The transformation of Charleston, SC from tourism haven to business hub is a prime example. Right now, the spotlight is on the life sciences industry, as healthtech companies and entrepreneurs keen to make their mark discover in Charleston the connections, infrastructure and talent they need to succeed.
MUSC sets new research record with 15% jump over 2019 see more
The Medical University of South Carolina has broken its own record as the state’s leader in garnering extramural funding for biomedical research. MUSC set a new high-water mark in FY2021, bringing in more than $328 million. The previous MUSC record for annual biomedical research funding was more than $284 million, set in FY2019.
“Being the state’s leader in biomedical research funding year after year is a significant accomplishment, and we applaud the passion and expertise of our dedicated scientists and their teams,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “Even so, reaching another record-breaking number is not an end in itself. The true impact of MUSC research is reflected in how we translate discoveries into new modalities of care and life-changing therapeutics. Research is a dynamic force that fuels how we fulfill our mission to lead health innovation for the lives we touch,” he added.
Lori McMahon Ph.D., vice president for Research, called the accomplishment outstanding, especially during a period when being awarded research grant funding has become more intensely competitive than ever before. No other publicly assisted academic institution in South Carolina consistently garners near $250 million in research funding year after year.
MUSC research focuses on a wide variety of areas including cancer, community health, drug discovery, health disparities, inflammation and fibrosis, neuroscience, oral health, stroke and addiction.
MUSC plans to build a full-service hospital, offer 90,000 square feet of clinical space by 2025 see more
The Medical University of South Carolina has approved a $106 million contract to lease space in Lancaster County as part of a plan to enhance its foothold in the fast-growing area near Charlotte.
The structure on a 1.27-acre tract in the small community of Indian Land, where MUSC plans to build a full-service hospital, will offer 90,000 square feet of clinical space once it opens in early 2025.
Various departments, including cardiology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, OB/GYN, physical therapy and primary care, will be housed in the complex at 521 Charlotte Highway.
The design process is set to be completed by December, said Lisa Goodlett, chief financial officer of MUSC Health System.
The system said it initiated the process in an effort to secure the lowest interest rate possible at a time when the Federal Reserve is tightening credit to rein in inflation.
Mainsail Health Partners, a nonprofit that was created to support MUSC’s mission, is constructing the building. Goodlett said the total rental payments to the group over the 30-year deal will add up to $106 million.
The new space will strengthen MUSC’s ability to research and provide care to patients in the area, spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said.
“We know the best health care is often local and that many patients struggle to gain appropriate access to high-complexity care when they need it,” Woolwine said.
MUSC, the oldest medical school in the South, is South Carolina’s only integrated and academic health sciences center, according to its website. Its MUSC Health arm operates more than 700 locations across the Palmetto State where patients can receive care, from walk-in clinics to full-service hospitals.
“With this connectivity, when the complexity of care requires it, patients have enhanced access to care that can only be provided at an academic health system like MUSC — the right care, in the right place, at the right time,” Woolwine said.
MUSC Health established a brick-and-mortar presence in Lancaster County and the bedroom communities of Charlotte in early 2019, when it bought the 225-bed former Springs Memorial as part of its acquisition of four community medical centers outside the Charleston region.
The following year, it bought 87 acres in Indian Land. Around the same time, MUSC filed a plan with state health regulators to spend $235 million to build a 98-bed acute care hospital on the property. That project is being challenged by Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill.
Health Equity Consortium gives undergrads lab time, mentoring, classwork, field experience see more
The next generation – young people eager to contribute to science and their communities – are in MUSC Hollings Cancer Center laboratories this summer, learning from researchers who have devoted their careers to uncovering the mysteries of cancer.
A dozen of these undergraduates are part of a special program that introduces underrepresented minorities to cancer research, especially research into the cancers that have the greatest racial disparities in South Carolina: breast, prostate, head and neck and cervical cancer.
As part of the South Carolina Cancer Health Equity Consortium (SC CHEC), they’re getting time in the lab and coursework covering some of the thorniest issues facing the cancer community: namely, disparities in cancer outcomes among different groups of people and how to fix them.
Marvella Ford, Ph.D., associate director for population sciences and cancer disparities at Hollings, leads the group. For Ford, it’s about providing the mentoring and opportunities that underrepresented students might not otherwise have. Throughout the program, she ensures that students not only learn research methods and presentation skills but also interpersonal skills like job interviewing and how to communicate over email.
Coming up with solutions for cancer – whether it’s new treatments, improved treatments, better screenings or better ways of delivering care – will require the talents of people from all backgrounds.
Diversity, said Benjamin Toll, Ph.D., associate director for education and training at Hollings, buoys us all.
“It lifts us all up. If we have a more diverse base, it helps us all to have all these different viewpoints,” he said. “Our training and education benefits from diverse backgrounds because all of these various trainees, they give us new perspectives.”
The undergraduates come from the University of South Carolina and three historically Black colleges and universities – Voorhees University, Claflin University and South Carolina State University. Once on the MUSC campus, they’re assigned to a researcher based upon the interests they’ve indicated.
Latavia Fields, a rising senior at Claflin, noted that she is torn between applying to medical school or pharmacy school upon graduation. She was assigned to the lab of Patrick Woster, Ph.D., where she’s getting exposure to both professions, thanks to the varying backgrounds of the people working there.
She’s working on a project that mixes chemotherapy drugs with marker inhibitors to try to reduce inflammation in neuroblastoma tumors in children.
“We believe that the more inflamed the tumor is, the higher chance of death,” she explained. “We believe we can create a drug to reduce inflammation so it better responds to treatment.”
