Center for Translational Innovation (CTI) in the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute held its third annual Innovation Day May 18 on the Chicago campus. The event showcased the innovative translational research happening across Northwestern’s enterprise, spanning multiple campuses and clinical affiliates.
“The CTI catalyzes biomedical innovation at the University through promotion of cross-college collaborations and by matching young and established investigators with resources within both the institution and the national Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) network,” said Philip Greenland, MD, Harry W. Dingman Professor of Cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, and director of NUCATS. “I am excited about Innovation Day, as it achieves what NUCATS intends: to accelerate the translation of research discoveries into improvements in human health.”
The event’s keynote speaker, Jack Kessler, MD, Ken and Ruth Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Feinberg and chair of the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, leads Northwestern’s Center of Excellence in Translational Human Stem Cell Research. He presented his research on the factors that influence the growth and differentiation of human embryonic stems cells, which he combines with biomaterials as a means to repair damaged spinal cords.
In addition to Kessler, other investigators shared their work, all of which is supported by NUCATS and the Northwestern Memorial Foundation through the Dixon Translational Research Initiative and the NUCATS CTI pilot grant program. Those speakers included:
- Conrad Epting, MD, assistant professor in the Feinberg Departments of Pediatrics and Pathology, who presented “Hydroxyurea Therapy for Trypanosoma brucei”
- Mitra Hartmann, PhD, associate professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, who presented “Tactile Smart Catheter for Ablation Therapy”
- Wellington Hsu, MD, assistant professor in the Feinberg Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, who presented “A Regenerative Cell and Nanotechnology-based Tissue Engineering Strategy for Spinal Fusion”
- Teri Odom, PhD, associate professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who presented “Targeting Breast Cancer Metastasis Using Gold Nanopyramids”
- P. Hande Ozdinler, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Feinberg, who presented “AAV-targeted Neurotrophic Factor Gene Delivery to Upper Motor Neurons in ALS”
Amy Paller, MD, Walter J. Hamlin Professor of Dermatology at Feinberg and chair of the Department of Dermatology, who presented “Transdermal Delivery of siRNA Nanoconjugates to Suppress Metastatic Melanoma” “The NUCATS awards have been an incredible spring board for my laboratory,” said Paller, who credits the pilot award funding in helping her obtain a new R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “We look forward to further advancing our melanoma research as a result of this support.”
NUCATS administrators also offered details about their pilot funding sources, specifically the upcoming Dixon grant competition. Innovation Day was sponsored by NUCATS, with funding from a CTSA grant through the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.
Chicago Innovation Spotlight
The same day, NUCATS also hosted the first-ever Chicago Innovation Spotlight, which introduced high-potential biomedical investigators and inventors in the late stages of research to about 100 industry scientists, business development professionals, and biomedical investors for possible collaboration.
“These are some of the most creative and exciting biomedical projects from the top scientific minds in Chicago,” said Jim Bray, assistant director of the CTI at NUCATS. “These projects have the potential to enhance health, prevent disease, and create new jobs in the region.”
The event featured investigators from Chicago CTSA institutions, including Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois-Chicago, each of whom had five minutes to pitch their emerging licensing opportunities and startup companies to representatives from businesses like Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, and Abbott Laboratories. Some of the inventions and businesses presented by Northwestern faculty included the use of nanodiamonds to deliver chemotherapy; a smart phone app that tracks patient movement to help calibrate medication dosing and injury rehabilitation; drugs to treat atrial fibrillation; and nanotechnology to effectively deliver synthetic HDL (good cholesterol).
James Tyree, president of Abbott Biotech Ventures, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Tyree, who is responsible for Abbott’s biotechnology business development projects, presented a talk, “Pioneering Healthcare through Corporate Venture Investing.”
“I am so thrilled to see the three institutions gathered here today, as it is my belief that the heart of thriving company formation begins with university collaborations,” he said. “I sense a great interest among you in working together. That attitude will certainly make you successful.”
The Chicago Innovation Spotlight sponsors include NUCATS, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, Illinois Science and Technology Park, and McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff.