Clemson researchers seek solutions to Alzheimer's mysteries see more
Clemson University is seeking healthy older adults to volunteer for a study called Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training. This study examines whether computerized brain training exercises can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Additional funding of $3.2 million was awarded to further investigate if Alzheimer’s disease can be detected early through simple blood tests, according to a university news release. The grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, expands Clemson’s PACT study. The PACT study will now work with the National Centralized Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias to analyze blood specimens collected from study participants.
The PACT study is recruiting volunteers aged 65 and older with no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia, the release said. Those interested in the study may participate in initial testing at the Clemson University’s Institute for Engaged Aging at Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca. Participants may also join the study at the University of Florida, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, or Duke University. PACT participants may now volunteer to provide blood samples that will be used to develop tests for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
“We need another 400 healthy older adults to volunteer for the PACT study,” said principal investigator Lesley Ross, SmartLIFE Endowed Chair in Aging and Cognition in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and director of the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging and associate professor of psychology at Clemson University.
“We are very grateful for the 250 volunteers who have already joined our fight against Alzheimer’s disease by enrolling in PACT,” she said in the release. “The additional funds will enable us to further our goal of understanding and ending Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the future. I am excited to bring this study to the Seneca and surrounding communities and further the Clemson University Institute of Engaged Aging’s mission of conducting groundbreaking research and providing opportunities to the community.”
More information is available at the PACT study website, pactstudy.org.
The Clemson University PACT study concentrates on the effectiveness of computerized programs, or brain games, for preventing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, the release said. At the end of the PACT trial, the scientists will examine the blood samples from willing participants and determine which specific blood-based biomarkers predict Alzheimer’s disease, the severity of the disease, or responsiveness to treatment.
Informatics and data science in serving specific populations who are experiencing health inequities see more
With $1.2 million in funding from the National Library of Medicine, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Clemson University will establish a new training program that aims to make future data scientists more aware of health inequities. It will also build career development pipelines in biomedical data science for students from underrepresented minorities. The program will place special emphasis on using data science to address the toll chronic illness takes on rural communities.
South Carolina is the ideal location for a training program focused on addressing health inequities. Forty-three of its 46 counties, many of them rural, are designated as completely or partially medically underserved by the Health Resource and Services Agency (HRSA). South Carolina ranks 42nd for life expectancy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), due in part to its high levels of chronic disease. The state has the eighth highest rate of diabetes (South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control) and sixth highest rate of stroke deaths (CDC) in the nation.
The leaders of the SC BIDS4HEALTH training program believe that harnessing big data could help to change that. Click to continue reading the full story, compliments of MUSC Catalyst News.
Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health awards Clemson grants for research on cancer treatment, genetics, patient care16 projects funded with generosity of Prisma Health team see more
The Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health has awarded Clemson University researchers 16 grants that range from projects on cancer treatments to the use of exoskeletons for health care providers.
The seed funding supports the mission of the center, a collaborative effort between Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Furman University and Prisma Health to foster cooperative research.
Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, associate vice president of health research at Clemson University and chief science officer at Prisma Health, hopes that these projects will inform best practices within health care research and influence positive change within the health care system.
“This year’s submissions were phenomenal, and we look forward to seeing the results from these 16 funded projects. Having clinicians and academic researchers involved in these projects ensures that the research has the best chance of creating transformation in health care and health outcomes,” Sherrill said. “Since this program began seven years ago, several projects have received large federal funding and results have been implemented at Prisma Health, helping improve the care of their patients.”
Click here to read complete details about the one-year grant projects, including the names of Clemson and Prisma Health researchers.
Program aims to provide more access to rural, underserved areas see more
Improving health care access and rural and underserved populations across South Carolina is a priority of MUSC Health. A new program called Healthy Me – Healthy SC launched in 2019 to address these issues and has already succeeded in bringing health care services to more South Carolinians.
Healthy Me – Healthy SC is now planning to extend its reach even further. On this episode of Advance with MUSC Health, Kapri Kreps Rhodes and David Sudduth, director and executive director of Healthy Me – Healthy SC, join the show to discuss these new developments and share a bit more about this innovative program.
DeLegge, five additional alumni honored by Clemson's College of Engineering, Computing and Applied SciencesInduction to the academy is the highest honor bestowed by Clemson see more
Some of the most outstanding alumni from Clemson University’s largest college gathered in downtown Greenville on Thursday to welcome three of their own into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists and to honor three others as Outstanding Young Alumni.
Induction to the academy is the highest honor bestowed by Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Scientists. The honor recognizes alumni and special friends who have made major contributions to their professions and have brought significant distinction to the college and university.
The new members are Rebecca Copenhaver DeLegge, Craig Fallon and Robert Fjeld.
The newest crop of Outstanding Young Alumni are Diana Chen, Adam Kirn and Mary Katherine Watson. The award goes to graduates of the college who are 40 years old or younger and whose achievements have been significant to their profession or to the welfare of society.
Anand Gramopadhye, the college’s dean, thanked the night’s honorees and said each is leaving his or her unique mark on the world.
“We will always cherish the fact that your Clemson education may have had a small role to play in your success,” he said. “To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, we hope we have given you wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to give.”