Adam Pressley, a rising junior at Voorhees, is interested in public health. He’s working with Ford this summer to evaluate the SC AMEN program, a community outreach program that educates Black men about their increased risk of prostate cancer and steps they can take to reduce that risk.
As part of his research, he attended an SC AMEN event in Holly Hill. Men participating in the program take a survey before and after the educational component to gauge their knowledge of prostate cancer and the available screenings. They’re then followed for three months to see whether they get screened for prostate cancer.
“We’re trying to determine whether the data results of the post-test show a positive effect on the population and if the seminars help to decrease the disparities and increase the prostate cancer screenings,” he said.
Toll said it’s wonderful to have the students on campus.
“These students are a breath of fresh air,” he said. “They are so excited about the future. They care about academic medicine and cancer research.
“I do think it’s bidirectional, such that we train them, but we also learn from them,” he added. “And that’s important. Our trainees are our future. We need them to carry on.”
The Hollings pipeline program actually reaches all the way down to the high school level. That’s where Fields first met Ford.
Fields was a student at Burke High School on the Charleston peninsula when Ford and the late Dennis Watson, Ph.D., began teaching a two-year cancer program to students in the health sciences track.
She had always been interested in medicine, from the time she was a little girl at her pediatrician appointments, and family members’ health problems increased her interest. After graduating from Burke in 2019, she went to college as a biology major and chemistry minor. In fact, 88% of the group that participated in the Hollings program went on to STEM majors at four-year colleges. Though she’s still deciding between medicine and pharmacy, she hopes to apply to MUSC.
Toll said Fields’ journey exemplifies what Ford and MUSC would like to see: develop the talent right here in South Carolina with the goal of keeping people in the state so they serve the communities they grew up in.
Fields, for her part, credited Ford for keeping in touch with the Burke students and alerting them to educational and professional opportunities.
“She’s a big part of why I’m here today,” Fields said. “She’s been a big part in all of our lives.”
Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization ink deal with Blinkcns see more
The Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization (ZI), a technology accelerator and component of the Office of Innovation at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and Blinkcns Inc. have entered into a strategic, exclusive licensing agreement to advance the novel blink reflex technology and software known as EyeStat. EyeStat is poised to make a profound impact on patients, specifically those with neurological diseases and conditions. This agreement was executed while the institute was operating as the Zucker institute for Applied Neurosciences (ZIAN).
Central nervous system (CNS) diseases are difficult to monitor and track, as many gold-standard devices are either outdated, costly or unreliable. The EyeStat series of capture devices by Blinkcns allows for a small stimulus of either carbon dioxide, light flash or audio prompt to trigger the blink reflex and allow for real-time data collection and analysis. Given that the captured data resides in the cloud and is also examined there by artificial intelligence, advanced research on the utility of using other capture devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, is well underway.
“Blinkcns has realized great growth since its inception in 2017. Thanks to the trust of the Zucker Institute, we’ve taken a new step to accelerate that growth. We are delighted to have established this new licensing agreement, which represents significant clinical potential for our technology. The Zucker Institute’s team, history of innovation and technical expertise are of a high standard. The foundation of this relationship is strong and helps to build internal and external confidence in our corporate mission,” said Jeff Riley, executive chairman of Blinkcns.
“It is especially exciting to see MUSC technologies licensed and commercialized by ‘home-grown’ biotech companies in Charleston. This partnership gives us a really nice platform for collaborating even more deeply with the Blinkcns team to better the lives of people around South Carolina, the United States and the world,” said interim CEO of the Zucker Institute, Michael Yost, Ph.D.
About Blinkcns, Inc.
Blinkcns is a medical device company pioneering blink reflex technology intended to promptly test for and identify a variety of neurological states and conditions. EyeStat is the world’s first FDA-cleared medical device indicated for the assessment of the blink reflex, a component of the startle response. A technological marvel that is part equipment, part software, EyeStat provides 100% objective quantitative data in less than one minute. EyeStat captures a subject’s blink reflex and scan data can be used, if warranted, by clinicians to evaluate and assess for abnormalities of the blink reflex. Blinkcns continues to research and apply its technology to several neurological states and conditions, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, Migraines and Dry Eye and the effect that each condition has on the blink reflex. https://www.blinkcns.com
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,000 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy – and trains more than 850 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $327.6 million in research funds in fiscal year 2021, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $220 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
MUSC, Lexington Medical to partner see more
Lexington Medical Cancer Center has formed a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston.
The two organizations say the affiliation will provide Lexington Medical Center’s patients with comprehensive cancer services, as well as access to more than 200 clinical trials underway through the National Cancer Institute and designated to MUSC, according to a news release.
As one of 71 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, MUSC serves as a home to more than 120 cancer researchers from institutions across the country.
“MUSC Hollings Cancer Center is committed to improving the care of cancer patients across our state,” Dr. David Zaas, CEO of MUSC Health Charleston Division, said in the news release. “We are excited to partner with Lexington Medical Center to help ensure patients can access innovative clinical research trials and new approaches to care, including state-of-the art therapies closer to home.”
The partnership will advance Lexington Medical Cancer Center, according to its medical director, Dr. Quillin Davis.
“As the Midlands’ only hospital providing comprehensive cancer care, we are excited about the benefits our affiliation with MUSC Hollings Cancer Center brings to our patients,” Davis said in the release. “Having access to their National Cancer Institute-designated clinical trials and research expertise will allow our patients to receive the latest, most innovative treatment while staying here in their community.”
Lexington Medical Cancer Center is located in West Columbia and employs more than 7,800 health care professionals.
