August 2016 Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
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Infectious disease
expert joins UGA as a
GRA Eminent Scholar 

The scientist who discovered a protein element key to a vaccine against a deadly lung infection is the newest GRA Eminent Scholar. Karen Norris, who starts at the University of Georgia on September 1, is regarded as one of the nation’s leading researchers in infectious diseases. She was the first to identify the biological substance for a vaccine that fights Pneumocystis pneumonia, a life-threatening infection in people with weakened immune systems. Norris was recruited to Georgia from the University of Pittsburgh. • More about Karen Norris >

Series C round wraps for Iconic Therapeutics

GRA Ventures’ early-stage investment in Iconic Therapeutics continues to be leveraged: This month, the company closed on a $10 million add-on to its Series C round of investing, bringing the total amount raised for the round to $48.5 million. Iconic, which grew out of Emory University and Yale University, is developing drug treatments for eye diseases and cancerous tumors. • Read the news release > 


Emory discovery may be key to optimizing checkpoint inhibitor drugs for cancer

Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) scientists have moved closer to making a class of cancer-fighting drugs more effective. In an article published in Nature this month, Sejin Im and colleagues from around the world revealed the features that identify which T-cells can be reawakened after initially being stopped by a molecule. Years ago, GRA Eminent Scholar and EVC Director Rafi Ahmed discovered why T-cells — the armed guards of the immune system — gave up their fight against cancer. His seminal finding gave rise to checkpoint inhibitor drugs, and this month’s discovery is believed to help optimize these drugs to help more patients. • Read more >

Georgia Tech scientists develop model
to correct imbalances from schizophrenia

Beyond suffering from hallucinations, people with schizophrenia struggle with the everyday learning, planning and processing needed to get through life — functioning that’s called “working memory.” Now, GRA Eminent Scholar Eberhart Voit (above) and his Georgia Tech colleague Zhen Qi have developed a remarkable interactive model to improve understanding and treatment of working memory in people with the disease. Built on data from thousands of studies on brain chemistry and schizophrenia, the model gives doctors and researchers a way to see how adjusting one medication would affect other chemicals that also influence working memory. • Video and article here >

Augusta University researcher's discovery
leads to powerful new hand sanitizer 

An Augusta University scientist has discovered yet another commercial use for a chemical in green tea: a powerful hand sanitizer. Stephen Hsu, a professor and researcher who once farmed green tea in China, discovered how a molecule called EGCG could protect against a wide range of viruses. The discovery first led to the launch of a cold sore lip balm product, AverTeaX; it’s now the formulation of a new hand sanitizer branded as ProtecTeaV. Those and other products based on Dr. Hsu’s research are offered through the GRA Ventures company Camellix. • Read a story about the new hand sanitizer > 

Emory center conducts Zika vaccine trials

The nation is once again turning to Emory University’s Hope Clinic to accelerate protection from a national health threat. This time, the Clinic is staging an NIH-sponsored clinical trial for a vaccine that defends against infection from the Zika virus. The Hope Clinic is one of just three sites that is assessing the vaccine’s safety as well as its ability to generate a protective immune response. In 2009, the Hope Clinic was one of a handful of facilities to evaluate potential new vaccines against the H1N1 flu strain, which at the time was feared to be the world’s next influenza pandemic. • More on the announcement >  • Watch a 2-minute video on the Clinic’s 2009 heroics >

CellectCell awarded grant to advance
novel technology that isolates stem cells

The maker of a technology that quickly isolates target stem cells from a varied sample can now build on its earlier success, thanks to a second investment from GRA Ventures. GRA's commercialization program provided a grant this month to CellectCell, Inc., a company launched out of Georgia Tech that sorts and purifies cells for research and drug development. By collecting more than 95 percent of the target cells in about five minutes, CelectCell's technology helps researchers obtain specific cell types much more efficiently. • More on the announcement > 
Applause for startup and scholar

Two notable accolades to share this month:
  • For the second consecutive year, GRA Ventures company AKESOgen made the Inc. 500 list of “America’s Fastest-Growing Companies.” AKESOgen, which conducts genomic analysis and biomarker profiling for clients in biotech, pharmaceuticals and academic and government research, came in at no. 240 in the list (and 23rd among the fastest-growing healthcare companies.) More >
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) welcomed GRA Eminent Scholar John Crittenden as a Fellow this month. ASCE Fellows are a select group of members who have developed creative solutions that have changed lives around the world. Crittenden, of Georgia Tech, Crittenden is one of the world’s leading thinkers on the holistic design of sustainable water systems for urban and agricultural use. More >
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