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.”
Biotech startup receives top honors in category see more
Elastrin Therapeutics of Simpsonville, SC has been named winner of the 2021 InnoVision Award for Technology Development, organizers have announced.
Elastrin Therapeutics is a biotech startup with technologies to restore hardened and damaged arteries and tissue by targeting the elastic fiber that makes them work.
Founded by Mr.Douglas Mulhall, Dr.Naren Vyavahare, Dr.Charles D. Rice, and Dr. Mirko Stange, the SCRA Client Company has demonstrated proof-of-concept for a patented therapeutic compound that may provide needed repair and restorative function to lungs that have been damaged by the COVID-19 virus. According to Vyavahare, “Elastin is present in lung alveoli that are being degraded by enzymes such as neutrophil elastases and MMPs released by inflammatory cells in COVID-19 infection of lungs. Our elastin targeting nanoparticle can also target drugs to the lungs and prevent lung injury.
Innovation booming across Palmetto State see more
The InnoVision Awards Board of Directors is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 InnoVision Awards. This year’s finalists include both large and small organizations, representing an array of industries, from the upstate to the coast – a true reflection of South Carolina’s robust innovation economy.
InnoVision Awards honor South Carolina individuals and organizations for impactful innovations under development in South Carolina within the last 18 months. The annual awards are the mark of distinction for the many organizations, individuals, educators and leaders who have been honored over the 23-year history of the InnoVision Awards.
The 2021 finalists in the six award categories are:
ArchCath LLC (Awendaw)
Elastrin Therapeutics Inc. (Simpsonville)
FRD Accel, LLC (Charleston)
Camp Happy Days (Charleston)
United Way of the Piedmont (Spartanburg)
Aconabolics LLC (Greenville)
Mia Nipple System LLC (Travelers Rest)
Veterans ASCEND (Simpsonville)
Early College High School, Charleston County School District (Charleston)
SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (Greenville)
Diversey Holdings Ltd. (Fort Mill)
PunchList USA (Charleston)
QuicksortRx Inc (Charleston)
Clemson Composites Center (Greenville)
Ingevity (North Charleston)
Geomat, LLC (Columbia)
All finalists will be recognized during the InnoVision Meet the Finalists (MTF) Series sponsored by the South Carolina Research Authority. The 2021 MTF Series will be held virtually at 4 PM on three consecutive Tuesdays: September 28, October 5 and October 12. Each MTF reception will feature finalists in two award categories. They are open to the public and are free to those who register in advance.
InnoVision’s annual awards program will culminate with the Annual Awards Celebration on November 9th. The Awards Celebration will showcase each finalist’s innovation with a video profile, announce the winner in each award category, and present two special awards: The Ibrahim Janajreh Young Innovator Award and the Dr. Charles Townes Individual Achievement Award.
In 2020, the virtual Awards Celebration attracted more than 500 viewers from across the country and several international locations. The Meet the Finalists Series and the Awards Celebration event are open to those who register in advance. You may sign up to receive an invitation and notification at www.innovisionawards.org.
About InnoVision Awards
InnoVision, founded in 1999, is a grass-roots, volunteer-led non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of innovation and technology in South Carolina. Through its Annual Awards Celebration, InnoVision recognizes and honors South Carolina businesses, individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding advancements in these areas. InnoVision also highlights innovative achievements through daily posts on the InnoVision Awards Linkedin page and a weekly Spotlight on Innovation newsletter. InnoVision Forums held throughout the year provide opportunities for peers to learn about key advancements, innovation and leading edge technologies from other innovators.
Exciting new development from MUSC co-founded technology see more
SpheroFill, a company co-founded by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researcher William Hill, Ph.D., is helping to convert swords into plowshares with more than a quarter million dollars in funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer grant. Hill is a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MUSC and a research scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.
Hill and SpheroFill are developing microsphere technology to create a unique oral drug delivery platform that will allow for protected, controlled release of drugs over time. The microsphere technology was originally created for strategic purposes by the Department of Energy at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and then converted for civilian purposes by the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Aiken, South Carolina.
The other co-founders of SpheroFill are George Wicks, Ph.D., of ARC, and ENT-otolaryngologist Paul Weinberger, M.D. Wicks co-invented the microsphere technology while at the SRNL. Together with MUSC and ARC, the three inventors have submitted a patent on the oral and other drug delivery approaches.
Hill, who serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, is excited about the collaboration between SpheroFill, MUSC and ARC.