Lexington Medical Center named top metro hospital
U.S. News & World Report has named Lexington Medical Center the best hospital in the Columbia metro area and the second-best hospital in South Carolina.
Lexington Medical was also ranked as high-performing in the treatment of 11 adult procedures and conditions, including back and colon cancer surgery, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and heart and kidney failure.
“Recognition as a Best Hospital by U.S. News & World Report reflects our dedication to delivering advanced medicine and state-of-the-art treatments to promote the health and well-being of our patients and their families,” Dr. Brent M. Powers, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Lexington Medical Center, said in a news release. “Achieving this prestigious ranking takes years of collaboration and innovation among specialties and providers throughout our organization. We are proud of our exceptional physicians, nurses, clinicians and staff for their continued commitment to providing quality health services that meet the needs of our communities.”
The annual Best Hospital rankings, now in their 33rd year, reflect an evaluation of more than 4,500 hospitals across 15 specialties and 20 procedures and conditions.
MUSC teams up for new clinical trial see more
A combination of up to five drugs normally used to treat conditions ranging from HIV to Type 2 diabetes could destroy cancer cells yet be less toxic than a chemotherapy drug used for recurring ovarian cancer.
After promising preclinical results, researchers at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center are now launching a phase 1 clinical trial to establish safe levels of various combinations of the drugs in patients with advanced solid tumors.
Hollings researchers Joe Delaney, Ph.D., and Michael Lilly, M.D., are collaborating on the Combination of Autophagy Selective Therapeutics (COAST) trial, which already has enrolled its first patient.
Autophagy is a cellular recycling process that occurs in all human cells, Delaney explained. Although the drugs in question – hydroxychloroquine, nelfinavir, metformin, dasatinib and sirolimus – were developed to treat, respectively, malaria, HIV, Type 2 diabetes and chronic myeloid leukemia and to prevent organ rejection in kidney transplant patients, what they all have in common is that they affect this cellular recycling process.
“All the drugs on this trial affect autophagy in one way or another. Even though they were originally designed for these other diseases, we’ve learned from the decades of studying them that they actually impact this process of autophagy, which all human cells have,” Delaney said. “That’s true of our normal cells. And that’s also true of cancer cells. It’s just that the cancer cells cannot perform that recycling nearly as well as our normal cells can. And so, to us, that was our therapeutic window.”
The National Cancer Institute encourages researchers to look into repurposing approved drugs, Lilly said. Already approved drugs have established safety records, whereas many potential new cancer drugs fail in early trials because they’re too toxic, Delaney said.
Repurposed drugs, on the other hand, have already been used by potentially millions of patients. “It really puts you many years ahead in the developmental pathway,” Lilly said.
In a paper published in June in Frontiers in Toxicology, Delaney showed that 14 doses of these five drugs were less toxic than Doxil, a chemotherapy drug used to treat ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma and AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma. Now, the phase 1 trial will show safety levels in humans.
“We’re really enthusiastic that this might be that opportunity to try multiple drugs,” Delaney said. “Since we started from that side effect profile to begin with, hopefully we have something that has much less toxicity. And of course, we’ll be finding out in the coming months if that’s actually true or not.”
The drugs will be tested in a series of various combinations. Previous studies of drugs that target autophagy have mostly focused on adding one autophagy drug to a chemotherapy regimen or immunotherapy regimen, Lilly said. By combining multiple autophagy-targeting drugs, this trial hopes to identify a combination that prevents the cancer cells from evolving resistance to the drugs.
“We have very good evidence that it’s a synthetic lethal combination for cancer cells, which is what everybody in cancer wants, but it’s just never been tried in people before. And so, we’re really excited to see this combination in a cancer setting,” Delaney said.
Synthetic lethality refers to when mutations in two genes together result in cell death, but a mutation in only one of the partner genes does not.
This human trial is a result of work in the lab that was funded by both the National Cancer Institute and donor Matt Prisby, who established a fund at Hollings for research into women’s cancers after his wife died of cervical cancer in 2014.
“This trial couldn’t have happened without Matt Prisby and everyone who donated to his fundraisers,” Delaney said. “Dedicated funding programs like the one he established at Hollings are critical for investigators to get the early results that will convince large funding entities to invest in continued research along these lines.”
Delaney also hopes that a combination of these drugs will prove effective for a broad swath of patients. Operating within the concept of precision oncology, researchers have been looking for ways to target mutations in patients whose tumors have been sequenced. Yet fewer than 10% of patients are eligible for precision therapy, Delaney said, referring to an area of medicine that uses information about a patient’s own genes to develop specific treatments that, in terms of cancer, target that individual’s tumor.
This trial targets aneuploid gene changes – an extra or missing chromosome – which is common in cancer cells, ranging from 20% to 95% in advanced solid tumor patients.
“If it works, many, many more patients could be eligible than for other targeted therapies,” Delaney said.
The phase 1 trial is accepting patients with an advanced solid tumor of any type. Once the trial moves to phase 2, the researchers will focus on specific cancer types. Lilly said early indications are that these drugs might be particularly effective against ovarian and prostate cancers.
Lilly, who treats patients with prostate cancer and runs his own lab focused on advanced prostate cancer, said that this collaboration with Delaney would only be possible at an academic cancer center like Hollings, where researchers work alongside the doctors who provide care to patients. Delaney and Lilly, each with their own areas of expertise, can share ideas, and patients have access to early trials like this.
“Sherlock Holmes once referred to bits of data as having cumulative force when you have three or four different things, each of which points in the same direction,” Lilly said. “And that’s the power of collaborative research at Hollings.”
The first video shows high-grade serous ovarian cancer cells grown in the lab and labelled with fluorescent proteins to measure how the molecular recycling process of autophagy is working in live cells.