Below is a brief description of each honoree. You can also hear directly from their nominators in a series of videos that will be posted on the college’s social media channels: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists
Rebecca Copenhaver DeLegge: As the co-founder of two businesses and chief operating officer of a third, DeLegge is leading the charge to break the glass ceiling for girls and women who are interested in STEM disciplines and entrepreneurship. One of the companies she co-founded, DeLegge Medical, is among the nation’s premier medical device engineering, educational and consulting firms. Its customers have included major technology and medical companies, such as Boston Scientific, Corpak, Olympus, Covidien and Monteris Medical. DeLegge also co-founded Bella Veterinary Medical Solutions, a women-owned start up that creates top-quality veterinary equipment. In addition to co-founding two companies, DeLegge serves as COO for ArchCath, which was a finalist for a 2021 InnoVision Award in the Technology Development category. She was also among the original founders and leaders of South Carolina's life sciences organization SCBIO.
Craig Fallon: Fallon served in the U.S. Army with distinction. He received national recognition for his engineering and construction leadership and achievements from Alaska to Saudi Arabia, rising to operating vice president with Owens Corning. In 1987 he was part of an LBO spin off from Owens Corning forming a private company, Performance Contracting Group (PCG). PCG has since grown significantly to become one of the largest commercial and industrial mechanical insulation, interiors, cleanroom, and industrial service contractors in the nation with more than 50 offices across the United States and Ireland, having more than 8,000 employees, and an annual revenue approaching $2 billion. He is credited with ensuring the company today remains entirely employee owned, a move that secured the financial future for the company, its employees, and their families. Fallon retired as the company’s CEO and chairman in 2004.
Robert Fjeld: As a faculty member, Fjeld founded the Nuclear Environmental Engineering and Science (NEES) educational and research program within the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1976 and after a short period at Texas A&M, began his career at Clemson in 1980 to build the NEES program. His research focused on the environmental aspects of nuclear technologies. He did pioneering work in the area of risk assessment, and he is the lead author of a widely used textbook, “Environmental Risk Analysis for Human Health.” Fjeld held the Jerry E. and Harriett Calvert Dempsey Professorship of Waste Management from 1996 until he retired in 2009. He is now a faculty member emeritus. Fjeld endowed a professorship now held by Clemson’s Brian Powell, who studied under Fjeld as a Ph.D. student.
Outstanding Young Alumni
Diana Chen: Chen’s Clemson degrees include a Master of Science and a Ph.D., both in civil engineering. In 2016 she accepted a position as a founding faculty member of the Integrated Engineering Department in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering at the University of San Diego, where she contributed to the school’s National Science Foundation Revolutionizing Engineering Departments project entitled, “Developing Changemaking Engineers.” Her work on this has helped to create a program that focuses on the sociotechnical aspects of engineering and the impact engineers have on society.
Adam Kirn: Kirn, a 2014 graduate of the engineering and science education Ph.D. program, currently serves as associate professor of engineering education in the Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Kirn is having a profound impact on the field of engineering education as the founding faculty member for the program in Reno and is establishing national prominence for his research in the field.
Mary Katherine Watson: Watson holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in biosystems engineering from Clemson. As an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at The Citadel, she has been recognized for her teaching excellence and her prowess as a researcher, developing scholarly contributions to the field of engineering education. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Watson is building regional and national programs for supporting advancement of diverse faculty and students in STEM fields.
Fertilizer reductions could be in the offing see more
Lime is a very important soil amendment used to grow crops. To help ensure the correct amount is applied where it is needed most, the Clemson University Precisnio Agriculture Team has developed the Reverse Lime Rate Calculator.
This calculator, or web app, is useful for farmers as well as gardeners. It uses soil pH (acidity level), buffer pHand applied lime rate to provide an estimated soil pH. Kendall Kirk, a precision agriculture engineer who helped develop the calculator, said using this tool may be particularly useful this year in choosing where to place lime as supplies may be limited.
“Farmers expressed concerns this year that they may not be able to get enough lime to satisfy their needs,” Kirk said. “So, we developed this tool to calculate resulting soil pH as a function of the amount of lime applied. With input costs rising in 2022, we recognized the opportunity to also add value to our traditional lime rate calculator by adding lime cost calculations to allow growers to compare costs from different suppliers or across different products. Growers also can gain perspective of cost per acre for comparison to their other input costs.”
The Reverse Lime Rate Calculator evaluates resulting pH when recommended lime rates cannot be satisfied, such as when availability, time or field conditions are limiting. The developers call it a “Reverse” Lime Rate Calculator because it does not provide a lime recommendation; instead, it displays a resulting soil pH from a user-specified lime rate. Growers who need to know a recommended lime rate for a target soil pH can use the Lime Rate Calculator.
User inputs for the Reverse Lime Rate Calculator include soil pH and buffer pH from soil test results, mixing depth, lime rate and relative neutralizing value for lime source. Soil samples can be submitted to the Clemson Agricultural Service Laboratory for for testing. Soil test fact sheets are available from the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center.
Shortly after developing the Lime Rate Calculator, which is used for increasing soil pH, the researchers recognized the need for a tool to use for lowering soil pH for certain acid-loving crops, such as blueberries. The Soil Acidification Calculator was developed based on information provided by the Clemson Agricultural Service Laboratory. This tool was built from a table of recommended aluminum sulfate rates as a function of soil pH and desired soil pH from the Clemson Ag Service Lab.
“We built an equation around the data in this table, which is what is used by the calculator for determining outputs,” Kirk said.
