Nov/Dec 2019 Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
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University scientists share the spotlight in Georgia Trend article

The work of enterprising scientists at Georgia’s universities attracts investment to the state, answers critical needs and strengthens the state’s reputation, according to a feature story in the November issue of Georgia Trend magazine. Titled “Banking on Breakthroughs,” the article explores the research and entrepreneurship of several GRA Eminent Scholars across the state. The article points out that “Georgia’s done well in attracting venture capital” for university startups — more than $1.2 billion — “and the state is also attracting researchers looking to start their own companies.” It also notes that more scientists are working together across universities. • Access the article here >

Precision med company acquires AKESOgen

Fast-growing AKESOgen, launched out of Emory in 2010, has been acquired by Tempus, which uses artificial intelligence to advance precision medicine. AKESOgen — a State of Georgia “Small Business Rock Star” for 2018 — is a genomics and genetics company that received early investment from GRA; and last spring, it joined the portfolio of GRA Venture Fund. “AKESOgen’s breadth of capabilities strategically complement our own,” says Eric Lefkofsky, founder and CEO of Tempus. “We look forward to bringing the power of data and artificial intelligence to healthcare and advancing the field of precision medicine together.” Lefkofsky has founded a number of other companies, including Groupon. • Read a news story about the acquisition >See GRA's short feature on AKESOgen > 

Augusta scientists help kids fight tumors

Some brain tumors in children fend off the immune system by using an enzyme called IDO as a weapon. But scientists at Augusta University are studying whether adding an inhibitor to IDO will help children turn the tables on that fight. Funded by a $3 million NIH grant, the study is enrolling 121 patients in a clinical trial at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Georgia Cancer Center in Augusta and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The trial involves giving the IDO inhibitor, called indoximod, to patients in combination with other treatments. Earlier findings showed that adding the inhibitor empowers the child’s immune system “to more vigorously attack the tumor.” Leading the study are Drs. Theodore Johnson and David Munn, pediatric oncologists at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center (which is headed by GRA Eminent Scholar Jorge Cortes). • More about the study >

Emory startup MapHabit gains acclaim

GRA-backed startup MapHabit has been in the spotlight this fall. Launched out of Emory, the company has an app to help people with dementia and their caregivers better navigate everyday life. In October, the National Institute on Aging awarded the company first prize in a national competition for “technology that improves care for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.” And in December, the website Hypepotamus published a feature on MapHabit, noting the app’s “ability to take complex concepts and simplify them into pictures and short text.” In people who have Alzheimer’s, the hippocampus area of the brain is damaged, which impairs memory. However, accessing memory for habits takes place in the neostriatum, an area far less impacted by neurocognitive disorders. MapHabit capitalizes on this difference. • Read the Hypepotamus story >See how MapHabit works >

UGA Scholar moves vaccine into trials

To the average healthy person, the virus RSV is a nuisance, akin to getting a cold. But to the very young and very old, it can be deadly — RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) claims the lives of more than 14,000 in the U.S. each year. Now, GRA Eminent Scholar Ralph Tripp and UGA colleagues have developed a new vaccine for RSV. After discovering a molecule inside a protein that enables RSV to dodge a patient’s immune response, Tripp engineered the vaccine to target that protein, the G protein. Now headed to human clinical trials, the vaccine is the centerpiece of a fascinating story published as part of UGA’s “Great Commitments” series, which showcases the university’s scientists and their world-changing work. • Read the feature >

Sanguina leaders join Forbes’ annual ‘30’ list

Two executives with Sanguina, launched out of the Emory-Georgia Tech lab of Wilbur Lam, have been named to the “30 Under 30” list by Forbes Magazine. CEO and cofounder Erika Tyburski and CTO Rob Mannino were among the honorees in the healthcare sector of the list. Sanguina develops and distributes easy-to-use and stand-alone point-of-care diagnostic tests, including the FDA-approved AnemoChek for anemia. • Check out the Forbes list >Read the writeup on Sanguina >

Our good wishes to two U.S. Senators

Gov. Brian Kemp in December named GRA Trustee Kelly Loeffler to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate following the retirement of Sen. Johnny Isakson. A longtime friend and supporter of GRA, Sen. Isakson received the Legacy Award from GRA and the Georgia Department of Economic Development in 2015. And Loeffler has been a member of the GRA Board of Trustees since 2012. Our best wishes to both senators!


Jarrard honored among women on boards

Congratulations to former GRA Venture Fund Managing Director Michelle Jarrard, who in November received a high honor for women serving on corporate boards. Jarrard was named the 2019 recipient of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Award, bestowed by the women’s advocacy organization OnBoard. The president and CEO of GRA-backed BioCircuit Technologies, Jarrard currently serves on the boards of Crawford & Company, Lazard and Axion Biosystems (a GRA Venture Fund company). Past recipients of the award include GRA Trustee Lizanne Thomas and former Trustee Carol Tomé. • Here’s the news release >

A salute to our partners in the sky: Delta

Our heartfelt thanks to the good people of Delta Air Lines, which announced its continued support of GRA this fall. Our Alliance could not operate without the backing of individuals, companies and foundations, and we are especially proud and appreciative of our partnership with Delta. Thank you! • Visit Delta’s website >

Speaking of supporting a good cause...

It's the most wonderful time of the year — especially for a nonprofit enterprise like GRA. As you contemplate your year-end giving, please think of us. While GRA invests state dollars, we’re a 501(c)(3) that relies on the generosity of others. Your gift keeps us working to help Georgia’s university scientists accomplish more. • Make a tax-deductible gift here >

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