When the movie starts, the cells had just begun a treatment of a version of COAST therapy. As the movie progresses, the cells try to turn on autophagy in response to these COAST drugs - they fluoresce brighter.
However, properly recycling autophagy would fluoresce red, whereas these cells fluoresce yellow, indicating their recycling system is jammed and cannot complete its function. As a result, these cancer cells accumulate too much cellular debris and pop, as seen by a sudden darkening of a single cell.
The second video shows high-grade serous ovarian cancer cells grown in the lab and labelled with fluorescent proteins that label the nucleus of each cell in both green and blue.
In the center top of the start of the movie, a cancer cell physically latches onto another cancer cell. Astonishingly, the cell is able to absorb the blue nucleus of this attached cell, thereby adding a whole extra genome to its own genome in the process. This is a live observation of one reason why cancer cells can evolve to resist chemotherapy: once they acquire that second genome, it is easier to shuffle genes around in a way that optimizes cancer cell growth.
Healthtech innovation at the heart of a growing start-up scene in and around Charleston, SC see more
The geography of innovation is changing in the US and around the world. Where concentrated tech hubs like Silicon Valley once ruled as the ultimate paradigm for technological activity, innovation is increasingly flourishing in emerging mid-size cities as well.
Noting the city’s potential to be a start-up hotbed many years back, John Osborne founded the Harbour Entrepreneur Center in 2013, one of the longest operating start-up accelerators in the south-east. A few years into that journey, a strong supportive ecosystem had been built and deal flow was taking off. The next major milestone, felt Osborne, would be the establishment of significant venture capital resources in Charleston.
The perfect opportunity came in 2015, when seasoned healthtech and green tech investors Amy Salzhauer, who had moved to Charleston years earlier, and Maureen Stancik Boyce, Amy’s Boston-based business partner, viewed Charleston as the place to establish a fund. Their vision was a continuation of the impact investing they had been doing in Massachusetts since 1999, working with scientists to co-found companies if the technology itself could have a positive impact on human health or the environment.
“We wanted to start a fund that could invest in the kinds of companies that we used to help start,” explains Salzhauer. “Those companies are oftentimes harder to fund because they may be very complicated scientifically, even though they have high potential.” Teaming up with John Osborne, tech executive Carolyne LaSala and venture capitalist David Mendez, Good Growth Capital was established, with offices in Charleston and Boston.
Strong support for innovation
Since the beginning, Good Growth’s differentiator has been its ability to evaluate complex technologies at an early stage. Fast-forward to the recent successful raise of its oversubscribed third fund at more than $100m, and Good Growth Capital is now one of the largest early-stage funds in the south-east.
“Often, the bigger funds are competing for allocation and follow-on rounds, and we are already there,” says Salzhauer. “Charleston has been a fantastic place to do this from. There is a lot of opportunity here, there is a great ecosystem that John helped to create that is really coming together more and more. The hospital systems here are very willing to support innovation: the Medical University of South Carolina, Roper St Francis Healthcare and others throughout the state. That is a huge advantage to our health tech start-ups.”
“Because of that ease of access, it is a great opportunity for companies to locate in Charleston that aren’t currently here,” agrees Osborne. “We can get them trial access and help grease the wheel for what they need to move forward. That might be more difficult in larger markets; it is going to take them longer, they are going to have higher barriers, it is going to be more expensive.”
The Good Growth Capital team believes Charleston’s life sciences market is at an exciting inflection point. “I can equate it to the software journey in Charleston,” says Osborne, referencing the success of companies like Blackbaud, Benefitfocus, Automated Trading Desk and their spin-outs – all key early innovators in Charleston’s tech growth over the past few decades.
He points to Vikor Scientific as an example of how the same success can be realised by Charleston-based healthtech businesses. The market-leading molecular diagnostics company was established in 2018 and has gone from strength to strength, expanding its footprint nationwide.
“Vikor Scientific has just been on an absolute rocket ship,” remarks Osborne. “They have a beautiful spot in the city’s life sciences cluster, they have been able to recruit talent, and they have raised the capital they need. They are a great testament to how it can be done in this industry and community.”
Within Good Growth’s own portfolio, Osborne and Salzhauer are excited about the potential for medical device start-up Obsidio to be among the region’s next wave of success. The company is currently developing innovative biomaterials based on a unique hydrogel platform that has the power to transform therapeutic embolisation, interventional oncology and wound healing.
It helps that medtech start-ups or established companies considering the area can benefit from what Osborne calls Charleston’s ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ mentality. “Because the ecosystem is still maturing and evolving, it is not so difficult to break into. Everyone wants to see each other be successful, and with that comes a lot of collaboration. An innovative founder coming to the market is going to be welcomed with open arms and introduced to anyone and everyone and all the resources they can get access to,” he explains.
Sustainable and inclusive growth
For Good Growth Capital, a majority women-owned and managed firm, it is important that opportunities are open to everyone, regardless of an entrepreneur’s background. “Being able to level the playing field and give the science the emphasis has served our investors really well,” says Salzhauer, adding that 35% of Good Growth’s portfolio CEOs are women and 34% people of colour.
Both agree that Charleston’s business community has been extremely supportive of this mission for diversity and inclusion. “There is also another fund forming here that we are helping to support, led by an African American fund manager. It is called HI Mark Capital,” says Salzhauer.
“I do think the perception is that a tourist town like Charleston wouldn’t have this women-led fund thriving here, but really there is such a supportive capital community. It is also helpful that so many interesting people just choose to live here, so there is a lot of talent,” she adds.
“We have had such an influx of talent and people moving to Charleston from all around the world that have made it a more diverse community,” agrees Osborne, who has lived in Charleston for 25 years. “It is also contributing to that fair playing field that we all want to see.”
The focus for the business community is now on productive, inclusive and sustainable innovation and economic development, with the flourishing life sciences start-up scene expected to be a key driving force. This is just the beginning of that journey for the market, believes Osborne.
“The more you see a few of those wins that are in motion right now, you are going to see an exponential acceleration of life sciences start-ups in the region,” he says. “Equally, with the assets and infrastructure that the region offers, other life sciences companies are going to continue to look at Charleston as a place to locate and be successful.”
Time and cost savings a major benefit see more
The CEO of MUSC Health has seen firsthand how helpful a pocket-size device that’s going systemwide at MUSC can be when it comes to quickly figuring out what’s wrong with a patient.
“Just a couple weeks ago, I had a family member in the hospital at MUSC Health-Charleston. He needed some fluid taken off his lung, and the pulmonologist pulled the Butterfly out of his pocket and began to take care of him right away,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D.
The Butterfly, an ultrasound device about the size of an electric razor that connects to a smartphone or tablet to give an on-the-spot reading, immediately showed the pulmonologist what Cawley’s family member’s condition was. That meant the doctor was able to start treating the problem with precision – and without delay.
Ultrasounds are considered essential tools for diagnosing and taking care of patients. They use sound waves to create clear images of the inside of the body without the radiation that can come with other types of scans, such as X-rays and CTs.
Cawley called MUSC’s adoption of the Butterfly ultrasound devices and the system that supports them, the Butterfly Blueprint, a leap forward. “For a long time, hand-held ultrasound has been out there. Different companies have offered different technology. But the second we saw the Butterfly technology, we knew it could be transformational in a way that other portable ultrasounds have not been to this point in time.”
The device has 20 presets, meaning it’s capable of doing ultrasounds on 20 different areas of the body, using artificial intelligence. It earned the broadest Food and Drug Administration approval ever for an ultrasound system. Another feature hospital leaders like: The Butterfly is powered by a small chip instead of the piezoelectric crystals traditionally used in ultrasounds, making it more affordable.
Some doctors had already made the Butterfly leap, buying devices for their own use. But until now, the results didn’t go into patient health records. They were just in-the-moment updates. That changes with the implementation of Butterfly Blueprint, technology that allows for systemwide integration of the information gleaned through Butterfly ultrasounds.
Rami Zebian, M.D., chief medical officer of MUSC Health Florence and Marion medical centers, was an early user of the Butterfly ultrasound. He’s had his own device for a few years and was part of the push for MUSC Health to begin using it on a large scale in its hospitals and clinics.
“The portability of it is the biggest game changer, the price of it also because it’s much cheaper than a regular ultrasound. I think that it does not replace a formal ultrasound, right? This is not to replace radiologist or radiology imaging but serve as an adjunct. And the wow factor is still there. Every time I take it to clinic and I connect it to my phone and show patients what I’m looking at. They love it.”
Florence, Marion and Charleston are the initial focus of the device’s rollout at MUSC Health. Aalap Shah, M.D., co-director of the Emergency Ultrasound Division in MUSC’s College of Medicine and an emergency medicine specialist, said the new technology could be a game changer for clinics and hospitals that aren’t in big cities.
“A lot of providers have been practicing medicine for most of their lives without having been able to have access to this sort of technology. And so it’s important to find a really robust system to make sure they’re able to train and feel comfortable with the indications that they’re going to be using this for and provide quality care to their patients.”
Shah, who is also an assistant professor in the College of Medicine, likes the fact that the Butterfly will become part of the training that students receive as well and be available to researchers at MUSC.
Cawley, the CEO of MUSC Health, agreed. “If we start training clinicians and providers on the front end – using a device that’s intuitive and easy to use, it will push us forward in all kinds of ways,” Cawley said.
Zebian said it could save time and energy in the process. “A lot of times, people don't use an ultrasound because we’re running, in a rush. You can schedule an ultrasound for a patient, but that takes a few days. But if you take a quick look with the portable ultrasound, you may still say, ‘Hey, I still want an official read,’ but if you look and you see a blood clot or something like that, then you would say, ‘No, we need to do something today.’”
Innovation protecting against burnout and improving work lives see more
A new solution for protecting against burnout and improving the work lives of medical professionals may be to encourage innovation and creation, according to one physician from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Stephen Kalhorn, MD, professor of neurosurgery at MUSC spoke to Becker's about the hospital's innovation project, how it has improved his work life and how it has the potential to create inventions that benefit both patients and medical professionals alike.
Dr. Kalhorn's passion for innovation came while he was a resident. His chairman was also an innovator and together they would come up with ideas for inventions that would help patients and physicians.
"He would tell us, the Book of Ecclesiastes says there's nothing new under the sun."
While he believes that to be true, Dr. Kalhorn also argues that there are ways to get credit for being the first one to describe those ideas and then protect them, and that's what MUSC is helping their medical staff do.
MUSC formed the Zucker Institute of Applied Neurosciences (ZIAN) in 2012, which encourages physicians and medical staff to share and submit any ideas for innovations and inventions they may have. If there is any room to protect those ideas via intellectual property laws or to fulfill a commercial need, the center will help those staff do so. To date, the institute reviews around 60 inventions annually, has funded 11 technologies, issued 17 patents and got three inventions FDA approved.
Dr. Kalhorn told Becker's that he never would have thought he would get to create inventions while being a practicing physician. This opportunity to explore a creative side of science may also be an aid against burnout so many healthcare workers feel.