The Reverse Lime Rate and Soil Acidification calculators, as well as other calculators and web apps developed by the Clemson Precision Agriculture Team can be found at https://bit.ly/CU_CalculatorsAndWebApps.
Plant nutrient availability is directly related to soil pH. With the rising price of fertilizers this year, Clemson scientists say it is more critical than ever to get soil pH correct. When soil pH is too low or too high, it can lead to nutrient deficiency and sometimes toxicity. If a farmer or gardener applies fertilizer recommended in a lab report but doesn’t correct the soil pH, then a large percentage of his or her fertilizer investment may be wasted.
Shannon Alford, Clemson Agricultural Service Laboratory director, said applying the correct amount of lime is imperative to achieving target soil pH and making nutrients available to plants.
“Both of our Lime Rate Calculators allow farmers to consider the types of liming products and current costs to make the best selection for their needs,” Alford said. “These factors are important to consider in times when the supply chain is interrupted and costs are not stable.”
Tests are conducted in the laboratory using the Adams-Evans buffer method. The buffer is a solution that acts like fast-acting lime when incubated with a soil-water mixture. Lime recommendations are generated based on how much the pH of the soil-water mixture changes when the buffer is added. Clemson Agricultural Service Laboratroy scientists use this method to determine lime requirements for each client’s specific soil sample.
Michael Plumblee, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service corn and soybean specialist, said using the Reverse Lime Rate Calculator (app) will save growers time and money.
“This app takes out the manual calculation part of determining liming rates,” Plumblee said. “It also allows for the ability to compare several rates rather fast compared to doing the math by hand. This app will help farmers save money by making sure that the appropriate rates of lime are being applied based on soil sample results. Putting a closer eye on all of our inputs and the rates we apply these inputs ultimately will help increase profits and reduce costs where applicable.”
Information provided will be beneficial for maximizing nutrient availability “especially in a year where every ounce counts,” he said.
“Using this app also will help ensure soils are limed to an appropriate pH so that plant-available nutrients can be maximized,” Plumblee said. “If we have soils at appropriate pH levels, we may be able to utilize nutrients that are currently in the soil rather than needing to add additional inputs to make up the difference to maximize yield. If we can better utilize what we have built up in the soil, we could see a reduction in the total amount of fertilizer applied in a single application or growing season.”
XtremedX, LLC launches Temperature and Pressure Sensing Insole to detect diabetic foot problems earlyGreenville, SC organization prepares to move into new 50,000sf facility in Upstate see more
XtremedX, LLC, a medical device technology and product innovation company based in Greenville, SC has introduced the Temperature and Pressure (TAP) Sensing Insole, the newest addition to its product line.
The Temperature and Pressure (TAP) Sensing Insole provides early detection of diabetic foot ulcerations (DFU) by incorporating flexible sensors in the shoe insoles of a diabetic patient experiencing peripheral neuropathy.
Real-time alerts are then sent to the patient, caregiver and physician, providing an earlier warning of issues and potentially preventing an infection that could result in amputation or an extended hospital stay.
The Temperature and Pressure (TAP) Sensing Insole recently received top honors in the Innovation Challenge at WearRAcon 22, the annual international conference of the Wearable Robotics Association, which was held in Scottsdale, AZ.
In addition, the TAP Insole has been chosen as a Top 20 New Device for diabetes treatment by the Diabetes Centre Berne of Berne, Switzerland. Only two entries from the U.S. were selected for consideration in the competition, with top honors to be bestowed in mid-May.
XtremedX was selected as a 2021 Top BIOMECHANIC Solution Provider by Med Tech Outlook magazine. The company, which has two laboratory technology centers in Greenville where it develops products and prototypes, has research relationships with Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, and Duke University. The organization is preparing to expand into a new 50,000 sq. ft. facility in Greenville to provide room to accelerate manufacture of the insoles and other products.
Tiger scientists strut their stuff in ACC contest see more
A team of five women bioengineering students from Clemson University has won second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference InVenture Prize competition, in which teams of undergraduates representing each ACC university pitched their inventions or businesses before a live audience and a panel of judges.
The team collaborated with bioengineering design mentors and neurosurgeons at Prisma Health to invent a device, named the CatheSure, that detects hydrocephalus shunt malfunctions in children.
Hydrocephalus is fluid buildup in the cavities of the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. More than one million Americans suffer from the condition. The most common treatment is the surgical insertion of a drainage system, or shunt. Unfortunately, these shunts have a 70 percent failure rate, with 40 percent failing in the first year — and the symptoms of a shunt failure are often vague, usually similar to the common flu. Currently, the only way for doctors to diagnose a shunt failure is with invasive and expensive brain surgery.
The CatheSure is a pressure sensor that wirelessly detects a shunt malfunction in hydrocephalus patients in under five minutes to non-invasively determine if there is a shunt blockage or malfunction. Use of the device will streamline the diagnostic process and prevent unnecessary exploratory brain surgeries, prolonged hospital stays and repeated radiation exposure.
John DesJardins, the faculty director for entrepreneurship, and director of the Bioengineering Senior Design Program in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said he was impressed by the work ethic and professionalism of the team.
“They’ve been under the gun for three weeks to get all their materials together, and then they had to get on stage live on PBS Saturday night and pitch it,” said DesJardins, who is also the Hambright Distinguished Professor in Engineering Leadership. “They were in with some pretty high-caliber talent from across the ACC, but they were totally prepared and really represented Clemson University well.”
The CatheSure team started this journey by winning the CECAS Spark challenge earlier this year, which led to them competing for the InVenture Prize. DesJardins said Clemson teams have participated four out of the five years the InVenture Prize competition has been held, but this is the first time one of them has placed.
“They’re on a roll!” said DesJardins.
Team member Allison Reichart said the process has deepened her passion for bioengineering:
“Winning second place at the ACC InVenture Prize Competition was a massive step in two directions. One, in helping hydrocephalus patients with ventriculoperitoneal shunts and two, breaking down barriers for women in a male-dominated field. I couldn’t be more honored or prouder to represent both and can’t wait to continue taking strides down these paths!”
Fellow team member Sarah Stevens said she is confident that CatheSure will make a positive impact in the lives of people affected by hydrocephalus.
“Throughout designing the CatheSure, our team has seen time and time again how bioengineering devices can make a truly positive impact on the lives of patients and family members affected by the problem we are solving.”
DesJardins said the next steps will be using the pathways at Clemson to get the CatheSure tested and patented, with the aim of getting it to market in three or four years.
The Clemson team tied for second place with Duke University and will split the $10,000 prize. The team members (all senior bioengineering majors) were:
- Kathleen Fallon
- Allison Reichart
- Jordan Suzanna Cole
- Sarah Anne Stevens
- Karly Faith Ripple
A South Carolina scientist works to solve a major health problem see more
Pediatric patients suffering from heart issues are treated with the existing adult surgical solutions, requiring repeated surgeries as the child grows. To understand the problems with current technologies, bioengineer Naren Vyavahare consults with clinicians and applies this knowledge to innovative, adjusted strategies. He develops new solutions in the lab and works with other experts and private sector companies to bring them to the marketplace. The inspiring impact of his commitment: a groundbreaking discovery that reduces surgical risk, patient and family trauma, and financial costs for pediatric patients that will last centuries.
In this episode, Naren Vyavahare joins our hosts Joseph Nother and Laura Corder to talk about the roles passion, teamwork, and plenty of research play in developing life-changing solutions for congenital heart disease. Listen as Naren Vyavahare talks about understanding “the why,” consulting with clinicians, and building a team of experts in business, cardiology, and research to discover the solution. Listen to the full podcast now.
Funding used to boost development and start clinical trials in humans in 2023 see more
Elastrin Therapeutics Inc., a privately held biotechnology company leveraging a platform to develop therapeutics that render calcified tissue and organs supple again, today announced the closing of a $10 million funding round led by Kizoo Technology Capital, a leading early-stage investor in breakthrough rejuvenation technologies. Other investors in the round include Starbloom Capital and SC Launch. Elastrin Therapeutics was founded in 2018 as a spinout from Clemson University where the technology was first developed over a 20-year period. The company’s lead asset ELT-001 is an EDTA-loaded nanoparticle conjugated with a proprietary monoclonal antibody for the treatment of vascular calcification.
Frank Schueler, Managing Director of Kizoo Technology Capital, explains: “We´re excited to lead the round for Elastrin. We have been impressed by what the small team accomplished in a short period of time, and we look forward to seeing the company grow and help millions of people. Their technology is truly groundbreaking by not only delaying age-related disease but also reversing them.”
“This is another incredible milestone for our company. It´s fantastic to have the support of our strong investors as we look to growing the company and scaling the technology,” said Matthias Breugelmans, CEO of Elastrin Therapeutics. “We want to save lives, and the capital, network, and knowledge that our investors bring to Elastrin Therapeutics is a true asset to enable us doing so at record pace.”
“We are proud to see the company grow and to be part of its journey with this revolutionary technology platform, truly making an impact for healthy living by repairing significant damage of aging,” commented Patrick Burgermeister, Partner at Kizoo Technology Capital and member of Elastrin Therapeutic´s Board of Directors.
Kizoo provides seed and follow-on financing with a focus on rejuvenation biotech. Having been entrepreneurs, VC, and mentors in both high-growth tech and biotech companies for many years - with multiple exits and massive value created for the founders - Kizoo now brings this experience to the emerging field of rejuvenation biotech. We see it as a young industry that will eventually outgrow today's largest technology markets.
As part of Michael Greve's Forever Healthy Group, Kizoo directly supports the creation of startups turning research on the root causes of aging into therapies and services for human application. Investments include Cellvie, Underdog, Revel Pharmaceuticals, Elastrin Therapeutics, and others.
Forever Healthy's other initiatives include the evaluation of new rejuvenation therapies, evidenced-based curation of the world's cutting-edge medical knowledge, funding research projects on the root causes of aging, and hosting the annual Undoing Aging Conference.
About Elastrin Therapeutics Inc.
Elastrin Therapeutics is a South Carolina-based biotech developing novel therapies to reverse cardiovascular disease. Its underlying technology was developed by Dr. Naren Vyavahare over the last 20 years at Clemson University. Our team has built a proprietary platform that targets and restores degraded elastin by removing the harmful calcification that stiffens arteries. The platform significantly improves the efficacy of drugs and eliminates side effects by combining particle design with elastin targeting.
Further information can be found at www.elastrin.com
About SC Launch
Established in 2006, SC Launch, Inc. is an independent, non-profit corporation affiliated with SCRA (South Carolina Research Authority), which provides loans and investments to selected South Carolina-based companies participating in the SC Launch program. The SCRA was chartered in 1983 by the State of South Carolina as a public, non-profit corporation. The SCRA fuels South Carolina’s Innovation Economy by accelerating technology-enabled growth in research, academia, entrepreneurship and industry.
