OHSU grantees hope to regenerate nerves, create better dental composites and treat breast cancer

Oregon Health & Science University’s BioScience Innovation Program awarded three technology development grants to scientists with promising early-stage research projects.

The program leverages funds through the University Venture Development Fund, a state tax-credit program established in 2003 to further commercialization of university research. The funds support promising technologies and helps move them to the “proof of concept” stage, so they can attract outside investment or venture capital.

The 2015 awards are as follows:

Beth Habecker and Michael Cohen, who both teach in the physiology and pharmacology department, will split a grant of nearly $60,000 to fund their research into nerve regeneration. They are trying to evaluate and develop two compounds in a mouse model.

Dr. Carmem Pfeifer, assistant professor of dentistry, was awarded $45,000 to develop dental composites. Pfeifer is trying to scale up the synthesis of a novel resin and coupling agents that increase the integrity of composites long-term and produce as esthetically pleasing composite material for dental restorations.

Xiangshu Xiao, an assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology, was awarded $60,000 to study the properties of a novel small molecule in a breast cancer mouse model. Ziao will also study and determining oral efficacy and developing derivative compounds.

Early stage funding is the most difficult to secure because the commercial potential is still a long way off.

Cohen, who is working on the nerve regeneration research, said he’s had a lot of interest in his project, but it needs to get past the preliminary stage to receive VC funding. His testing so far has been on neurons grown in culture.

“We’ve talked to various VC folks,” Cohen said. “What people want to know is if it works in an animal. That’s the next step. If we can show efficacy in a mouse model, we have a good shot at securing funding to start a company and develop it further.”

Many kinds of injuries and diseases, including spinal cord injuries and heart attacks, can lead to nerve damage.

“One of the major barriers for recovery is the inability of nerves to regenerate,” Cohen said. “If we can find ways to do that, we could reverse the deleterious effects of these diseases.”


Jun 5, 2015
Elizabeth Hayes
Portland Business Journal

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