As is already well known that burnout is a major factor among healthcare professionals, with 29 percent of the hospital workforce considering leaving the field, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Kalhorn described how one patient compared physicians to scrambling ants:
"It's like we're ants on top of an ant hill that has just been kicked over. You're literally just running around, and ants can lift several magnitudes of their own strength, and they're just carrying these chunks of dirt around and viciously and ferociously trying to fend off the problems around them as well as rebuild the hill."
The challenging requirements of the field make the job difficult, but it can be made more enjoyable through innovation and creativity.
"I think some people, especially those prone to burnout, often don't have different outlets in their lives to vent frustrations or to use a creative aspect of their mind and personality," he said.
ZIAN's encouragement of innovation and creation offers a potential respite for tired medical professionals and gives them a chance to create solutions to their problems. It also gives the staff a sense of agency in an industry that can often feel increasingly bureaucratic and high pressure.
"You can draw something on a dry erase board or napkin and take a picture of it and then send it to the group [ZIAN] and they'll say, yes or no," Dr. Kalhorn told Becker's. The group, made up of biomedical engineers, a commercialization officer, an IP director then all work together to make the physician's idea work, testing it in 3D models and coming up with commercial strategies to bring it to market or submit patent applications.
Some of the innovations coming out of ZIAN include a blink reflexometer to detect concussions and a 3D printed titanium plate called Heal X, used to remove damaged vertebrae. Dr. Kalhorn himself came up with VayuClear, a suction de-clogging device that eliminates obstructions from surgical suction devices saving time and energy during long surgeries.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to be able to help as many patients as we can in the least invasive way possible with as little as possible stress and strain on your own body. So if there are ways to make it easier and better for both you and the patient, everyone wins."
MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital achieves top rankings in annual U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s HospitalsMUSC SJCH only children’s hospital in South Carolina to be ranked see more
New rankings from U.S. News & World Report’s (USNWR) 2022-23 Best Children’s Hospitals survey place the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital once again as the only children’s hospital in South Carolina to be ranked. And, the hospital improved one ranking, to #11, in the Southeast region best children’s hospitals survey. The latest rankings are published online and indicate the herculean efforts health care workers provided during the second year of the coronavirus pandemic.
The highly recognized specialties for MUSC SJCH include the following national rankings: No. 4 for cardiology & heart surgery, No. 30 for nephrology, No. 31 for cancer and No. 41 for gastroenterology & GI surgery. This year, the MUSC Pediatric & Congenital Heart Center received the #1 spot in the nation ranking for outcomes. This phenomenal achievement recognizes that the pediatric and congenital heart center’s expected outcomes are the best in the nation. USNWR issues the annual rankings “to help families with complex and rare conditions find the best medical care for their children,” according to the publication’s website. They’re designed to steer parents and caregivers to the hospitals that are best equipped to treat their children.
The 16th annual rankings highlight the top 50 U.S. pediatric hospitals in each of 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology & heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and urology.
“The U.S. News rankings recognize on a national stage that MUSC Children’s Health is a leader in pediatric health care and a safe and compassionate choice for parents seeking care for their child,” said Mark A. Scheurer, M.D., MUSC Children’s Health chief of clinical services.
This is the 15th consecutive year that the 4th-ranked cardiology & heart surgery program has made the overall Best Children’s Hospitals list. Criteria include the survival rate of patients after complex heart surgeries along with the level of specialized staff, services and technologies and the ability to prevent infections.
The nephrology program at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital ranks No. 30 in the U.S. That means it excels when it comes to the survival rate of children who have had kidney transplants, the management of dialysis and infection prevention and other factors. It maintains its status as the highest-ranked children’s kidney program in South Carolina. The program ranked #3 in the Southeast for overall care and the third best outcomes.
The GI & GI surgery program is no stranger to the U.S. News rankings, either. For the 15th year in a row, it made the grade, coming in at No. 41, one spot higher than last year. The rankings factor in the survival rate for children who have had liver transplants, the effectiveness of the hospital’s treatment of children who have inflammatory bowel issues and other key measures. Like all of the rankings, the GI rankings also include input from specialists in the field who responded to U.S. News surveys and recommend the hospital for serious cases in GI care. GI & GI Surgery ranked #8 in the Southeast region.
Finally, the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital’s cancer program ranks No. 31 on the list of Best Children’s Hospitals for Cancer. That’s a 13-level increase from last year’s ranking and a direct result of the #15 national ranking in outcomes. Cancer ranked #3 in the Southeast for overall care and achieved the best outcomes in the region. These rankings are based in part on the five-year survival rate for children with leukemia-related cancer, bone marrow transplant services, programs for brain tumors and sarcomas and infection prevention.
A critical criterion measured by USNWR is outcomes. Five of 10 MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital programs placed in the top 50 nationally for the outcomes portion of their respective survey, including:
GI / GI Surgery #37
For the second year, U.S. News featured regional rankings, and the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital tied at #11 for the Southeast region, which is one of the most competitive pediatric regions in the country. Four of MUSC’s pediatric specialties ranked in the top 10: cardiology & cardiac surgery #1, cancer #3, nephrology #3, and GI & GI surgery #8.
Current methodology combines clinical and operational data, results from a reputational survey of board-certified pediatric specialists and supplemental information from resources such as the National Cancer Institute. RTI International collects and analyzes the data for the rankings. The methodology reflects clinical outcomes, such as patient survival, infection rates and complications; the level and quality of hospital resources directly related to patient care, such as staffing, technology and special services; delivery of health care, such as programs that adhere to best practices and prevent infections; and expert opinion among pediatric specialists. This year, scoring also included an increased focus on the subjects of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; internal and external affiliations of experts; and clinical issues related to the pandemic.