“The Applied Research Center is a nonprofit research and development organization established to transfer technology from the SRNL and academic institutions and to assist start-up companies where possible,” explained Hill. “It is the value of the taxpayers’ investment being amplified into novel uses that can create new jobs and expand the economy of South Carolina. ARC’s goal is to build a technology base in Aiken County and the state. Importantly, ARC has been a key initial investor for us.”
The microspheres are hollow spheres with a large cargo capacity contained by a porous silica glass outer shell. Complex nanoscale channels connect the interior cargos with the outside world.
“A microsphere is about a third the diameter of a human hair,” said Hill. “You can actually load the microspheres with different cargos, drugs in this case, and then control the release rate of materials coming out of them.”
Once in the body, the microspheres will release the drug as the outer coating degrades and the nanopores open. The technology could help pharmaceutical companies overcome a serious hurdle in developing oral drugs. Drugs taken by mouth often break down in the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal system.
“The pharmaceutical industry has a large number of drugs that are difficult to deliver orally – either because they don't dissolve very well in the aqueous system that we have in our gastrointestinal tract, or because they are very reactive and will be broken down very quickly by enzymes there,” said Hill.
By encasing the drugs, the microspheres protect them from this harsh environment and enable them to reach their target locations, where they release their contents. As a result, less drug is wasted, which is a savings for both pharmaceutical companies and consumers. This will be particularly important with expensive drugs and newer sensitive biological drugs.
The technology not only allows more efficient delivery of existing oral drugs, but it also makes possible the oral delivery of new types of drugs.
“There is also an ability to deliver drugs in ways that they never could have been delivered before, such as in gaseous form” said Hill. “We're trying to develop new ways to deliver agents that aren't really drugs now because they're just too difficult to use as drugs.”
Hill is excited by the possibilities. With the technology, he speculates that insulin could be delivered orally instead of injected under the skin. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which typically affect the entire body, could be released directly into a tumor, helping to spare healthy tissue.
The technology could also help patients with better medication compliance. Many drugs, such as antibiotics, must be taken daily over several days. When patients begin feeling better, they may discontinue taking the medication prematurely, leading to drug resistance and other problems.
“SpheroFill allows patients to have effective drug dosing over extended time, so the patient only has to take the drug once or possibly twice,” said Hill.
At MUSC, Hill’s research team is working on testing different polymers that can serve as coatings for the microspheres, with the aim of having different drug-release rates with different coatings, ranging from days to months.
“The cool thing is that you can have microspheres with different thicknesses of coatings or entirely different coatings, which will release materials at different rates,” said Hill. “And we can mix them together to have overlapping or sequential releases of the same or different drugs for an extended period of time,” said Hill.
The team is working on controlling drug release by measuring release rates for different coatings. Once Hill and his team complete this step, they will next study how well the microspheres with the different coatings work as a drug-delivery platform, first in animals and then in humans.
Hill believes that the support from the NSF is an important milestone for Spherofill and is grateful to the MUSC Foundation for Research Development for its help with the application.
“It’s exciting to get this stamp of approval from the NSF,” said Hill. This hard-to-acquire support says that it believes the technology and the company are worth the investment to help with technical development and assistance through its strong commercialization infrastructure. This will also help to open doors for us to partners and customers.”
In addition to improving drug delivery, SpheroFill and its partners also hope to support the South Carolina economy by bringing research and development, high-tech and pharmaceutical jobs to Charleston, Aiken and other areas of the state.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson see that economic potential.
“The funding will allow SpheroFill to create advancements in the medical field, and I appreciate NSF working to help turn this into a reality,” said Graham.
Wilson, too, acknowledged the NSF’s generous funding of SpheroFill’s valuable collaboration.
“The synergy between SpheroFill, the Applied Research Center and the Savannah River National Laboratory has allowed this research to gain momentum, providing transformative opportunities in medical treatments,” said Wilson. “I am grateful that NSF recognized and rewarded the talent here in our community.”
About the Medical University of South Carolina
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 2,000 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eleven hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Fairfield, Florence, Kershaw, Lancaster and Richland counties. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.
MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.6 billion. The more than 20,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.
Issues over $3 million in funds to colleges, universities see more
SCRA has announced the funding of over $3.3 million to selected colleges and universities for translational research projects to address key challenges facing the state’s industrial base. SCRA’s funding is being matched by the academic institutions and industry partners, bringing the total amount of the projects to over $6.7 million.
The projects are being funded through the SCRA-Academia Collaboration Team (SACT) program. The goal of the SACT is to connect industry with multi-institutional academic teams and build bridges among the institutions to foster engagement and advance technologies, many of which will enter the marketplace and lead to the creation of South Carolina-based jobs.