For more information, please visit: www.scra.org/sclaunchinc
About Starbloom Capital
Starbloom Capital is a crypto-based family office that supports companies developing revolutionary longevity technologies.
Long-standing partnership between Clemson University and MUSC paying off see more
South Carolina is strengthening its position as a hub for high-impact biomedical research with a new multi-million-dollar project that undergirds the long-standing partnership between Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and loops in crucial support from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers will study temporomandibular joint (TMJ) function, how the TMJ functions in different craniofacial developmental disorders that seem to put the joint at risk for degeneration and how the joint responds to surgical correction of these disorders, researchers said.
The TMJ makes it possible to move the lower jaw to eat and talk. Understanding the stresses on the TMJ before temporomandibular joint disease (TMD) occurs will unlock the mechanisms that put certain individuals at risk for TMD.
The focus of the research aligns with the recommendations made by an ad hoc committee on temporomandibular disorders that was formed under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division.
Four of the researchers involved in the new project are connected to the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program. As part of the program, Clemson bioengineering faculty and students are based at MUSC’s Charleston campus where they collaborate closely with MUSC researchers and clinicians.
The new project, funded by a $3.18-million U01 grant from NIDCR, has two principal investigators. Hai Yao, serves as the Ernest R. Norville Endowed Chair and professor of bioengineering at Clemson, professor of oral health sciences at MUSC, the associate department chair for the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program and a member of the national temporomandibular disorder ad hoc committee. Janice Lee is the clinical director of the NIDCR and chief of the Craniofacial Anomalies and Regeneration Section within the NIH intramural research program.
Yao said the project is possible only because of the synergy and complementary strengths of Clemson, MUSC and NIDCR.
“Clemson and MUSC work together so seamlessly it’s as if we are one university, and we both collaborate closely with NIDCR,” he said. “This project is the latest example of how these strategic partnerships are making South Carolina a hub of biomedical research that is recognized globally. Through these partnerships, we are well positioned to address urgent healthcare needs identified by the NIDCR and the National Academy of Medicine.”
Lee said the researchers are uniquely positioned for success.
“The U01 is an extremely competitive grant that requires intra- and extra- mural collaboration utilizing the world-renown resources at the NIH Clinical Center,” Lee said. “It is extra special as this is a first for NIDCR intramural as well. Temporomandibular joint disorders are debilitating conditions, and I am thrilled to be working with Hai Yao and his team to truly move the research forward. His team brings outstanding bioengineering technology to examine craniofacial musculoskeletal function to the Clinical Center; our discoveries will be translated and, ideally, will initiate first-in-human therapies for TMD at the NIH.”
Lee continued: “NIDCR is committed to working with world-class partners such as Clemson and MUSC to advance translational research into temporomandibular disorders. This project will help improve understanding of these disorders, thereby improving outcomes for patients.”
This is particularly important to Lee as she is the oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will be providing the surgical treatments and is acutely aware of the impact that surgery can have on TMD, she said.
Özlem Yilmaz, chair of the Department of Oral Health Sciences at MUSC, said the new project presents an important venue to help patients debilitated with TMJ disorders and underpins South Carolina’s leading position in temporomandibular disorders research.
“New measurement tools and computational models will be tested on patients at the NIH Dental Clinic,” Yilmaz said. “These novel technologies, stemming from more than a decade of teamwork bringing together bioengineers, oral surgeons, and oral biologists at MUSC and Clemson, will push the boundary of the current temporomandibular disorders research.”
Sarandeep Huja, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at MUSC, said the new project further solidifies MUSC’s partnership with Clemson and NIDCR.
“This partnership will help us innovate the future of oral health and wellness,” Huja said. “We will not only be advancing knowledge of temporomandibular disorders but also expanding knowledge for the next generation of oral health providers and researchers. As a practicing clinician and orthodontist, I frequently encounter patients with temporomandibular disorders, in the very type of patients that will be recruited in this study. It is critical we find evidence based treatments for these patients.”
The vice presidents of research at Clemson and MUSC are crucial to the institutions’ partnership, Yao said. Tanju Karanfil is vice president of research at Clemson, and Lori L. McMahon is vice president for research at MUSC.
“We look forward to solidifying the strong foundation that Clemson and MUSC have built,” Karanfil and McMahon said in a joint statement. “These large, high-impact projects are advancing knowledge and creating a new generation of talent, while strengthening the state’s national and international reputation for biomedical research and education.”
Researchers are calling their project “Assessment of Temporomandibular Joint Morphology, Mechanics, and Mechanobiology in Class II and III Target and Surgical Phenotypes.”
Part of what makes the project unique is the collaboration that maximizes the expertise of the investigators.
“Dr. Lee and her craniofacial team at NIDCR will recruit the large number of patients that will be required for the research, characterize the patients, and support their travel and treatment costs,” Yao said.
Clemson and MUSC will perform analysis of temporomandibular joint biomechanics and mechanobiology and put that information into context to better understand patients’ health status and the potential for future problems
Martine LaBerge, chair of Department of Bioengineering at Clemson, said the U01 grant that funds the new project is the first of its kind at Clemson.
