic of safe and sustainable reuse and how many unique solutions they come up with. I hope that creative energy continues, because it can solve a lot of global health problems.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    GGC Partnership Campus website to market for future growth see more

    Courtesy of GSA Biz Wire

    The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3 established to serve as the philanthropic arm supporting the mission of the Greenwood Genetic Center, is proud to announce the launch of a new website highlighting their GGC Partnership Campus at http://partnershipcampus.com/.

    The GGC Partnership Campus will serve as both an anchor of Greenwood’s emerging Medical Innovation District and as a vital, connected hub within the broader Greenwood community. The campus will become the location of choice for companies and organizations seeking a quality-of-life environment with a focus on promoting connections and collaboration.

    The GGC Partnership Campus will provide a unique asset for the City of Greenwood while supporting GGC’s long-term goals for the delivery of clinical care, diagnostic testing, research advances, and educational initiatives.

    In addition to the Greenwood Genetic Center, the campus currently includes The Upper Savannah Council of Governments, Carolina Health Center’s Children's Center, and the Clemson Center for Human Genetics’ Self Regional Hall.

    The Clemson Center for Human Genetics’ (CCHG) presence on the campus enables Clemson’s growing genetics program to collaborate closely with the tradition of excellence in genetic services, testing, and research at GGC, combining basic science with clinical care. Last year, CCHG named internationally acclaimed geneticist, Dr. Trudy Mackay, as Director of CCHG. Dr. Mackay is building a team of researchers to advance the understanding of the fundamental principles by which genetic and environmental factors determine and predict both healthy traits and susceptibility to disease in humans. Together, the CCHG and GGC will strive to use new technologies and knowledge to develop treatments for genetic disorders.

    The GGC Partnership Campus website features a streamlined modern design, improved functionality, and easy access to essential information to help individuals and companies looking to locate on the GGC Partnership Campus. The new comprehensive website offers campus information, relocation assistance, a facilities overview, news, and contact information.


    About The Greenwood Genetic Center Foundation
    The GGC Foundation is a nonprofit 501c3 established to serve as the philanthropic arm supporting the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) in their work of serving families in the fight against genetic diseases, birth defects and autism. GGC has provided over 45 years of compassionate clinical care, unparalleled diagnostic lab services, globally-renowned research discoveries, and innovative educational programs. Visit ggc.org/foundation.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Clemson, Prisma Health to collaborate on developing new medical treatments see more

    Researchers at Clemson University and Prisma Health have received funding to collaborate on the development of new medical treatment and diagnostic technologies.

    Three Clemson-Prisma Health collaborations received investments from the recently created Innovation Maturation Fund, a joint effort between the Health Sciences Center (HSC) at Prisma Health and the Clemson University Division of Research. The program provides health care-focused grants designed to advance the development and commercialization of innovative medical initiatives and translational science, to improve the health care industry and to promote economic growth in the region.

    The projects supported by this fund include a system to monitor triggers affecting respiratory health, injectable tissue regeneration technology and a monitoring device for patients with chronic kidney disease.

    This year’s Innovation Maturation Fund awards range from $20,000 to $35,000 and were granted to:

    Brian Booth, assistant professor in the department of bioengineering, and Jeffery Edenfield, medical director at the Prisma Health Institute for Translational Oncology Research (ITOR), to further develop a collagen-type medical implant that could greatly aid in breast tissue regeneration post-lumpectomy and prevent the recurrence of tumors.

    Goutam Koley, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Steve Snodgrass, pediatric pulmonologist, to develop a mobile sensor system that monitors environmental triggers for respiratory health issues that are especially prevalent in patients with respiratory illnesses. The monitoring system will utilize a battery powered miniaturized sensor system with cellular data connectivity that can be carried in person to continuously monitor specific environmental parameters for an individual.

    Robert Latour, McQueen-Quattlebaum Professor in the department of bioengineering, and Sudha Garimella, clinical assistant professor in the School of Health Research and medical director of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at Prisma Health–Upstate, t0 continue to develop ammonia breath-test sensors that can be used by patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to measure the ammonia concentration in their exhaled breath. This technology would enable patients with CKD to monitor their physiologic status within the comfort of their own homes.

    Managed by the Clemson University Research Foundation, the goal of the fund is to increase applied research collaborations between Clemson faculty, graduate students and Prisma Health clinicians and to promote ideation and design of medical technology innovations that are attractive for commercialization.

    “The Innovation Maturation Fund is a special funding program that was developed in conjunction with the Clemson Division of Research and Prisma Health to target unmet needs in the health care industry,” said Chris Gesswein, executive director of the Clemson University Research Foundation. “I am excited to be able to participate in granting the first round of funds to deserving researchers through this new program. An important step towards fostering and supporting innovation in health sciences, with this program we have the unique opportunity to accelerate the commercialization of medical technologies in an effort to create a more self-sustaining model for promoting growth in health care.”

    “Prisma Health is excited to partner with Clemson University to engage companies and researchers in developing the next innovative breakthroughs in healthcare,” said Cody Reynolds, technology transfer manager in the Office of Innovation at Prisma Health-Upstate. “The Innovation Maturation Fund provides early-stage technical solutions to clinical opportunities and access to clinical learning environments that will equip researchers with the tools necessary to successfully obtain public and private funding.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Hitachi, Clemson partner on new initiative see more

    Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death. It accounts for 31 percent of deaths globally1 and for more than $351 billion in health expenditures, costs which are expected to increase by 100 percent by 2035.