- $1.8 million was awarded to Clemson University to modernize South Carolina’s manufacturing assets to enable Industry 4.0 (the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology). Clemson is partnering with the University of South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, Greenville Technical College, and Trident Technical College.
- $1.2 million was awarded to the University of South Carolina to enable factory-to-factory networking for the future of manufacturing operations. The University is partnering with Clemson University, Greenville Technical College, and Midlands Technical College.
- $305,000 was awarded to Francis Marion University to improve workforce readiness and capabilities in South Carolina. The University is partnering with The Citadel.
“I’m energized by the opportunities and positive outcomes from this intersection of academic research, entrepreneurship, and industry in the state. These collaborations provide the greatest potential for innovation, economic growth, and overall advancement of the region,” said Kella Player, SCRA Program Manager.
SCRA’s program directors and industry advisors will review the progress on these SACT research projects on an ongoing basis. Funds will be provided in stages as milestones are met.
“We are fortunate to have high-quality research and development being conducted at our state’s colleges and universities. Many of the technologies on which they are working today will produce the new companies of tomorrow. It’s a honor for SCRA to support these collaborations,” said Bob Quinn, SCRA Executive Director.
Since 2018, SACT grants have funded 17 collaborations among South Carolina-based academic institutions and 41 industry partners. These projects have produced an 8:1 multiple in additional funding from other sources such as industry and the federal government.
SCRA grants are funded in part by the Industry Partnership Fund (IPF). IPF contributors are South Carolina businesses and individuals who receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit for investing in the state’s innovation economy.
Arthrex, Clemson work to resolve workforce pipeline needs see more
As the biomedical industry continues to expand in South Carolina, so does Arthrex’s need for a specialized workforce.
Arthrex, a company engaged in the research, design and manufacture of minimally invasive surgical technology, announced in 2017 plans for its new $69 million facility and the creation of 1,000 new jobs in Sandy Springs. Kevin Grieff, Arthrex senior vice president of operations, said he expects to reach 1,000 employees by 2024.
A pair of programs with Clemson University helps bridge a divide between science and sales for the company’s future workforce.
Students like T.J. Biondolillo are also recognizing the need for more specialized education, especially when it comes to blending science and business.
“Both of the programs have helped my education immensely,” Biondolillo, a senior majoring in biological sciences, said in a news release. “As a biology student, who for the first two years of college had the goal of one day attending dental school, until I shadowed a neighbor who does medical device sales, I had pretty much no selling experience.”
Soon after the expansion announcement, Arthrex approached Clemson University with an educational partnership opportunity to help students develop the interdisciplinary skills to position them for success in the fast-growing orthopedic medical device field. The result was an educational pilot program designed with the needs of the global medical device industry in mind.
Arthrex has since expanded its partnership with Clemson, which is just 10 miles from the Sandy Springs location.
Working with the academic leaders and the Clemson University Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives, the company has created scholarships and two certificate programs.
“Arthrex takes great pride in its commitment to education and we are pleased to help develop the next generation of highly skilled professionals like Arthrex technology consultants who work with orthopedic surgeons to provide trustworthy technical product support,” Arthrex President and founder Reinhold Schmieding said in the release.
The Sales Innovation Certificate Program and Orthopedic Medical Device Product Specialist certificate programs are designed to enable students from any major to explore medical device technology consulting. Through the programs, students gain knowledge of medical devices and techniques, and gain an introduction to the sales and marketing aspects of medical products. The programs are intended to create a strong pipeline to help support Arthrex’s growing needs in this area, according to the release.
More than 10 students in the Sales Innovation Certificate Program have been hired by Arthrex in the last two years.
“Through the strategic partnership with Arthrex, we have worked together to develop one-of-a-kind workforce development programs to support an integral partner need,” Angie Leidinger, vice president of external affairs for Clemson, said in the release. “The success of the pilot programs has showcased the talent of our faculty and students, and we’re excited about the opportunity to continue engaging with Arthrex in mutually beneficial ways that will strengthen educational outcomes while providing them with top-tier talent.”
After learning about the certificate program, Biondolillo said he jumped at the opportunity to gain the targeted knowledge in medical device sales.
“The Sales Innovation Program has improved my selling skills and taught me the principles of being a great salesperson and the Orthopedic Device Product Specialist Program has improved my product knowledge from materials used in devices to diagnosing issues and being able to properly convey product benefits,” he said in the release.
The Sales Innovation Program coursework is tailored to develop students’ business acumen, selling frameworks and presentation ability in order to equip them for roles in health care and medical device sales or related positions. Through the program, students also take part in real-world challenges, foundational role-play exercises and leadership opportunities, the release said.