“This grant is a testament to the strength of the biomedical research enterprise that Clemson and MUSC are building in partnership with federal collaborators, especially the National Institutes of Health,” she said. “Dr. Yao’s leadership has been crucial to the partnership’s success, and it remains in good hands with him at the helm.”
The project is the latest major NIH grant led by Yao. He is also principal investigator on South Carolina Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health (SC TRIMH), a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence that was founded with an $11-million NIH grant in 2018. Researchers associated with the center have accounted for $8 million in NIDCR awards over the past year.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the success underscores the high quality of research that has come out of interdisciplinary partnerships such as the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program.
“Working together in collaboration with federal partners is elevating South Carolina’s position as a place for top-tier biomedical research and predoctoral and postdoctoral education,” he said. “Dr. Yao and his team have built a high-impact program and are continuing to climb. I offer them my whole-hearted congratulations.”
Exosomes have been called the rising star of drug delivery see more
Terri Bruce happened to be working on experiments about how the body’s cells communicate when her brother learned he had a brain tumor. Greg Foster died in January 2019, within months of Bruce starting a company whose work could soon help save other cancer patients.
“When he got sick, I started looking at how exosomes could be used in early cancer diagnostics,” the Clemson University researcher and entrepreneur says. “Had we caught it a little bit earlier, he may have been able to receive treatment that might have saved his life.”
So … what is an exosome?
For 40-odd years, scientists considered exosomes waste materials. Miro Pastrnak, Bruce’s partner in their startup, Victory ExoFibres, describes them as “sneeze droplets for cells.” Bruce calls exosomes “messages in oil balls,” which carry disease markers in common body fluids. Unlike cell-free DNA or proteins that degrade rapidly, exosomes’ lipid casings protect those markers in biofluid.
The trick is to efficiently isolate them. The company uses patented synthetic fibers to do just that.
Requiring less than a milliliter of bodily fluid, each isolation container contains a tube that looks like a golf tee. Inside that tube is the patented fiber that isolates the exosomes. When spun in a lab centrifuge, the exosomes are now ready to give up their secrets.
The process takes about 15 minutes. Until now, extracting these molecular spies could take up to four hours, Bruce and Pastrnak say.
“It’s like trying to pick peas out of your mom’s vegetable soup, that you don’t want to eat. There’s a lot of stuff in that veggie soup, but to look at those peas specifically you’ve got to get them out of the veggie soup,” Bruce says.
The Clemson assistant research professor, who earned her doctorate in biological sciences from there in 2009 after working as a chemical engineer for the likes of Duracell and Lockwood Greene, explains the product’s multiple benefits.
Typically, testing for or, worse, diagnosing cancer is invasive, Bruce says: “You often have to go into an operating room or sterile area to get this done.” That’s why Bruce and Pastrnak refer to Victory ExoFibres’ product as a liquid biopsy, which, she says, is also “just generally more pleasant for the patient.”
Each kit holds 50 exosome-isolation tubes. For each box, the target price will fall between $500 and $700 for the product, which Pastrnak expects to hit the research-supplies market in the next few months.
Ultimately, the company hopes to include exosome-based clinical diagnostics, but that requires FDA approval, a process that can cost more than $10 million. Once the company validates the product in the market, Pastrnak says fundraising will begin in earnest.
Victory ExoFibres won an early backer, the South Carolina Research Authority, which in January accepted the company as a member. That opens the door to SCRA’s Resource Partner Network and potential investments from authority affiliate, SC Launch Inc.
“The work that Victory ExoFibres is doing is critical to the future of health care,” SCRA program manager Jeannine Briggman Rogers says. “Any advancement in the accuracy, speed and clarity of diagnostic testing that improves the quality of patient care benefits everyone.”
Bruce credits her brother with infusing his experience as a founder of two tech startups, an executive at Turner Broadcasting System and as a venture capitalist, into her scientific-cum-corporate enterprise.
Foster died at 45 in their native Atlanta. Catching brain and ovarian and other such cancers can result in higher remission rates, Bruce says. That, and her brother’s encouragement, continue to drive and inspire her.
“I’m going to keep going, keep going,” she says. “Those are discussions that my brother and I used to have and that’s one thing I really miss about him.”
What are Exosomes?
“Exosomes are a perfect target for rapid diagnostics and liquid biopsy,” the company says, explaining that they are formed from the plasma membrane of cells:
They contain the same membrane proteins as the host cell.
These proteins are “fingerprints” that can be used as disease biomarkers in diagnostics.
They are cellular couriers that genetic information between cells.
Virtually every cell type in the body releases these biomolecules.
Exosomes have been called “the rising star in drug delivery.”
Talented students honored at SCBIO 2022 life sciences conference see more
Two Clemson University students placed in SCBIO’s Challenge Accepted video competition for their videos presenting research from the lab of Ramakrishna Podila, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, on inexpensive COVID-19 and tuberculosis sensors using smartphones.
Participating students created videos no longer than three minutes highlighting life science innovation or research in South Carolina. The videos were judged on the content, production quality and creativity, and potential impact of their work on the industry.
The competition was part of SCBIO’s annual conference held February 22-24 in Charleston. SCBIO is a member-driven organization formed to advance South Carolina’s life science industry through collaboration, advocacy and resource support. It provided students a creative way to engage with the state’s life sciences ecosystem, said Zach Hargett, SCBIO’s programming and special projects director.Dylan Carroll
“Connecting students with companies in South Carolina is a critical part of developing our state’s workforce. The SCBIO student video competition is a unique way to highlight several of South Carolina’s best and brightest minds in front of hundreds of industry leaders throughout the state and country,” Hargett said. “We believe programs like this, our student membership program and student-industry engagement sessions are giving both students and companies a unique platform to get the most out of South Carolina’s life sciences ecosystem.”