    More than ever, there is a growing need for a highly trained workforce that can play a critical role in reducing these alarming statistics. Clemson University and Hitachi Healthcare Americas are answering this call. The two have joined forces to accelerate innovation in cardiovascular imaging to help students reach their full potential.

    Technical training for quality care

    Early detection and diagnosis through regular appointments and the use of technology, like cardiovascular sonography, is critical to reducing cardiovascular related deaths and improving the quality of life for millions of people worldwide. And with an aging baby boomer population, cardiovascular sonographers are in high demand. The current health care market employs approximately 130,000 sonographers and is expected to experience a growth rate of 14 percent (18,000 jobs)3 between 2018 and 2028.

    Providing students with real world experience, and access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology are critical priorities for preparing the talent pipeline.

    Since 2011, Clemson’s Department of Public Health Sciences has offered the Cardiovascular Imaging Leadership Concentration in collaboration with the Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health. Through this program, the University has been instrumental in preparing students to enter the workforce by offering technical training in noninvasive vascular testing and adult echocardiography.

    Now, through Hitachi and Clemson’s most recent collaboration, Clemson’s CVT students will have the chance to use Hitachi’s software further preparing them to enter the health care industry. Hitachi is also establishing the Hitachi Healthcare Outreach and Professional Development Fund, which will support faculty and students for programming and outreach efforts across South Carolina.

    Students will have access to VidiStar PACS Online Reporting software Platform, Hitachi’s DICOM viewer, echo viewer and report modules and vascular reports. Hitachi is also providing staff to train students on use in a clinical setting.

    Software for the cardiovascular sonography machines use soundwaves (ultrasound) to create a moving image of the heart. Combined with Doppler ultrasound,  physicians can see areas of poor blood supply to the heart in patients with conditions, like:

    myocardial infarction-MI

    coronary artery disease (CAD)

    valvular heart disease

    deep vein thrombosis-DVT

    peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

    And the non-invasive2 procedure allows medical professionals to:

    Assess overall function of the heart

    Determine the presence of many types of heart disease

    Follow the progression of heart disease over time

    Evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatment

    Sonographers are also tasked with providing notes and feedback to physicians when they’re unavailable, increasing the importance of sonographers’ role on patient health and outcomes.

    Hitachi Healthcare America’s value-based structured reports leverage a cloud-based image management and analytics platform, helping customers successfully deploy and adopt technology across complex and diverse organizations, apply advanced analytics and data mine to their valuable patient data.

    The reporting softwares being provided by Hitachi will further strengthen the skillset of CVT graduates, ensuring they are prepared to execute the necessary reports.

    Working together

    This is not the first venture between Clemson and Hitachi4. Hitachi High Technologies has long partnered with the Electron Microscopy Facility providing cutting edge microscopes and supporting the Hitachi High Technologies Graduate Fellowship to further the depth and breadth of advanced research and development being done at Clemson.

    Hitachi and Clemson’s most recent partnership will accelerate innovation through an in-depth understanding of issues facing healthcare through the eyes of its students. The next generation of ideas and improvements will benefit Hitachi’s product development, Clemson’s students and patients everywhere.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Clemson's Martine LaBerge shapes students, future through ehr work see more

    Martine LaBerge said that in her 17 years leading Clemson University’s bioengineering department, she has learned something about leadership that she passes on to colleagues who are just starting down the same path.

    “I tell them it’s all about people,” she said. “You get people aligned under one roof to believe in one brand and to have a mission that is focused on something other than themselves.”

    A new award has brought leadership sharply into focus for LaBerge, who has served as chair of the bioengineering department since 2002. 

    The Biomedical Engineering Society recently honored LaBerge with the inaugural Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. The honor recognizes her extraordinary service to the society through volunteering and leadership.

    It’s the latest of many milestones in a career devoted to advancing the field of bioengineering and turning Clemson’s bioengineering department into a powerhouse of education and research. 

    “Dr. LaBerge epitomizes the kind of leadership we seek at Clemson,” said Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “For our future success it is vital to look at what she has accomplished in bioengineering as a benchmark and instill a similar passion in the next generation. If we do this well, it will strengthen Clemson for decades to come.”

    LaBerge has helped establish new collaborations with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. She has had a hand in hiring all but one of the department’s 30 faculty members, and she has worked with them to develop new curricula.

    LaBerge was at the helm when a 29,000-square-foot annex was added to Rhodes Engineering Research Center. And she played a central role in establishing the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, also called CUBEInC.

    The department’s faculty, with LaBerge’s support, lead two separate Centers of Biomedical Excellence, together representing $37 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

    Clemson ranks fourth this year among the nation’s best value schools for biomedical engineering, according to bestvalueschools.com. And in a separate ranking by U.S News & World Report, Clemson ranked 21st among biomedical engineering programs at public universities nationwide.

    I.V. Hall, a former master’s student under LaBerge who is now on the department’s advisory board, said she has the ability to get people to buy into a vision and deliver what it takes to make it happen.

    “Her influence and her passion are the reasons the department is where it is,” said Hall, who is worldwide president for the DePuy Synthes Trauma, Craniomaxillofacial and Extremities Division. “She personifies Clemson bioengineering.”

    Throughout her career, LaBerge has remained in touch with students and their needs.

    The commitment to students made an impression on Margarita Portilla, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in bioengineering.