The Orthopedic Medical Device Product Specialist Certificate provides students with core competencies in the orthopedic medical device industry with a focus on managing a product throughout its life cycle, including product development and performance relevant to clinical use, and communication of its commercial value.
In addition to the certificate programs that provide students a pathway to learning about medical device sales, the Arthrex Scholars program provides scholarships to those same students, according to the release.
Arthrex Scholars was announced in 2019 as a two-year pilot program, with the first scholarships awarded in 2020. Fifteen students pursuing medical device sales careers will receive $5,000 scholarships and a potential summer internship.
“Under the direction of Ryan Mullins, our Sales Innovation Program has shown an ability to connect students with companies like Arthrex that can potentially lead to sales careers with those organizations,” Jennifer Siemens, department of marketing chair, said in the release. “Arthrex’s investment as an innovation partner in our Sales Innovation Program helps students financially and potentially creates a pipeline to our best and brightest as their next generation of employees.”
Managed by the Department of Marketing and the Sales Innovation Program team, applications open during the fall semester and are awarded the following spring semester.
Arthrex also works with Clemson on several research projects, including a NanoScopeTM Surgical Imaging System reprocessing assessment with bioengineering associate professor Melinda Harma, according to the release.
Lita Nelsen named to MUSC Foundation of Research Development Board see more
CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 7, 2018) – The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Foundation of Research Development (FRD) has elected Lita Nelsen to its board of directors. An international expert in university technology transfer, Nelsen was elected as an at-large member and began her three-year term April 2018.
“I am honored and excited to be part of the MUSC FRD board as it is embarking on an enhanced effort to bring the results of MUSC research to patients through licensing of patents and new software, collaborative research with industry, and formation of new startup companies based on MUSC research results,” she said. “The benefits will extend far beyond MUSC itself, to patients, to companies, and to economic development of the region.”
Having served as Director of the Technology Licensing Office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for nearly 30 years, Nelsen brings a wealth of unprecedented technology transfer experience to MUSC. Currently she works as a consultant in licensing, university technology transfer and entrepreneurship in the US, Europe and Asia.
FRD board chair Arlene Morris said, “It is a pleasure to welcome Lita to the MUSC FRD Board. Her vast experience with innovation, licensing and consulting will bring a dimension to MUSC that will be helpful as we transition our science to help patients and healthcare providers improve therapies.”
Amy Salzhauer, managing partner of Charleston-based Good Growth Capital adds, “I had the good fortune of working with Lita when I was starting companies out of MIT; her leadership was an essential part of the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at MIT for several decades. She is a legend in her field. I am so excited she is bringing her unparalleled expertise and experience to MUSC and to South Carolina.”
Nelsen completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from MIT, as well as earning a master’s degree in management from MIT as a Sloan fellow. Before her position at MIT, she spent 20 years in industry, primarily in the fields of membrane separations, medical devices, and biotechnology.
She is widely published, has lectured in and advised universities in at least 20 countries, and has served on many boards including as president of the Association of University Technology. She was also on the board of Mass Ventures (MTDC) for 20 years, and is currently on the scientific advisory boards of Partners’ Investment Fund and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The United Kingdom’s government awarded her the honor of “Member of the Order of the British Empire” (MBE) for her work with technology transfer institutions throughout the UK.
“Over the past several years we have recruited some of the best technology transfer, industry, and venture capital talent to the FRD Board. We are grateful to have Ms. Nelsen join us and it exemplifies MUSC’s commitment to the commercialization our technologies, “said Michael Rusnak, MUSC FRD executive director.
About the MUSC Foundation for Research Development
MUSC Foundation for Research Development (FRD) has served as MUSC's technology transfer office since 1998. During that period, FRD has filed patent applications on more than 400 technologies, resulting in over 150 U.S. issued patents. Additionally, FRD has executed more than 150 licenses and spun out more than 50 startup companies. MUSC startups have had products approved by the FDA and acquired by publicly traded corporations while attracting substantial investment dollars into South Carolina. Innovations from MUSC, including medical devices, therapies and software, are positively impacting health care worldwide. Please visit us online at http://frd.musc.edu/
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy), and has nearly 14,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.4 billion, with an annual economic impact of more than $3.8 billion and annual research funding in excess of $250 million. MUSC operates a 700-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized children's hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (a National Cancer Institute-designated center), Level I trauma center, Institute of Psychiatry, and the state’s only transplant center. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. For more information on academic programs or clinical services, visit musc.edu. For more information on hospital patient services, visit muschealth.org.