Category : Latest News

Home/Archive by Category "Latest News"

Rowan engineering prof lands prestigious Science Center grant

mohammad                     Will use $100,000 on biomedical surgical device

February 16, 2017

 

Patients with broken legs soon may undergo more successful surgeries thanks to a robot.

That’s the goal of Dr. Mohammad Abedin-Nasab, a research assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey.

Abedin-Nasab has developed a robotic device that can assist surgeons in treating patients with broken femurs and other bones in a manner that will enable them to heal a little faster with fewer complications.

University City Science Center awards grant

The University City Science Center is helping him reach that goal.

The Philadelphia-based organization recently awarded him one of three QED Program grants of $100,000 to develop proof of concept for “Robossis™: Orthopedic Surgical Robot.” More than 60 researchers applied for funding; the Science Center awarded the other grants to professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University. The QED Program helps to design projects that are milestone-driven and focused on answering key questions that will help move technologies from the lab into the marketplace, according to the Science Center. The Science Center provides mentors for the researchers and works with university Technology Transfer Offices to help bring products to market.

“Americans suffer more than 350,000 femur fractures a year that require surgery,” said Abedin-Nasab, who is director of the Surgical Robotics Lab in Rowan’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He noted current surgical protocols require a surgeon to manually align the bones in a femur fracture using a trial-and-error approach, an approach that leads to malalignment of bone fragments 18 percent of the time.

Device helps surgeons

Robossis will assist surgeons with pre-operative planning and actual surgery.

The metal device includes a circular opening to accommodate a broken leg. Using imaging software connected to an X-ray machine and integrated into the robot so that it can provide a 3D image of the leg, Robossis will enable surgeons to get a clear picture of the break and visualize the optimum path of the robot to follow as it exerts pressure to align the broken pieces of bone. Surgeons then can use their preferred technique to perform the procedure.

“We’re not going to replace the surgeon; we’re just going to aid the surgeon,” said the professor, who has been working on Robossis for three years.

He will use the Science Center funding and matching $100,000 from Rowan to continue work on his prototype and assess its functionality and production feasibility. Abedin-Nasab has one international patent  and three pending U.S. patents on Robossis, named for “robot” and “ossis,” Latin for “bone.”

“Robossis will benefit surgeons and hospitals, as well as patients,” said Abedin-Nasab, who earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in his native Iran. “The robot will enable physicians to minimize the time and money spent on the procedures by decreasing surgery times and avoiding repeated operations.”

Improves life for patients

For patients, the added benefits include less exposure to radiation (going from about 80 X-rays to as few as two), less pain and faster recovery, decreased time in the operating room, fewer and shorter hospital stays, a lower risk of infection and less blood loss.

According to Abedin-Nasab, it takes a tremendous amount of force to align broken femur bones, and that increases the danger of soft tissue damage. Complicated cases can lead to greater blood loss, secondary infections and possible longer hospital stays.

“Unfortunately, the potential problems of this trial-and-error approach are widely accepted as limitations of current medical practice, due to the lack of a better alternative,” Abedin-Nasab said.

In the near future, he and his team will develop the software needed to interface between X-ray equipment and the robot and will conduct experiments on artificial bones.

This is the first time the Science Center has awarded QED funding to a Rowan professor. Working with Abedin-Nasab on the project are biomedical engineering undergraduate students Daniel Infusino, Matthew Goldner, Nicholas Silva and Caroline Smith.

About the University City Science Center

Located in the heart of uCity Square, the Science Center is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that catalyzes and connects innovation to entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. For 50+ years, the Science Center has supported startups, research, and economic development in the life sciences, healthcare, physical sciences and emerging technology sectors. As a result, graduate firms and current residents of the Science Center’s incubator support one out of every 100 jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region and drive $13 billion in economic activity in the region annually. By providing resources and programming for any stage of a business’s lifecycle, the Science Center helps scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators take their concepts from idea to IPO – and beyond. For more information about the Science Center, go to www.sciencecenter.org.

About QED

QED is a proof-of-concept program that provides business development support for academic researchers developing early-stage life science and healthcare IT technologies.  The key goal is to reduce the business risk in these early-stage projects, increasing their attractiveness to follow-on investments.  Each of the recent 11 selected finalists were paired with several business partners to further develop their proof of concept and to develop a financial plan moving forward.  Of the 11 finalists, Abedin-Nasab was then selected as one of three awardees who will each receive a $100,000 grant from QED. Rowan will match that $100,000 for him to carry out the proof-of-concept plan and to further validate his research.

Pfizer acquires gene therapy firm Bamboo Therapeutics, a Rowan portfolio company, for $150 million

 

September 13, 2016

 

Children born with Canavan disease – a fatal childhood neurological condition that usually causes death by age 10 – may one day lead a longer and healthier life thanks to Dr. Paola Leone, of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Internationally, she is recognized as a pioneer of gene therapy directed to the central nervous system.

At RowanSOM, where she is a professor and director of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in the Department of Cell Biology, she is known as a tireless researcher committed to discovering treatments for conditions such as Canavan disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.

A first

Most notably, she and her team have administered to the brain, for the first time, a genetically modified virus that expressed the healthy gene that is otherwise mutated in Canavan disease, a process that may change – and save – lives.

That has an even greater chance than ever now that Pfizer Inc., the New York City-headquartered corporation that is one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies, is part of the picture and one day may produce therapeutics based on her work.

Commercialization

In July 2015, Rowan University entered into an asset transfer agreement with Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc. to commercialize a novel gene therapy developed by Leone and her team in the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in Stratford, New Jersey, for the treatment of Canavan disease, one of the most common and complex degenerative cerebral diseases in infants.

Bamboo Therapeutics, a clinical-stage company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that develops gene therapies for serious neurological genetic diseases, acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Rowan University’s proposed treatment for Canavan disease.

The Cell and Gene Therapy Center was the first to demonstrate the long-term safety and benefit of a virus-based gene therapy in a clinical setting, and the study represented the first gene therapy study for a clinical neurological application ever approved by the National Institutes of Health as an Investigational New Drug application.

Acquired by Pfizer

Recently, Pfizer acquired Bamboo Therapeutics for $150 million and potential milestone payments in a deal to expand the drug giant’s presence in the experimental field.

According to Pfizer, it “will take over the company’s treatments in development, which haven’t yet been tested in people, as well as Bamboo’s manufacturing facility.”

The corporation noted, “Gene therapy – a growing and experimental technology (whose) backers hope can be effective after only one treatment – treats diseases caused by a genetic mutation by giving the patient a working copy of a missing or dysfunctional gene. No gene therapy drugs have been approved in the U.S., though many are being tested.”

“Validation of potential”

“The acquisition of Bamboo Therapeutics by Pfizer is a validation of the potential of gene therapy to provide viable therapeutic strategies for currently intractable diseases. The contribution of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center at RowanSOM to this partnership is the result of many years of research effort, institutional commitment and patient advocacy for this therapeutic platform,” Leone said. “It is especially pleasing to see recognition of the value of translational research for Canavan disease in contributing to the bigger picture so tirelessly and passionately promoted by affected patients and their families during the last 20 years.”

Bamboo will be eligible for additional payments of as much as $495 million if the company’s therapies clear various testing and regulatory benchmarks, Pfizer noted.

First sale of equity

Leone’s intellectual property was one of seven licenses Pfizer acquired; the others are owned by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Rowan, UNC, and the University of Pennsylvania are widely recognized university leaders in gene therapy. This is the first time Rowan has sold equity in a firm.

“We were able to strategically identify a company that was favorably positioned for this kind of acquisition eventually by a large pharmaceutical company,” said Mina Zion, director of Technology Commercialization at Rowan. “We cannot imagine a better commercialization path than for our technology to pass through the hands of Pfizer.”

Rowan is sharing in the commercialization income and also received funding to promote research discovery and development focusing on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. The University also will receive royalties on the sale of treatments that arise from the work done by Leone, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Padua in Italy.

Major step for Rowan

“This is the first intellectual property by a Rowan University faculty member to be commercialized by a major pharmaceutical company,” said Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam, vice president for Research.

Dr. Ali Houshmand, Rowan’s president, said, “This is a major step for Rowan University as we continue to grow our research and innovation initiatives. Most importantly, Dr. Leone’s work and affiliation with Bamboo – and Pfizer’s recent purchase – have the potential to make a huge medical impact that’s going to change people’s lives.”

 

 

Inspira land purchase promises new opportunities for Rowan medical schools

February 17, 2016

The Rowan University Board of Trustees authorized the University’s administration on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to negotiate a letter of intent that will lead to the sale of 100 acres of land to Inspira Health Network for the construction of a new medical center on Rowan’s West Campus in Harrison Township, Gloucester County, across from the South Jersey Technology Park.

Full article

 

Rowan researchers aim high to target lower back pain

Lower-back pain causes distress for millions of people, but this enormous problem often can be traced to a tiny piece of tissue — a cushioning disc between the vertebrae in the spine.

As a person ages, intervertebral discs frequently degenerate, causing the vertebrae to rub together, resulting in chronic pain that can disrupt almost every facet of everyday life, ranging from work tasks to sleep.

To help relieve this suffering, researchers in Rowan University’s College of Engineering and College of Science and Mathematics are zeroing in on these worn discs, developing a new material that may someday help rebuild damaged tissues.