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the need for access to convenient, inexpensive testing that facilitates rapid diagnosis to help stop the spread of diseases, Carroll said.
Carroll’s video focused on how Analtye-induced disruption in luminance quenching (AIDLuQ) technology is used as a sensor. AIDLuQ uses regular printer paper coated with graphene particles that a smartphone could read to detect disease.
Access to testing
“As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been lots of problems with access to testing and how long it takes to get results,” Carroll said. “With Dr. Podila’s research, you could get test results in under 15 minutes at home using your smartphone. That would solve a lot of problems with access to testing.”
Rowland’s video focused on research that turns a smartphone into a spectrogram to detect tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that attacks the lungs. Tuberculosis is the leading infectious disease killer in the world.Ramakrishna Podila
“Often, tests have to be done by trained medical professionals. That can be a problem,” Rowland said.
While some people would think lack of access to medical tests would be a problem in the developing world, it also affects countries like the U.S., Podila said.
“While the COVID test is free, if there is any other test, you pay a minimum of 100 bucks. You have to go to the doctor, and that’s another 100 bucks for the copay. You have to make an appointment, which can take time,” Podila said. “The whole idea behind this research is to take existing technology, in this case a smartphone, to allow for accessible health care.”
The sensors are ready for human clinical trials, Podila said. Bharat Biotech, a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer in India, has inquired about using the sensors developed by Podila’s lab to check antibody levels of people in their clinical trials.
Explaining the science
Rowland said the most significant challenge he faced when producing his video was to explain the technology so non-scientists could understand.
“Often, the biggest issue in science is explaining research in a way that’s not science,” he said. “Time was the biggest challenge in making the video because you have to take this research that has taken months, or even sometimes years, to do and condense it down into a marketable video that somebody could watch and say, ‘I can help on that project.’”Alan Rowland
Carroll said he wanted his video to grab attention, so he bought a $20 animation software program.
“Whenever I’ve needed to watch science videos in the past, it was always some sort of animated video that grabbed my attention,” he said. “I wanted to make it anecdotal, something that could relate to everyone. I wanted it to grab the attention of anyone who’s ever traveled and needed medical care. Once I grabbed their attention, I wanted to bring in the science aspect of it and how the device could benefit them and society.”
SCBIO CEO James Chappell said, “The SCBIO student video competition is a unique way to cultivate relationships between life science industry leaders and some of our most talented students. This relationship leads to career opportunities for the individual students and establishes comfort and familiarity between the companies and schools, leading to a more long-term talent pipeline.”
One of Podila’s main goals is to train students to communicate.“Knowledge is its own reward,” Podila said. “We not only teach them physics, we not only teach them science, but we also teach them how to communicate effectively,” he said. “I’m happy Dylan and Alan put in the effort and won the contest. But for me, they already won when they made the video because they learned something. That was the real prize.”
Over 500 registered leaders in Charleston celebrate growth, convey recognition on four top honorees see more
To resounding applause from a record gathering from 6 countries, 26 states and virtually every county in South Carolina, more than 500 life sciences leaders at SCBIO 2022 in Charleston saluted four of their own – three individuals and one organization – for profound positive impact and exceptional contributions to the advancement of South Carolina’s life sciences industry, and the health and advancement of the state.
Attendees at the sold-out conference, delivered both live and virtually, also learned that South Carolina’s life sciences industry impact has more than doubled since 2016 – to $25.7 billion annually – and its core employment has surged more than 42% in that period despite the pandemic-induced recession of 2020.
Recipients of the Life Sciences Industry’s PINNACLE awards were the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as Life Sciences Organization of the Year; Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina state epidemiologist from SC DHEC, as Individual Contributor of the Year; Dr. Martine LaBerge of Clemson University as Life Sciences Hall of Fame recipient; and Ashley Daugherty of Nephron Pharmaceuticals as Rising Star recipient.
Clemson University’s Dr. Martine LaBerge, chair of the Clemson Department of Bioengineering, was presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award for her personal championing of the life sciences industry, which today has 1,033 firms directly involved and over 87,000 professionals employed in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental, and agricultural biotechnology products. Clemson University is a Mission Partner of SCBIO and has been highly instrumental in helping the rapid growth of life sciences in the Palmetto State. LaBerge, who joined Clemson in 1990, is the Hall of Fame’s third member, joining former South Carolina Secretary of State Bobby Hitt and Harris Pastides, who was University of South Carolina president from 2008-2019 and recently returned as interim president.