“Our MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital care team members continue to be recognized for the outstanding care, service and commitment they provide, even in challenging times,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and executive vice president for Health Affairs, University. “The strength of our specialty outcomes is a testament to the quality of care our team members seek to provide to patients and their families on a daily basis.”
MUSC researchers using genetics to tackle health disparities see more
Quenton Tompkins’ family tree is deeply rooted in rural McCormick County, South Carolina.
His grandfather was a sharecropper in McCormick. His mother, who turns 88 this month, grew up as the youngest of 24 children. Branches of aunts, uncles, and cousins now stretch from Florida to Chicago.
And although 48-year-old Tompkins has heard plenty of stories, his family holds its secrets, too.
He didn’t know until he was an adult that his grandfather died of leukemia. And he’s still unsure if his father’s bout with prostate cancer runs in the family. Tompkins’ mother and her siblings have dealt with a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, but he still doesn’t know what killed his grandmother more than 70 years ago.
“Those are questions I go through personally,” said Tompkins, a lobbyist for the Medical University of South Carolina. “There’s another side to knowing where you come from.”
Twenty-two years ago, President Bill Clinton announced the completion of a “draft version” of the Human Genome Project, a breakthrough he described as “the language in which God created life.” He predicted that scientists, armed with genetic discoveries, would find cures for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes in the coming years.
Clinton’s prediction, of course, hasn’t yet come to pass. But researchers in Charleston are hopeful that a large genetics research project underway across South Carolina may help scientists address some of the state’s persistent health disparities, which disproportionately impact its Black residents and regularly rank among the nation’s worst. Enjoy the rest of this article compliments of Kaiser Health News.
Augmented reality may be a next frontier in medicine see more
Marc Katz, M.D., touches the man’s heart, ever so gently. Then he takes his index finger and thumb, presses them against the spot he’s interested in and … he pinches.
To zoom out.
Thankfully, the cardiothoracic surgeon isn’t handling a real heart, rather, it’s an augmented reality (AR) model of a real heart, using a holographic headset manufactured by Microsoft and imaging software created by Virginia-based ClearView Surgical. If the surgeon and tech companies have their say, this is the future of surgery – and it’s not that far away.
Most people have heard of virtual reality (VR), a completely immersive experience that replaces your real-life environment with a simulated one. It’s everywhere these days: movies, video games, real estate. AR is slightly different. Instead of using a simulated environment, AR adds digital elements to your real-world surroundings. It, too, is starting to creep into everyday life. Want to see how that couch looks in your living room? Open up an app and you can see for yourself. That’s AR.The software uses Microsoft's HoloLens 2, a device anyone can purchase.
As Katz manipulates the organ in all different directions, he looks like someone trying to walk in a dark room – hands out in front, gently feeling for furniture or walls. But from Katz’s perspective, thanks to AR, what he sees is a very real looking heart hovering above his second-floor office desk.
How it works is – and this is radically oversimplified – the engineers at ClearView Surgical build exact 3D models of patients’ hearts (though it could be any organ; Katz said the heart is one of the more complicated ones because it is always moving), using the information from CT scans. In turn, these models then allow the surgeon to manipulate the heart in any direction. Need to remove a valve? No problem. What’s behind that ventricle? Let’s take a look. By marrying technology with medicine, surgeons like Katz will one day be able to look at – and touch – a patient’s heart without actually opening them up. The result: zero risk, tons of reward.
Though not yet used in actual practice (Katz and ClearView Surgical seem to think we’re still at least a year away), an idea that once seemed like a Hollywood fantasy is now a heck of a lot closer to becoming science nonfiction.
“Imagine all the things this technology will allow us to do,” Katz said. Take the heart apart, turn it upside down, you name it –it’s possible, he said. All without endangering the patient. Katz even thinks the technology could eventually lead to performing mock surgeries, which would allow the surgeon the luxury of experimentation.
Dan Neuwirth, co-owner of ClearView Surgical, said that despite radical improvements in imaging technology over the years, how doctors view the images has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. For the past 70 or so years, folks in the medical field have looked at those images on film or computer screens. In other words, it’s all 2D. Sure, technology has allowed for simulating three dimensions, but in the end, the image the doctor is looking at is still flat.This image, just like one Dr. Katz might see through his headset, allows the user to rotate it any direction as well as remove parts to see things which might otherwise be hidden. The green represents a valve replacement device. Provided by ClearView Surgical
Neuwirth and fellow co-owner Daniel Salzberg knew there was a tremendous opportunity, utilizing current technology, to change that. So they approached Katz and a handful of other surgeons across the country and asked for feedback. It’s a partnership where each side provides necessary value. Katz provides the imaging and the surgical know-how, ClearView Surgical makes the augmented version – so surgeons can manipulate it to their, well, heart’s content.
“With Dr. Katz, we get to tap into the mind of a super accomplished surgeon and together, we can come up with ways to improve patient outcomes,” said Salzberg.
“It really has been a great partnership. Dr. Katz is a very forward-thinking guy in terms of technology,” Neuwirth added.
Neuwirth and Salzberg see this as the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing AR in medicine.
“Obviously this is a great help for really complex cases like Dr. Katz works on,” Neuwirth said. “That’s one end of the spectrum. But we also see this eventually helping out residents with commonplace surgeries as well.”
From a medical standpoint, Katz sees this as a first step in what he hopes will be a wide range of medical applications.
“Imagine being in the OR and taking the images we have and fusing them with three-dimensional images,” Katz said. “It would be like looking through someone’s body like I’m wearing X-ray glasses.”