    “Dr. LaBerge is very close and always interacting with her students,” Portilla said. “I was always fascinated with her. As an undergraduate, I told my friends, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like Dr. LaBerge.’”

    One of LaBerge’s guiding principles is summed up in the department’s motto, “exemplifying collegiality.”

    At the start of each semester, she asks faculty to reflect on how collegial they are, using a short questionnaire and meter they can use to assess themselves. She also gives students a wallet-size card with the department’s mission, vision and goals, underscored by the motto in capital orange letters.

    LaBerge calls it their “credit card to graduate and be successful in life.” 

    She said that what she likes best about her job is mentoring faculty, networking, building Clemson’s academic reputation and working with students. 

    “There is no better professional than a Clemson bioengineering student,” LaBerge said. “It’s because of the way we educate them. They’re honest, and they have integrity. Our kids leave with emotional intelligence, because they see people doing it. We teach by example, and we lead by example. And I think everybody in this department is like that.”

    Nicole Meilinger, a senior bioengineering major, credits LaBerge with helping open several opportunities for her.

    She said that LaBerge encouraged her to apply for a three-semester rotation at CUBEInC through the Cooperative Education Program. The position put Meilinger into contact with some of the department’s industry partners and gave her the chance to conduct research.

    Meilinger said her work was published, and she had the opportunity to present her findings at conferences.

    LaBerge also introduced Meilinger to a class on developing and selling medical devices and recommended her for an Arthrex scholarship, which she received. Meilinger said that she has secured an internship with Arthrex and plans to start after graduating in May.

    “I came into bioengineering not knowing what I wanted to do, and Dr. LaBerge has been the biggest mentor in helping me find different career paths,” Meilinger said. “She’s always helping us in ways you can’t even imagine.”

    LaBerge, who is originally from Canada, arrived at Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990. She remembers having offers from other U.S. schools within a year. Two years after she arrived at Clemson, she interviewed to be an astronaut, she said. 

    “That was when they were working on the space station,” LaBerge said. “Canada needed a couple of astronauts. I went through the interview process.” 

    Ultimately, another candidate was chosen, and LaBerge said that she admired and followed his career. 

    What has kept her at Clemson for nearly decades are the opportunities in the department.

     “Larry Dooley (retired bioengineering chair and Clemson vice president of research) was a big mentor of mine,” LaBerge said. “He always saw positive, he always saw growth, he always saw big. I’m the kind of person who does not like to sit down. I like big things to look after. So, I think Larry was very instrumental with this.”

    LaBerge has held numerous leadership positions in professional organizations, including president of the Society of Biomaterials, member of the Biomedical Engineering Society Board of Directors and chair of the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering in the U.S. and Canada. 

    In Clemson, her leadership positions included seven months in 2013 as acting dean of what was then the College of Engineering and Science, before the current dean, Anand Gramopadhye took the helm.

    “Dr. LaBerge’s passion inspires students, faculty and staff to aspire to greater heights, learn more and achieve to the best of their abilities,” Gramopadhye said. “The Department of Bioengineering is thriving under her leadership. Further, she has exhibited leadership in key professional organizations, helping enhance Clemson’s national reputation in bioengineering. I congratulate her on the Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. It is richly deserved.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Two SC organizations have launched a new investment fund designed to boost health care innovation see more

    GREENVILLE, South Carolina — Two leading South Carolina organizations have launched a new investment fund designed to boost health care innovation in the state. The Clemson University Division of Research and the Health Sciences Center (HSC) at Prisma Health recently signed agreements to fund up to $200,000 per year in grants through the new Innovation Maturation Fund.

    The health care-focused grants are intended to advance the development and implementation of new medical initiatives, advance translational science, create job and educational opportunities, improve health care and drive economic growth in the region.

    “This is an important step to support health sciences research in our state,” said David Sudduth, vice president and chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health. “While we have a strong history of academic, research and innovation partnership in the Upstate through the Health Sciences Center, this is the first of what we hope will be many grant-making opportunities designed with our academic partners in order to support our community.”

    “Pairing Clemson University’s health research and bioengineering capabilities with Prisma Health’s industry-leading clinical environment provides an incredible opportunity for the development of medical technologies and initiatives that will improve health care for South Carolinians and many others,” said Tanju Karanfil, Clemson University vice president for research. “I am excited to see the ideas and impactful innovations that stem from this partnership.”

    The fund will be managed by the Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF), which manages the process of moving Clemson’s hundreds of innovative technologies from the laboratory into commercial markets. CURF has awarded more than $870,000 in maturation funds to Clemson researchers across academic disciplines since the launch of a similar fund in 2014. Those funds have led to startup companies, new technologies available for license and follow-on research investments.

    The new Innovation Maturation Fund — launched in cooperation with the HSC and Prisma Health — is the first such fund targeted exclusively toward researchers in the health sciences.

    “We look forward to working with Prisma Health to leverage this fund to advance promising medical technologies from ideation through initial phases of translational product development,” said Chris Gesswein, executive director of CURF. “By identifying and targeting unmet clinical needs early in the research process, we have a wonderful opportunity to impact successful downstream commercialization of technologies developed and matured through this Innovation Maturation Fund.”

    Prisma Health clinicians, Clemson research faculty and graduate students are eligible for grant funds. Applications for the first round of grants will be accepted this fall. For more information, click here.

