September 2016 Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
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Georgia Tech's Rohatgi to build on solar-cell success

Solar technology is often a tradeoff between affordability and energy efficiency: Powerful solar cells are expensive to manufacture, which is one reason solar energy isn't more commonplace. But GRA Eminent Scholar Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi of Georgia Tech has repeatedly broken records for engineering high-efficiency cells that can be produced faster and at lower cost. This month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded yet another research grant to Rohatgi — $1.1 million as part of its SunShot Initiative — to continue pushing the limits of solar cell technology. A new 2-minute GRA “Breakthrough” video, airing on WPBA-TV, traces the arc of Rohatgi’s pioneering work in the field. • Watch the video >   Read about Rohatgi’s DoE grant >

Five new Trustees join GRA's board

Two prominent corporate leaders will be joined by three new academic appointees as the newest members of GRA’s Board of Trustees. The Home Depot CFO and Executive VP Carol Tomé and SunTrust Corporate Executive VP Mark Chancy were named to the Board this month. They will be joined by ex officio members Claire Sterk, president of Emory University, who succeeds retired President James Wagner, and Steve Wrigley, the interim chancellor of the University System of Georgia, who succeeds retiring Chancellor Hank Huckaby. GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Stice of UGA was named to replace Scott Jackson in the one-year term for Eminent Scholars. The Board also elected Larry L. Gellerstedt III as its chair and Tommy M. Holder as vice-chair. • See all GRA Board members > 


FDA OKs clinical testing of Parkinson's drug

Georgia-based Inhibikase Therapeutics will begin two proof-of-principle studies of its drug to slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Inhibikase, which received GRA Ventures investment, will conduct simultaneous double-blinded clinical trials to evaluate its drugs Tasigna® and Sprycel® in patients with Stage 2 and Stage 3 Parkinson’s. The drugs — classified as novel Abelson tyrosine kinase inhibitors, a category that includes Gleevec® — have been validated in pre-clinical animal models for several therapeutic indications in the brain. • More on the announcement > 

NIH grant will advance Abeome exploration

The success of earlier studies that explored new treatments for a type of high cholesterol prompted the National Institutes of Health to award a $1.5 million grant to Abeome. The grant will allow Abeome to conduct pre-clinical tests of monoclonal antibodies — immune cells cloned from a single parent cell — to address elevated LDL cholesterol, one of the three primary risk factors for heart disease. Abeome, a GRA Ventures company, discovered the functional antibodies, which were later found to bind to a target protein called PCSK9; the new NIH grant builds on that earlier work. • More about the grant >

Study: Georgians value research investment

An overwhelming majority of Georgians place a high value on medical and scientific research but nearly three-fourths of the state’s citizens believe the U.S. is not spending enough on research, according to a study published this month by Research!America. The study, which gauges opinions from both the state and U.S. populations, also revealed that 86 percent of Georgians say medical research is important to the Georgia economy, and that 53 percent would be willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes to increase research. Research!America President Mary Woolley presented the findings at the Georgia Bio Innovation Summit, held Sept. 28 in Cobb County. • Get the full report > 

Chemical in wine, plant foods found to be a potential weapon against inflammation

Can a glass of red wine help control asthma? Well, not exactly — but a GRA Eminent Scholar did discover that a compound in red wine, grape skins and other plant foods can help mitigate inflammation linked to respiratory diseases. In an article published this month in Scientific Reports, J.D. Li of Georgia State University chronicles how the the chemical resveratrol suppresses a bacterial pathogen that causes respiratory-related inflammation. Resveratrol, Li and colleagues discovered, increases production of a molecule called MyD88s, which helps regulate the pathogen, thus keeping inflammation in check. Their finding could be used to develop new ways to treat inflammatory diseases. • Read about the discovery >

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