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The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) awards up to $50,000 to research projects that meet criteria for eventual commercialization. The hope is that these projects will directly impact the community by being brought to market.

“The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund continues to serve as one of the most effective ways we can help our world-class faculty commercialize their cutting-edge research,” says Wade Fulghum, assistant vice chancellor of the Office of Research Commercialization. “The goal is to provide the critical funding needed to translate technologies to a point where a startup can be formed for commercialization or a license can be executed with an existing company.”

The Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering is excited to announce that two of our department members have been awarded this prestigious fund. This year, six projects were awarded funding and Joint BME members are leading two of the projects that were selected.

written by Kathleen Clardy for Joint BME Communications

Clotting Therapy for Chronic Wound Care

Chronic wounds affect approximately 6.5 million U.S. patients each year, placing a significant medical and financial burden on patients and their families. Some wounds can take months to heal, and others never resolve, leading to long-term complications such as systemic infections, amputations, or even death. The effects of chronic wounds don’t just impact patients, as they may also present challenges within veterinary medicine.

Ashley Brown, an associate professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State’s Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, leads the Advanced Wound Healing Lab at the Biomedical Partnership Center at NC State. Brown has developed fibrin-based nanogels that can assist the body’s own production of cells during healing. Brown has identified an industry partner to obtain neontal cellular materials from pigs, which have a similar structure to human fibrin. The nanogels used for wound therapy are made using easily scalable methods, which don’t require special storage considerations. The nanogels are easy to transport and designed to work for long periods of time during the wound healing process. Brown’s nanogel method can also facilitate delivering drugs directly into wound sites to further the healing process and prevent typical complications, such as infection.

CIF support will be used to conduct pre-clinical trials in rodents, a critical first step in determining its safety and efficacy.

COVID-19 Antibody Tests

Two major limitations of COVID-19 antibody tests are that they are expensive and they can take a long time to process. Today’s tests not only require personnel with specialized skills to process the assays, but they can cost as much as $1,000 per kit and take over six hours to process.

Michael Daniele, an associate professor in NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, together with Stefano Menegatti, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, have developed a “dual affinity ratiometric quenching” (DARQ) assay. This assay will lower testing turnaround time, as well as lower the cost of antibody testing. The aim of this assay is to reduce processing to as little as two minutes, while keeping the cost at about $2 per test. Menegatti and Daniele’s technology will have wide application reach, from primary care to clinical laboratory testing. The assay is also scalable for future use with other antigens. Labeled as a “simple mix-and-read” assay, other antigen applications can be explored for cancer, autoimmune disorders and degenerative diseases.

CIF support will be used to promote product development with their co-inventors, graduate students Katie Kilgour and Brendan Turner, who is a Joint BME graduate student. The fund will be used to produce DARQ kits for testing, which will include validating assay quantification of anti-Sars-CoV-2 antibodies in patient samples, scaling for manufacture, and evaluating and quantifying the shelf-life of the DARQ kits.

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