LaBerge received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Montreal in Quebec and did postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Ontario before joining Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990, where she rose through the ranks, became interim department chair in 2002. Deservedly credited with advancing bioengineering technology and creating interdisciplinary partnerships of scholars, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to foster innovation, she has helped Clemson establish and strengthen strategic partnerships with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. She also has played a central role in establishing new bioengineering facilities, including the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) in Greenville.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Organizational Contribution to the industry was MUSC Health. A Mission Partner of SCBIO, MUSC was saluted for its research, patient care and innovation in the advancement of life sciences and for its contributions during the worst of the COVID pandemic. The MUSC team was honored for its thought leadership, its educational focus in teaching future healthcare providers, its testing and vaccination campaigns to help beat back the pandemic. Accepting the award for MUSC were Dr. Pat Cawley, CEO of MUSC Health and vice president for health affairs of the Medical University of South Carolina; Dr. David Cole, President of MUSC; and Ms. Caroline Brown, Chief External Affairs Officer for MUSC.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Individual Contribution to the industry was Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control for SC DHEC. Dr. Bell has worked in public health for over 28 years as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the Viral Special Pathogens Branch and as an EIS field officer. She has served in several positions with SC Department of Health and Environmental Control where, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a lead medical advisor in South Carolina providing guidance to help control disease spread for health care
providers, elected officials, businesses, and the public.
Dr. Ashley Daugherty serves as Chief Scientific Officer for Nephron Pharmaceuticals, a rapidly growing West-Columbia based pharmaceutical organization. Dr. Daugherty joined Nephron in 2014 as a Chemist and has rapidly risen through the ranks, spending time in analytical services and product development before assuming her current role in 2019. She holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of South Carolina and her Ph.D. from Emory University in Biomolecular Chemistry. She was honored with the inaugural Rising Star Award for her contributions to product development, advancement of intellectual property initiatives, and her strong and steady leadership during the unprecedented times of the pandemic as Nephron ramped up production, added production lines, and debuted new products and services to meet critical demands of the state and country.
The four honorees were celebrated by a record 500+ registrants who filled Charleston’s Gaillard Center, with attendees including scores of top industry chief executives, leaders in government and higher education, biotechnology and pharma executives, clinicians and researchers, and industry supporters from across America.
SCBIO is South Carolina’s investor-driven economic development organization exclusively focused on building, advancing, and growing the life sciences industry in the state.
As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups whose members are leading the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial, and environmental products that transform how we heal, fuel and feed the world.
LaBerge is third inductee into SC Life Sciences Hall of Fame see more
Martine LaBerge of Clemson University is the newest recipient of the South Carolina Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award, the latest in a string of high honors recognizing her contributions to the bioengineering community in the state and beyond.
LaBerge, who joined Clemson in 1990, has served as chair of the Department of Bioengineering for 20 years. She is the Hall of Fame’s third member, joining former South Carolina Secretary of State Bobby Hitt and Harris Pastides, who was University of South Carolina president from 2008-2019 and recently returned as interim president.
A crowd of family, friends and supporters joined LaBerge in Charleston on Wednesday to help her celebrate at SCBIO 2022–The Life Sciences Conference of South Carolina.
“It is an honor to be mentioned alongside Secretary Hitt and President Pastides,” LaBerge said. “While the award bears my name, it represents a group achievement. The life sciences industry has grown in this state and is continuing to expand. It takes a team to make that happen.”
The life sciences industry has grown 1.7% annually since 2005 and has an annual impact exceeding $25.7 billion, according to SCBIO. The state has more than 1,030 life sciences firms, and the industry accounts for more than 87,000 jobs, SCBIO reported. It has grown more than 42% in South Carolina since 2017.
James Chappell, executive director of SCBIO, said LaBerge’s Hall of Fame Award is well earned.
“For more than 30 years, Dr. LaBerge has been building communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who have been crucial in advancing the life sciences industry in South Carolina,” Chappell said. “Under her stewardship, Clemson’s bioengineering program is producing globally competitive graduates who are renowned for their professional and technical skills. The state is fortunate that she chose to establish her career here.”
The Hall of Fame Award was initiated in 2018 to recognize individuals “for extraordinary and notable achievements over an extended period in developing, advancing, and even transforming South Carolina’s life sciences industry,” according to SCBIO.
“Hall of Fame honorees must demonstrate business excellence and acumen, courageous thinking and action, vision and innovation, inspiring leadership, and community mindedness, while serving as an aspirational role model for those who follow.”
LaBerge received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Montreal in Quebec and did postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Ontario before joining Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990.
She rose through the ranks, became interim department chair in 2002 and had the interim scrubbed from her title two years later.
LaBerge’s colleagues credit her with advancing bioengineering technology and creating interdisciplinary partnerships of scholars, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to foster innovation. She has helped Clemson establish and strengthen strategic partnerships with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina.
As chair, LaBerge played a central role in establishing new bioengineering facilities, including the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) in Greenville. She also oversaw completion of a 29,000-square-foot annex that expanded the Rhodes Engineering Research Center on Clemson’s main campus.
Her support was instrumental in establishing two separate Centers of Biomedical Excellence at Clemson, both funded with multi-million-dollar grants from the National Institutes of Health.
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 the past four years, LaBerge’s peers have honored her with multiple honors recognizing accomplishments throughout her career, including:
- InnoVision’s Dr. Charles Townes Individual Lifetime Achievement Award
- Clemson University Commission on Women’s Gender Equity Champion Award
- The Biomedical Engineering Society’s Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award
- Southeastern Medical Device Association (SEMDA) Spotlight Award
- Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said LaBerge is an exemplary leader and highly deserving of her recognition.
“Dr. LaBerge leads by example with dedication, passion and enthusiasm,” he said. “She works hard and inspires others to do the same, and her leadership has been key in making the Department of Bioengineering a distinguished hub of education and research that creates the innovators and leaders of the future. I offer her my wholehearted congratulations on all her success.”