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Emory innovators step into the spotlight
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Faculty entrepreneurs and their discoveries were recognized at the Office of Technology Transfer’s 17th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation on March 23.

All year, Emory faculty research and develop groundbreaking technologies with the potential to help millions around the world. When those technologies are patented, licensed and commercialized, it’s cause for celebration.

Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) honors the school’s innovators with its Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation. This year’s 17th Annual Celebration included winners specializing in a range of disciplines including ethnobotany, radiology, nursing and antiviral studies.

Learn more about the award-winning projects below — and get to know the researchers behind them in these Q&A interviews.

Innovation of the year

Methods in improving MRI quantification and accuracy

Phillip Zhe Sun, PhD

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a well-known and well-utilized non-invasive technique to detect metabolic changes in the human body. CEST (chemical exchange saturation transfer) MRI, CEST intravoxle inhomogeneity correction (CIVIC) and QUASS (quantitative steady state) analyses are advanced molecular MRI techniques that are promising to improve the specificity and sensitivity of molecular MRI scans. CEST MRI exploits the protons in specific proteins and metabolites that undergo chemical exchange with bulk tissue water, allowing for the detection of commonly less visible signals. However, CEST MRI depends on the scan conditions and suffers relatively low specificity and accuracy. QUASS analysis not only overcomes the confounding impact of scan protocols to standardize CEST measurement but also enables highly specific and accurate CEST quantification. Furthermore, by measuring the genuine CEST signals, QUASS can provide information about tissue composition, such as abnormal metabolite concentration and tissue pH, for diagnostic purposes. Sun has shared a slew of discoveries related to QUASS development to improve post-image processing with our office. Some of them include the extension of QUASS for fast multi-slab multi-slice CEST MRI. In addition, Sun has developed an intravoxel correction of CEST MRI and spectroscopy, dubbed the CIVIC approach.

Deal of the year

License with Pfizer, Inc.: Antiviral compounds for the treatment of COVID-19

Raymond Schinazi, PhD; Franck Amblard, PhD; Mahesh Kasthuri, PhD; Nicolas Biteau, PhD;
Longhu Zhou, PhD; Zhe Chen, PhD; and HongWang Zhang, PhD

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to evolve since its onset, impacting the lives of people around the globe. Additional effective treatment options to combat the disease continue to be in high demand. In 2022, Emory University entered into an exclusive license agreement and research collaboration with Pfizer, Inc. to advance research that may help fill this unmet need. Under this agreement, Emory researchers in the Schinazi laboratory will work with Pfizer to identify and evaluate potential antiviral compounds to treat COVID-19. This collaboration creates an opportunity to progress the discovery of a drug or drug combination that would be safe and less likely to select for resistant viruses. The aim is to discover a drug that will prevent or rapidly cure SARS-CoV-2 and prevent progression of the disease to long COVID. Schinazi and his team have a long track record in the discovery and development of antiviral agents for treating infectious diseases. His research group consists of a dynamic team with expertise spanning multiple fields, including medicinal chemistry, virology, molecular biology and immunology, among others.

Start-up of the year

Focused Cryo

David Prologo, MD

Focused Cryo was co-founded in 2019 by Prologo and is based in Kennesaw, Georgia. Focused Cryo is developing a new, easier-to-use cryoablation system that provides instant feedback and improved directional control. The benefits of this system will allow for significant improvement in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other ailments. The shortcomings of existing cryoablation technologies have led to unwanted tissue damage and further complications. Focused Cryo’s proposed technology would address these issues to deliver a treatment that is safer and more effective. In 2022, Focused Cryo entered into an exclusive license agreement with Emory University for its innovations.

Significant event of the year

Nyra Medical

Murali Padala, PhD

Nyra Medical is a medical device company based in Atlanta, Georgia, that was co-founded by Padala in 2018. The company’s focus is on reimagining trans-catheter heart valve repair, making it simpler and individually tailored for each patient. Nyra Medical possesses a portfolio of devices and tools that helps to achieve a reproducible outcome without adverse side effects for the patient. In November 2022, Nyra Medical announced the closing of a $20 million Series A financing to support their technology through early feasibility clinical studies.

Corporate partnership of the year

Bristol Myers Squibb

Anant Madabhushi, PhD

Madabhushi is a global leader in developing artificial intelligence (AI) to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and other diseases. Madabhushi joined Emory in 2022 and holds a primary faculty appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, as well as secondary appointments in the Departments of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Biomedical Informatics and Pathology. Anant and his team, through a sponsored research agreement finalized in November 2022 with Bristol Myers Squibb, are investigating how to use their AI tools to identify non-small cell lung cancer treatment patients that would respond to immunotherapy. The aim of Madabhushi’s research is to predict treatment response using radiomic, pathomic and combined radiomic and pathomic tools, with an overall goal to advance efforts to get the right treatment to the patients who will benefit the most.

EmpowHER award

Cassandra Quave, PhD

Quave is a leader in natural product drug discovery research. At Emory, she is curator of the herbarium and associate professor of dermatology and human health. She teaches courses on medicinal plants, microbiology and pharmacology. Quave focuses her research on analyzing plant-based medicine to help combat infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance. Her work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, industry contracts and philanthropy. Quave also is a founder of two start-up companies, PhyoTEK LLC and Verdant Scientific, both translating her laboratory discoveries into products for future clinical use. In 2022, a suite of her technologies was licensed by Emory to Verdant Scientific.

Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity award (IDEAward)

Rasheeta Chandler, PhD, RN

Chandler is an associate professor with tenure within the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Her research is focused on HIV prevention in minority populations and comprehensive sexual health promotion, which is supported by funding from the National Institute on Nursing Research. Chandler has generated new knowledge and clinically relevant strategies for improving health education among young Black women by incorporating social media and digital technologies into the education process. She has been recognized many times for her contributions to minority health and nursing.

About Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer

Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer has almost 40 years of success in guiding scientific discoveries from the laboratory into the marketplace. Emory currently manages more than 1,800 technologies, which has led to the formation of 130 companies and more than 65 new products in the marketplace, some of which — like the discovery of several HIV drugs — have offered major health and societal benefit. Since FY 2000, the university has filed more than 3,900 patent applications and has been issued over 600 U.S. patents. In that time, Emory has executed more than 800 license agreements, resulting in more than $884 million in licensing revenue, thereby creating additional funding for new and ongoing research.

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