Improvements may one day improve the effectiveness and safety of chemotherapy see more
For patients with cancer, the tumor-killing power of chemotherapeutic drugs is a double-edged sword. While many cancer drugs kill tumor cells, they can also harm healthy cells as they travel throughout the bloodstream.
“A major limitation of chemotherapy agents is that only a tiny fraction goes to their targeted tumor,” said Dieter Haemmerich, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor at the Darby Children’s Research Institute within the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). “As a result, there are side effects that include damage to the heart.”
But what if you could “cleanse” the blood of chemotherapeutic drugs to reduce their harmful side effects?
In an article published in March 2022 in the journal Cancers, an MUSC research team led by Haemmerich reported that it had developed a device to remove excess chemotherapeutic drugs from circulation after cancer treatment. Using this device, the team removed 30% of the administered drug by one hour after treatment. Seed funding to develop the device was provided by a High Innovation - High Reward grant from the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research Institute’s pilot project program.
Haemmerich and his colleagues, including Katherine Twombley, M.D., a professor in the MUSC Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, focused on doxorubicin (DOX), which is one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs in adults and children.
DOX is also known to be toxic to the heart. This toxicity is particularly detrimental in pediatric patients, since any resulting heart failure will have negative health effects for the rest of the child’s life. In a 2006 clinical trial, DOX reduced cardiac function in children with leukemia, and steroid therapy was required to reduce its damaging effects.
Despite its toxicity to the heart, DOX is a popular chemotherapy drug because it is highly effective at stopping cancer cells from dividing.
“Doxorubicin works by basically damaging DNA,” said Yuri Peterson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences in the MUSC College of Pharmacy and an author of the article. “That is useful for treating cancer, but it can also cause off-target side effects like hair and bone marrow loss.”
Recent efforts to target DOX more precisely to the tumor site have included encapsulating it inside temperature-sensitive nanoparticles. These tiny particles are intact at normal body temperature and carry the drug through the bloodstream to the tumor. There, they can be heated with a probe to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit to release their DOX cargo.
However, the technique has its own limitations. Only a fraction of the administered nanoparticles release their cargo when the heat is applied at the tumor site. Once the nanoparticles break down in the body, which can take as little as an hour, the remaining drug enters the bloodstream and can then cause side effects.
The MUSC research team wanted to improve outcomes with this technique by developing a device that would remove the leftover DOX after treatment.
Using a rodent model of cancer, the researchers injected the heat-sensitive DOX nanoparticles and applied heat at the tumor site to release DOX. After treatment, they cleansed the blood of leftover DOX by first passing it through a heating element to get the nanoparticles to release the drug and then through an activated carbon filter to remove the drug from the blood before it was returned to the rodents’ circulation.
Krishna Ramajayam, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Haemmerich’s laboratory in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at MUSC, designed the heating element in the filtration device and supported the imaging studies for monitoring drug release and filtration.
“Since the device is computer controlled, you can have very precise heating to ensure that the drug is released,” said Ramajayam. “The most exciting part for me is addressing both delivery and removal of the drug, which will improve patients’ quality of life immensely.”
Importantly, the team also developed a method for detecting drug levels in the blood in real time to ensure that the drug is effectively removed.
“By imaging the blood before and after filtration, we can actually predict how much drug is being removed in real time in the clinic,” said Anjan Motamarry, Ph.D., who completed work on the study while a doctoral student in Haemmerich’s lab before transitioning to a job in industry. “This would be very useful information for a clinician who needed to make a decision about when to stop filtration.
”Reducing the exposure of patients to leftover chemotherapy drugs could allow them to recover faster, with fewer side effects. It could also enable them to receive more chemotherapy cycles in the future in case additional treatment is necessary to kill the cancer cells.
“Every drug has a maximum tolerated dose that you cannot go beyond,” said Motamarry. “Since we are removing the leftover drug after treatment, you can actually give an additional dose if the first cycle is not sufficient, which would not be possible if the drug was not removed.”
Filtering the blood through the device also led to nearly three times less DOX in the heart, as measured using mass spectrometry at the MUSC Drug Discovery Core. Peterson and Thomas Benton, Ph.D., who was a doctoral student at MUSC at the time of the study, performed the measurements.
These promising results suggest that the new device could reduce side effects in the heart that can be caused by chemotherapy, but more studies will be needed to confirm that promise.
“If you deliver less drug to the heart, you will probably have fewer side effects,” said Haemmerich. “Our next step is to test the function of the heart directly after using this method in long-term animal tumor studies.”
Further improvements to their device may one day improve the effectiveness and safety of chemotherapy in children and adults.
“It’s really hard for anyone to go through chemotherapy,” said Motamarry. “This is the least that we can do to make it easier for them.”
Life science recruitment expert explains how Charleston, SC, is attracting top talent from across the globeAddressing high demand for accomplished leaders to spearhead the sector’s growth. see more
Compliments of Investment Monitor
The life sciences industry in Charleston is growing fast. As more and more businesses and professionals are drawn towards the area, there is high demand for accomplished leaders to spearhead the sector’s growth.
Executive search consultant Joyce De Leo is doing her part to find these individuals. She spent a 25-year career researching and teaching medicine at esteemed institutions in the north-eastern US, earning a PhD in neuropharmacology, and establishing a start-up pharmaceuticals company focused on treating chronic pain. She now works for executive search company WittKieffer, where she recruits talent for high-level leadership roles in healthcare and academic medicine. Last year, De Leo relocated from Boston to Charleston after falling in love with the region and recognising its rich opportunities for market growth. Read the rest of this article by clicking here.
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.”