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March 2021 GRA Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
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UGA, GRA recruit Parkinson’s researcher as Eminent Scholar


A new research chair at the University of Georgia honoring former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson will be filled by a prominent scientist breaking new ground on Parkinson’s disease. Anu Kanthasamy, who founded a neuroscience research center at Iowa State University 15 years ago, arrives this fall as a GRA Eminent Scholar and will launch a research center for brain science and neurological disorders at UGA. • At Iowa State, Kanthasamy and colleagues explore why neurons and cells lose their function and ultimately die in Parkinson’s and other diseases. He has identified biomarkers to help detect Parkinson’s early and discovered potential new drugs for treatment — and to bring both innovations to patients, Kanthasamy has founded two companies. • “This is a significant moment for our research enterprise as we build our scientific capacity to help so many who face Parkinson’s and related conditions,” says UGA President Jere W. Morehead. • GRA President Susan Shows says Kanthasamy’s success in research and entrepreneurship “represents the kind of impact we’re working to sustain for the benefit of Georgia and our future economy.” • Read about Anu Kanthasamy’s appointment >

Emory’s COVID-19 drug shows great promise

One of the best hopes for a single-pill treatment of COVID-19 is a drug discovered at a GRA-backed enterprise at Emory— and the drug is now in late-stage testing. Molnupiravir, an antiviral treatment, “eliminated infectious coronavirus from nose swabs within five days in all of the people taking it,” Emory reports. The drug works by interfering with the virus’s replication. According to an earlier report in Science magazine: “Because it is a pill, molnupiravir can be given early in the disease cycle, just when SARS-CoV-2 replication typically peaks, in contrast to injectable drugs such as remdesivir.” The drug has its roots in DRIVE, Emory’s nonprofit drug development company. Last year, it was licensed to Ridgeback Therapeutics and, later, Merck; it’s now in Phase 2/3 clinical trials. GRA investments supported the drug’s development at Emory and its evaluation at Georgia State University. • Read Emory’s news release >Here’s the article in Science >

UGA is no. 1 for getting new products to market

A new national survey shows the University of Georgia ranks no. 1 in the U.S. for turning its research discoveries into products developed by industry partners. Conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers, the survey measures university startup activities and intellectual property licensing. The findings are then applied to categories in technology transfer. With 53 products added to the marketplace in fiscal year 2019, UGA reclaimed its former no. 1 spot — and marked its seventh consecutive year in the top 5. “Our success starts with the innovative research done by our outstanding faculty, staff and students,” says UGA's VP for Research David Lee, “but it also depends on the dedication and expertise of the Innovation Gateway staff.” • See how and why UGA ranks high >

Hypercell protects livestock — and people

GRA’s newest “Watch This Company” feature focuses on a UGA-launched enterprise that has found two ways to control infectious disease in livestock. Hypercell Technologies, formed in 2012, has developed a faster, more affordable diagnostic tool to test animals for disease. Unlike existing PCR tests, it can be administered and processed onsite, providing results in an hour as opposed to days. Hypercell is also engineering an antibody treatment for livestock, which carries several advantages over vaccine-based approaches. Both technologies were developed around the pioneering work of GRA Eminent Scholar Ralph Tripp (above) and UGA colleague Leslie Patrick Jones. A partnership with Smithfield, a subsidiary of the world’s largest producer of pork, is enabling Hypercell to advance its innovations to market. By preventing and slowing the transmission of disease in livestock, Hypercell is also protecting humans from prevent future pandemics. • More on why Hypercell is worth watching >

MSM gets $1.1M grant to expand telehealth

More rural and underserved areas of Georgia will have access to telemedicine through Morehouse School of Medicine, thanks to a $1.1 million grant to MSM from the Truist Foundation. MHC Telehealth, which uses videoconferencing technology to treat patients in remote areas, experienced a 700 percent increase in demand during the pandemic. The new funds will allow MSM to “reach more patients and improve outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society,” according to VP for Institutional Advancement Bennie L. Harris. The Truist Foundation grant will also help MSM launch a unit in telehealth-digital epidemiology. Morehouse Healthcare launched MHC Telehealth in 2018. • Details about the grant >

Ga. Tech center enters European partnership

Two European research institutions are teaming up with a Georgia Tech-based research center to develop ways to treat chronic disease with therapies based on human cells. The NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT), headquartered at Georgia Tech, will work with partners in Ireland and Northern Ireland to prepare for clinical testing of a hydrogel that brings therapeutic cells into the body. CMaT received early investment from GRA; it works to transform the manufacture of cell‐based therapeutics for broad industry and clinical use. CMaT’s partners in the new endeavor are National University of Ireland Galway and Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. • More about the agreement >

GRA-backed startups make TAG ‘Top 40’ list

Let’s give a round of applause to startups Apptega, Codoxo and Gimme for being named in March to the list of “Top 40 Innovation Companies in Georgia.” Compiled by the Technology Association of Georgia, the list recognizes “the most innovative and impactful technology companies” in the state, according to TAG President and CEO Larry Williams. All three received investment from GRA and GRA Venture Fund. • Browse TAG's full list >See all the GRA Venture Fund companies >

Ga. Tech Eminent Scholar receives high honors

Our congratulations to GRA Eminent Scholar John Crittenden for receiving a pair of recent honors. John was the 2020 recipient of the Simon W. Freese Environmental Engineering Award, which recognizes extraordinary accomplishments in using scientific principles and research findings “to solve the most challenging problems in water quality.” He was also recently chosen to become a member of the European Union Academy of Sciences. Well done, John! • More on John Crittenden >

GRA represented in Georgia Bio’s Helix awards

Georgia Bio’s annual Golden Helix Awards is still a day away, but the state’s life science industry organization announced the winners in March. This year’s list included several people with connections to GRA:

  • David Lee, vice president for research at UGA, will receive the Georgia Bio Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development in Georgia’s life sciences industry.
     
  • GRA President Susan Shows joins E. Jane Caraway of the Georgia Department of Economic Development as recipients of the Georgia Bio Industry Growth Award. The award is given to those who have made “an extraordinary contribution to the growth of the life sciences industry in Georgia.”
     
  • The leaders of GRA-backed companies Jackson Medical (James Rains) and Metaclipse Therapeutics (Shaker Reddy) will receive the Community Award, presented to select individuals “worthy of special recognition.” 

          See all the award winners >

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