    Innovation Maturation Fund Partners

    The Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF) is an independent 501(c)3 organization and was created to support the Clemson University research enterprise, guiding Clemson researchers through the technology transfer process by identifying, protecting, and developing university intellectual property. CURF is committed to creating a sustainable model for research by connecting Clemson researchers to external organizations and identifying opportunities for research collaboration to feed back into Clemson University.

    The Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health is a collaboration between Prisma Health, Clemson University, Furman University and University of South Carolina. Located on the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus, this nationally recognized center seeks to bridge the gap between academics, research, clinical practice and health care transformation in a way that is innovative, inter-institutional, interprofessional and interdisciplinary. Regional community, education and business leaders also participate in the Health Sciences Center’s shared governance.

    Prisma Health, a not-for-profit health company, is committed to excellence in patient care, clinical research and teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Our organization – South Carolina’s largest private employer – was formed when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together in late 2017, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With 32,000 team members (including volunteers), 18 hospitals and over 300 physician practice sites, we serve more than 1.2 million patients annually – about a quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our cardiovascular, neuroscience, OB/GYN, oncology and orthopedic programs attract patients throughout the region. Also noteworthy are our two renowned children’s hospitals, comprehensive diabetes care and extensive primary care network. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and families, our team members and guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Learn more at PrismaHealth.org.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Nephron, Clemson partner to meet hospital needs see more

    Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation is partnering with Clemson University to create a robotic solution for syringe-filling automation to enhance sterile manufacturing in the pharmaceutical production process and keep up with growing hospital demands.

    “We are excited about our new partnership with Clemson and we cannot wait to get started,” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. “Working together with Clemson’s world-class researchers and engineers we can ensure that the pharmaceutical manufacturing process remains safe and we can deliver life-saving drugs to patients and hospitals across the country.”

    The university’s newest strategic partner is turning to Clemson to harness the power of technology for more efficient processes. To do so, Nephron is enlisting the expertise of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences professor and researcher Yue “Sophie” Wang and mechanical engineering doctoral student Brandon Delspina and mechanical engineering master’s student Yu “Gloria” Zhang.

    Their robotics research for syringe automation will support the Nephron 503B Outsourcing Facility, a cGMP manufacturer providing sterile, pre-filled medications to address persistent drug shortages in hospitals and medical facilities across America.

    Based in West Columbia, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and one of the fastest-growing companies in South Carolina. This is Nephron’s first partnership with the university and was developed through External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Clemson University.

    “When the External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives approached us about this project we were excited to get involved,” said Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Our work in robotics can have a tremendous impact on individuals across the country and we are looking forward to working on this because of its benefits for the many patients Nephron serves.”

    “Industry needs are changing at a rapid rate and Clemson is equipped to support companies like Nephron. Together, we have created a mutually beneficial project to enhance their capabilities while providing the university’s students with unique, hands-on research experience,” said Angie Leidinger, vice president for External Affairs. “This partnership is a testament to the work happening at Clemson and we’re looking forward to this collaboration, which will advance their business and benefit South Carolinians.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Clemson, Prisma health professionals working to develop early cancer screening test see more

    The Greenville News

    When her younger brother was diagnosed with cancer, Clemson bioengineering professor Terri Bruce re solved to tap her knowledge of human cells to find a way to help others suffering from the dis ease. After devouring all the scientific literature she could, she chose to focus on developing a screening test to detect the disease in its earliest stages when it has a better chance of being cured.

    “It was a time in my life when I felt helpless,” she told The Greenville News.

    “And I felt there’s got to be something I can do — even if I can’t help Greg — to help other people.”

    Because he suffered from brain cancer, she looked to another form of the disease that wasn’t as emotionally entangled but had no early screening tests. She decided on ovarian cancer.

    Now Bruce and her research team are on the brink of a test that they believe could be a screening tool — not only for ovarian cancer, but other cancers too.

    “The hope,” she said, “is to ... catch this deadly cancer much earlier and give women a fighting chance.”

    Improving survival

     

    Ovarian cancer will strike 22,530 women this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 14,000 will die of the disease.

    But only about one in five cases is discovered early because there are no reliable screening tests, the society reports.

    A late diagnosis reduces survival. And because the symptoms are so vague, about three quarters of all women are diagnosed at a late stage, said Dr. Larry Puls, the director of gynecologic oncology at Prisma Health Cancer Institute.

    Only 10% to 15% of them will survive long-term. And overall survival numbers haven’t changed much in 40 years, he said.

    Though blood work can test for a protein that can identify some ovarian cancers, only half of stage 1 patients test positive for it, Puls said.

    “One of the things that has eluded us in ovarian cancer is that we have no screening for it,” he said. “But if you can find it when it’s confined to just the ovary alone, 90% of patients beat their cancer.

    “If we could shift women out of stage 3 and into stage 1,” he added, “we can make a huge impact on this disease.”

    For some time, Bruce has been studying exosomes, which are microscopic droplets found in body fluids that were traditionally regarded as a way for cells to rid themselves of debris.

    But further research revealed that they contain parts of the cell they are from as well as proteins that can serve as biomarkers of what’s going on in that cell, she said.

    Cancer often develops because something goes awry in the DNA, leading to aberrant proteins and tumor growth, she said. So she theorized that finding those protein signatures in exosomes could be a way to diagnose cancer.

    “If we can find those aberrant protein signatures and see them on the cells and exosomes,” she said, “ ... it potentially could be used for any type of cancer, as long as you find the biomarker.”

    The process has the potential to be used as a diagnostic tool for other diseases as well, she said.

    So Bruce approached Clemson chemistry professor Ken Marcus, who’d been separating whole human cells for years using fiber strips, and asked if he could separate exosomes.

    “I said, ‘I don’t even know what they are,’ ” he recalls with a chuckle.

    “But she got us some samples and in pretty short order ... we made some really good educated guesses and it worked.”

    Marcus and his “very talented students” were not only able to separate the exosomes, but reduced the time needed to do it from 2 1 / 2 hours to 8 min utes using a test strip made of a polymer that is grooved much like the top of a zip lock bag.

    When fluid is added, it flows down the channels where it interacts with different antibodies that in turn isolate the exosomes, he said, much the way a pregnancy test works.

    Catching it early

    Bruce and Marcus were then introduced to Puls, who joined the research team.

    He’s collecting samples of cervical fluid containing exosomes and proteins obtained at the same time as a pap test. So far, 49 women have been tested with the strip, Puls said, and two who had no symptoms and normal blood tests were revealed to have stage 1 ovarian cancer.

    “That’s the patient we covet the most because we cure 90% of those patients,” he said.

    Puls also hopes the test will one day detect precancerous changes, enabling doctors to surgically remove the tissue — like they do when a pap test reveals a precancerous change — and prevent the development of cancer in the first place.

    While the initial data will be crunched in the next few weeks, Puls said he’s optimistic that the test could be a promising new tool in the battle against ovarian cancer.

    He hopes the test could be used to screen for uterine cancer as well, which strikes another 63,000 women a year.

    Getting close

    The Holy Grail for the process, Marcus said, would be a urine test because it can show what’s going on inside the whole body. But the first step is testing cervical fluid in the doctor’s office.

    “And even that is an infinite step up from where we are today,” he said.

    Because tumors can be caused by a variety of proteins, the test will look for a bank of markers in an effort to capture more cancers, said Bruce, who is also director of Clemson’s Light Imaging Facility.

    “I think we’re close on getting some kind of screening tool,” she said. “And we’re in the process now of (getting) all the patents.”

    So far, the research has been privately funded, but the team plans to use their initial data to apply for federal grants to continue their work.

    They estimate a test could be ready for market in about five years.

    Saving lives

    Carmen Brotherton hopes the test will be routine in her daughter and grand-daughters’ lifetimes.

    The Easley woman’s ovarian cancer was discovered in 2009, making her one of the few to be diagnosed in stage 1.

    “I’ve lost some good friends ... who weren’t caught in time,” said Brotherton, who volunteers with the South Carolina Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

    “It’s always been one of my prayers that some day they would come up with something that would catch it,” she said.

    “This is just a small place compared to the U.S. or the rest of the world. Imagine how many women this could catch. And it might save their lives.”

    When Bruce’s brother was diagnosed in 2012, little could be done to stop the progress of the cancer, she said. He died in January, leaving his two sons fatherless.

    Now she hopes the test will one day mean that fewer people will be left without a parent like her nephews.

    “In conjunction with the discovery of distinct biomarkers, the fibers could lead to finding diseases such as ovarian cancer — and brain cancer — much earlier,” she said.

    “Early enough, I hope, to save many lives in the future.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Top Clemson alumni honored for accomplishments, contributions see more

    Their faces lit up the scoreboard, they patted Howard’s Rock and they celebrated by the end zone.

    Some of Clemson University’s top alumni gathered in Memorial Stadium on the night of April 25 for the annual showcase gala of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.  Three of the college’s alumni were inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists, while three others were celebrated as Outstanding Young Alumni.

    The 2019 honorees posed for a picture with Dean Anand Gramopadhye after a gala at Memorial Stadium. The newest academy members are I.V. Hall, Denise Rutledge Simmons and Vanessa Ellerbe Wyche. This year’s crop of Outstanding Young Alumni are Chelsea L. Ex-Lubeskie, Allison Godwin and Amol V. Janorkar.  Continue reading the entire story here.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Clemson and Arthrex are launching a program to teach students and support the med device industry see more

    The surgical device industry is continuously growing and evolving. According to data from GlobalData, the orthopedics market is expected to grow to $66 billion by 2023 from $52.8 billion in 2017.  In South Carolina, medical devices are an anchor of the state's fast-growing and globally respected life sciences industry, according to executives with SCBIO -- the Palmetto State's life sciences industry organization and champion.

    In response to this upward trend, surgical device companies are seeking more employees with a specialized skillset, and thanks to a new partnership with Arthrex Inc., Clemson University students will be equipped to answer the call.

    A global leader in minimally invasive orthopedics, Arthrex already works with Clemson on a number of research projects. Now it’s expanding its engagement with the university through a new, two-year pilot program developed with the needs of the surgical device industry in mind and a generous gift of ten $7,500 scholarships.

    “Arthrex is one of the university’s valuable strategic partners, and this opportunity to work together to create programming unique to Clemson speaks volumes about what the company thinks of our talented faculty and students,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “This partnership is another example of Clemson’s ongoing commitment to the state of South Carolina, and I am grateful to Arthrex for its generous gift, which will enable our students to work with a world-class company to develop skills that are vital to the surgical device industry.” 

    “Arthrex takes great pride in its commitment to education and we are pleased to help develop the next generation of highly skilled professionals like Arthrex Technology Consultants who work with orthopedic surgeons to provide trustworthy technical product support,” said Arthrex President and founder Reinhold Schmieding.

    In October 2017, Arthrex announced plans for a new $40 million facility in Sandy Springs, South Carolina. Surgical devices will be manufactured in the 290,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open this summer. The new location is part of Arthrex’s efforts to expand its manufacturing base into South Carolina to create new products and jobs in America.

    The pilot program will span two years and comprise a series of courses, Arthrex internships and additional learning opportunities for rising third-year students majoring in bioengineering, marketing and health sciences departments.

    MKT 4950 Developing and Selling Medical Devices is the first course being offered in the series and will begin in fall 2019. Taught by Ryan Mullins in the College of Business, course material provides students an introduction to the health care industry with a focus on the development and marketing of surgical device innovations. Mullins was selected to develop the course as the Provost’s Inaugural Innovation Fellow, a program created to encourage faculty on campus to support corporate engagement efforts.

    “Our collaboration with Arthrex helps us create a new type of focused course,” said Mullins. “We will walk students through real case studies at Arthrex to understand how surgical devices get translated from marketable idea to surgeon or physician adoption. This helps us illustrate the challenges inherent to both the health care marketplace and marketing of new offerings, which is not taught anywhere else.”

    Students who are enrolled in the course may apply for the scholarship and additional programs offered as part of the two-year series of courses. Those who would like to participate in the entire program will take Student Affairs’ Certified Student Leader Program in the spring and an internship with Arthrex in the summer. Students outside of the participating departments can also intern with Arthrex by working with their advisers and the career center.

    This partnership was developed through Clemson’s Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives. Additional details regarding the scholarship, internship and second-year courses will be available soon.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Multimillion-dollar grant to support heart health research at Clemson University see more

    Clemson University bioengineers picked Valentine’s Day to announce $4.1 million in grants to support new heart health research.

    Will Richardson and Naren Vyavahare are conducting research with the potential to affect millions of patients who suffer from many forms of cardiovascular disease and related illness, including heart failure, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to a university news release.

    Richardson, an assistant professor of bioengineering, is creating computer models aimed at providing better treatment for cardiac fibrosis, a condition that contributes to heart failure. As many as 60% of patients die within five years of developing heart failure, which afflicts 6.5 million Americans, Richardson said in the news release.

    No drugs have been approved to treat cardiac fibrosis specifically, and doctors are often left with trial-and-error experimentation when treating patients who have it, he said in the release.

    Richardson said he hopes his research will lead to a day when measurements from a patient’s blood or tissue sample can be plugged into mathematical equations based on how molecules interact in the body. Overnight, patients would have personalized risk assessments and treatments plan, he said in the release.

    Details about his research is available online.

    Vyavahare, the Hunter Endowed Chair of Bioengineering, is working on what could be the first treatment to reverse vascular calcification, a condition that occurs when mineral deposits build up on blood vessel walls and stiffen them, according to the news release. It is most prevalent in aging patients and those with chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, Vyavahare said. Complications from vascular calcification can range from hypertension to death.

    The nanoparticles that Vyavahare is developing are many times smaller than the width of a human hair and would deliver two medicines to calcified blood vessels. One medicine would remove the mineral deposits that cause blood vessels to become calcified, and another would return elasticity to the blood vessels.

    More details about his work is online.

    The Richardson and Vyavahare projects were both funded through the National Institutes of Health’s R01 program. Richardson is receiving $1.9 million, and Vyavahare is receiving $2.2 million, the news release said.

    Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Richardson and Vyvahare on their grants.

    Agneta Simionescu, an assistant professor of bioengineering, has also received $1.38 million through the R01 program. The Simionescu award was announced in November and is aimed at better understanding cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes, the news release said.

    Richardson and Simionescu were among the faculty members trained as part of SC BioCRAFT, a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence. The center’s primary goal is to increase the number of South Carolina biomedical researchers who are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

    Vyavahare leads SC BioCRAFT, which stands for the South Carolina Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    SCBIO's Morgan Nichols is a STEM advocate, marketing guru and Miss America candidate. see more

    CLEMSON, South Carolina – When Morgan Nichols takes the stage at the Miss South Carolina pageant this June, she will fulfill a dream – but maybe not the kind viewers would expect.

    Nichols was recently named Miss Clemson and her excitement about the opportunity to showcase her passion for Science is evident in her platform “Stronger with STEM,” which inspires students to stick with STEM through exploration, education, and innovation.

    Nichols is a Lexington, South Carolina, native and a senior in the College of Science‘s department of genetics and biochemistry. With a minor in business, she is blazing a career path that she is defining along the way.

    SCBIO's Membership & Marketing intern is an emerging voice for life sciences in South Carolina.  Read the full story here.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Purilogics President and Clemson Professor receives AICE’s highest grade of membership see more

    Scott Husson of Clemson University is one of the newest Fellows in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the organization’s highest grade of membership.

    Husson is Dean’s Professor in Clemson’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and president and founder of Purilogics, LLC.

    Election as Fellow reaffirms the high esteem with which Husson’s colleagues and peers view his distinctive professional achievements and accomplishments, according to the institute.

    “It is an honor to have been elected a Fellow of AIChE,” Husson said, using the institute’s acronym. “The institute has provided my students and me with abundant opportunities for professional growth and development over the years, which makes the recognition all the more special.

    “It highlights the support, commitment, and contributions of my students, my colleagues and mentors, and my family. I am sincerely thankful to these individuals, the university, and my peers who nominated and selected me for this great honor.”

    Husson’s research interests include membrane science and engineering, biologics recovery and purification, water purification and nuclear forensics.

    He has served as principal investigator on 33 sponsored research projects and as co-principal investigator on 13 others, resulting in more $10 million in funding. Husson is the author of more than 90 journal publications and book chapters that have been cited more than 2,800 times.

    He has been recognized as one of Clemson’s top teachers, winning the Clemson University Prince Award for Innovation in Teaching. He also won the Murray Stokely Award and Byars Prize for Excellence in Teaching Engineering Fundamentals, both from the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

    Husson has advised 21 Ph.D. students, eight postdoctoral researchers and more than 70 undergraduate researchers.

    His students have collectively won 24 national awards and 10 departmental honors. They have gone on to become university faculty members and to take positions in leading companies, his peers said.

    David Bruce, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said election as Fellow was well deserved.

    “Dr. Husson’s election confirms the exceptional level of scholarship and teaching he brings to Clemson,” Bruce said. “I offer my wholehearted congratulations to him.”

    Husson has accumulated several awards in his career. They include the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; the FRI/John G. Kunesh Award; and several college-level awards, most recently the McQueen Quattlebaum Faculty Achievement and Collaboration awards.

    Husson is active in professional societies, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He has served on the Executive Committee of the North American Membrane Society as Treasurer since 2012 and as a member of its Board of Directors since 2010.

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    Research pipeline adds jobs and improves healthcare in South Carolina see more

    The $41.8 million that has flowed into Clemson University for three separate research centers could be the beginning of a larger enterprise that brings South Carolina new business, improved patient care and lower healthcare costs.

    But success will hinge on how well some of the state’s largest institutions can work together, researchers said.

    The funding comes from a National Institutes of Health program that is aimed at helping South Carolina, 22 other states and Puerto Rico establish Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence. Each has a specific research theme and can receive as much as $30 million distributed in three phases over 15 years.  SC BioCRAFT, launched in 2009, has received two phases of funding totaling $20.3 million. Clemson officials announced Oct. 18 that SC-TRIMH received $11 million in its first phase of funding. EPIC started in 2015 with $10.5 million.

    Those centers could be just the start of a continuous funding stream– a big one that transforms the South Carolina healthcare industry.  Clemson officials are preparing to apply for a fourth center and have set a goal of continuously maintaining three centers. The plan would create a pipeline worth up to $90 million at any given time constantly flowing into South Carolina for biomedical research.

    Clemson bioengineers lead two of the centers, SC BioCRAFT and SC-TRIMH. They said they rely on clinicians from Greenville Health System and the Medical University of South Carolina to guide their research, ensuring it remains relevant to what happens in real-world hospitals and clinics.

    “Team effort is what is required,” said Naren Vyavahare, the director of SC BioCRAFT. “A lot of institutions are required for these big grants.”

    One of the gems of the centers is that junior faculty members are mentored so that they can compete for their own federal funding. SC BioCRAFT is credited with mentoring 23 faculty members and generating $35 million in addition to the $20.3 million that funds the center itself.  The center is also bearing fruit off campus. Research done at SC BioCRAFT has led to 16 patents, four spin-off companies and better care for patients suffering from ailments ranging from diabetes to traumatic brain injury.

    The success of SC BioCRAFT could be a harbinger for the newest center, SC-TRIMH, which is led by Hai Yao, theErnest R. Norville Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering at Clemson.

    A key part of SC-TRIMH’s mission is developing virtual human trials that would allow researchers to test new devices with computational models before trying them on humans. The idea is to close the gap between animal and human trials, allowing new devices to move from the lab to patients’ bedsides more quickly and less expensively.  It’s an approach that has been used for drugs, but SC-TRIMH will be the first to try to apply it to medical devices, a step that could attract device manufacturers to the state, Yao said.

    “The companies are going to come to us,” Yao said. “Why? Because we have the technology, and we have clinical partners here. So, we can test their products– not just test their products but use our technology to totally redesign their products.”

    Initial research could apply to bad discs in the back, hip replacements and disorders of the temporomandibular joint, Yao said.

    Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson, said SC-TRIMH could improve patient care for South Carolinians by staking a claim as a national leader in musculoskeletal health, the center’s primary focus.

    “If we’re the leader, why would a patient need to fly to another state for treatment?” she asked. “We’ll become the leading health provider. Patients from other states may have to fly to South Carolina. This is our goal, and collaboration among  institutions will be crucial to making it happen.”

    Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research at Clemson, said officials are preparing to apply for a fourth center but will have to wait until 2020, because NIH rules limit each institution to three centers in the first two phases. He said that he is hopeful that SC BioCRAFT will receive Phase III funding.

    “This is excellent for a university without a medical school,” Karanfil said. “Of course, with all credit, we are working with GHS, MUSC and USC. Their clinical expertise is indispensable.”

    Vyavahare, the Hunter Endowed Chair at Clemson, took the lead in organizing the university’s first center, SC BioCRAFT, starting in 2006.  The first proposal was rejected, and then a federal funding shortfall in 2008 put the program on hold for a year, he said. SC BioCRAFT received its first $10 million in 2009, and funding was renewed for the second phase five years later.  Vyvahare said he is most proud of the center’s junior faculty.

    SC BioCRAFT provided mentors who helped guide them through the research funding process, he said. The center also helped pay for new research equipment that is crucial to generating the data needed for a successful research proposal, Vyavahare said.

    “It’s a good way to start your career quickly,” Vyavahare said. “A lot of people started getting good data, and everybody started getting funding.”

    SC BioCRAFT is an acronym for the South Carolina Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues. SC-TRIMH stands for the South Carolina Center for Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health. EPIC stands for Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center.

    Researchers said one of the key ingredients in the success of SC BioCRAFT and SC-TRIMH is Clemson’s deep integration with GHS and MUSC.

    Both centers are based at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, or CUBEInC, which is on the GHS Patewood Medical Campus in Greenville. Research is also conducted at MUSC, where Clemson has space in the medical university’s Bioengineering Building.

    The value of collaboration was a consistent theme when researchers from the three institutions gathered to announce the creation of SC-TRIMH.

    Scott Sasser, chief clinical officer for the GHS western region, said that Clemson was the health system’s primary research partner.

    “That was by design, and it is unique,” he said. “We are so thankful for your investment in the medical school. The successful medical education of every student who walks through our doors is inextricably tied to your commitment to research that this project exemplifies.

    “The novel methodology that will be used in this program will lead to new innovations and new devices that will not only change health outcomes but will help us all address the rising cost of healthcare in this country.”

    Michael Kern, a professor in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at MUSC, said what excites him most about SC-TRIMH is the chance to continue working with Yao.

    “My research and Hai’s research before the COBRE grant have dovetailed nicely,” he said, using the acronym for the NIH funding program. “We’ve worked quite closely together for the previous 12 years. With the COBRE, we will be able to continue our work together to benefit young investigators and help them mature in their science.”

    Kathleen Brady, associate provost for clinical and translational science at MUSC, said collaboration is part of a growing trend in research because it leads to success.

    “When groups get together, studying a similar problem, you’re much more likely to come up with innovative solutions,” she said. “They are usually innovative solutions that neither group could have come up with on their own. SC-TRIMH is a perfect example of that– people with very different expertise coming together to do something unique and innovative.”

    Spence Taylor, president of GHS, said in a written statement that working together can lead to significantly improved health care and health outcomes in South Carolina and the nation.

    “These innovative partnerships between Clemson faculty and GHS clinicians allow us to solve clinical challenges by leveraging medical insights with the extraordinary research depth of Clemson,” he said. “What we do today can pave the way for transformational improvements to health care for generations to come.”

    Vincent Pellegrini, chair of the Department of Orthopedics at MUSC, said much of the SC-TRIMH research will focus on musculoskeletal conditions that result from normal aging, including arthritis at the base of the thumb, hip replacement prostheses and tendon degeneration.

    “The really exciting thing about the COBRE is that it juxtaposes the engineering, science and clinical medicine with the appropriate individuals in those disciplines on the same campus under the same roof to come up with real, clinically relevant devices and products that benefit patients,” he said.

    Michael Kissenberth, a GHS orthopedic surgeon, said the collaboration will allow the institutions to complement each other

    “We at GHS will be able to advise on the clinical needs that Clemson can then use to develop the technology that improves health outcomes,” he said. “In some cases, the technology may exist, and we can help show how it can be applied.”

    Kyle Jeray, a GHS orthopedic surgeon, said SC-TRIMH will strengthen the collaborative spirit in South Carolina’s research community.

    “Through SC-TRIMH, we will enhance the research infrastructure at Clemson and GHS by developing essential core facilities, fostering research collaborations and increasing scientific expertise of junior and senior faculty members,” he said.

    Windsor Sherrill, associate vice president for Health Research at Clemson and chief science officer at GHS,  said she wanted to recognize Tommy Gallien, the manager/coordinator for SC-TRIMH. She also wanted to acknowledge the Clemson University School of Health Research, or CUSHR.

    “CUSHR is the interdisciplinary health research entity at Clemson that connects  health researchers across colleges and departments  with clinical researchers at health care systems such as GHS and MUSC,” she said. “The junior investigators for the SC-TRIMH initiative are from several different departments, ensuring that we have multidisciplinary focus to solve complex health care problems.  The big challenges in health care do not fit neatly within one discipline or even in one university.  SC-TRIMH is the kind of program we envision with CUSHR– one that leverages talents across Clemson health research faculty with the input of clinicians research at our partner institutions.”

    Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Yao and his team on the SC-TRIMH grant.

    “Through this grant, Dr. Yao and his team from Clemson, GHS and MUSC are strengthening the biomedical research capacity for South Carolina,” he said. “The award is a testament to the scholarship that Dr. Yao brings to Clemson and the power of collaboration to achieve the most innovative results.”

  • Sam Patrick posted an article
    State universities partner to create hub to accelerate commercialization of biomedical technologies see more

    Industry and academic partners across the region on Thursday announced a federal grant that could potentially total $3.5 million over three years to create a hub to accelerate commercialization of biomedical technologies.

    The grant, which includes nearly $500,000 in funding the first year, is being awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    XLerateHealth, LLC, a Louisville-based healthcare technology accelerator that focuses on startups and commercialization, is the primary awardee on the grant. XLerateHealth joined forces with a consortium of 24 academic institutions led by the University of Kentucky (UK), in partnership with the University of Louisville (UofL) and West Virginia University (WVU).  Additional participants include Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, and the Medical University of South Carolina.  Read on for full details.