Research has shown that new cells infused into the disc can help develop new tissues, but it is difficult to keep the cells in place. “The problem is there are many materials that work, but if you try to implant them into a disc, research has shown they most likely will be expelled,” said Dr. Jennifer Vernengo, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Therefore, Rowan researchers are exploring ways to develop a three-dimensional hydrogel scaffold containing these cells that begins as a liquid and will become more solid after it is injected into a damaged intervertebral disc and reaches body temperature.

New Solutions

Vernengo, along with Dr. Cristina Iftode, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Jennifer Kadlowec, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, are working to develop a material that will adhere to surrounding tissue, remain in place and enable cells to regenerate healthy tissue. However, such a material must enable the new cells to survive. “Existing adhesive polymers are very toxic to cells,” Vernengo said.

As Vernengo works with her team of engineering students to develop the polymer, Kadlowec performs mechanical tests on the material.

“Mechanical tests mimicking loading conditions in the body are performed as well as tests to determine adhesive strength,” Kadlowec said.  “We want to be sure that the polymer behaves like native tissue and is not expelled if implanted.”

Meanwhile, Iftode and her team collaborate with Vernengo and her students to test the polymer to determine whether cells can survive within the material and how long it will take them to regenerate and develop new tissue.

Strength in Collaboration

The researchers’ diverse backgrounds are strengthening this research. “Cristina’s expertise in biology is very complementary to my expertise in materials,” Vernengo said.

“Collaboration is really very powerful because a different perspective on a common goal is always beneficial,” Iftode said.

This partnership not only fortifies their work, but it offers students majoring in different disciplines the opportunity to interact with each other and share their data. “The chemical engineering students would not be exposed to that in a traditional chemical engineering curriculum,” Vernengo said. “This gives them a more competitive edge and strengthens their background and professional development, making them more marketable for jobs in the biomedical engineering field.”

Collaborations also expose students to new opportunities. “It opens their eyes to the possibilities of doing interdisciplinary work, and they may not have been aware of that before,” Iftode said. “My students often sought more traditional types of Ph.D.s, and now some are talking about pursuing specializations in the areas of regenerative medicine and bioengineering.”

Ongoing Plans

The researchers have applied for a National Institutes of Health grant for their continuing work. Their preliminary research was published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine.

After the teams optimize their hydrogel formulation with control cell lines, they will switch to using adult stem cells. Control cell lines are well established and characterized cell lines that are easy to manipulate, generate highly reproducible data and are cheaper to maintain; thus, they are preferred in preliminary testing. But tissue regeneration is possible only with stem cells. In this sense, the adult stem cells are almost as potent as the embryonic stem cells for disc tissue reconstruction, without the controversial ethical implications of the latter.

As their next step, they hope to collaborate with researchers at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University to obtain fat (adipose) stem cells derived from liposuction tissue. “Surplus body fat is a really good source of adult stem cells, which can be isolated, proliferated and then used to populate the scaffold we develop,” Iftode said. “Then these scaffold-embedded stem cells will be exposed to a cocktail of growth factors that will induce them to differentiate into the type of cells that mimic the cells in the intervertebral disc.”

New Potential

Although research is still in preliminary stages, it may ultimately go a long way in solving a widespread problem. “It addresses a real need in terms of being able to translate tissue engineering and regenerative medicine into actually helping people with lower back pain, which is one of the most common medical problems,” Vernengo said. “I think it will make an important impact down the road.”

The project is one of numerous studies conducted by teams at Rowan, which continues to grow its research initiatives, many of which are funded by such organizations as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Fortune 500 companies.

“This work is a wonderful example of students and faculty collaborating on practical research that provides solutions to real problems. This has the potential to change the lives of our neighbors who suffer from chronic back pain,” said Dr. Anthony Lowman, dean of the College of Engineering.

Beautifully bald

This was nervousness. Hardcore nervousness.

“It wasn’t even butterflies in my stomach,” Rowan junior Courtney VanLeuvan says. “It was jumping monkeys.”

Publicly shaving your head—especially when you are a female with long, beautiful locks—is no joke.

But when VanLeuvan walked onto the stage of Rowan’s Chamberlain Student Center with three other fearless females, when she saw the love and support from classmates and family members who had squeezed into every inch of floor and balcony space in the Pit to cheer them on, when the barber’s cape was secured ceremoniously around her neck, her nervousness gave way to pride…and a true sense of purpose.

After all, Rowan’s third annual St. Baldrick’s Day event, which included 54 students—49 men, five women—publicly shaving their heads, had raised a phenomenal $20,500 for pediatric cancer research.

To view the 2013 St. Baldrick’s Day video, visit the Rowan YouTube page.

So what’s a few bald heads between Rowan friends?

“These ladies,” Graduate Coordinator of Student Activities Lauren Thompson gushed as the razors began buzzing, “have raised more than $6,000—just among themselves—to fight childhood cancer. Let them feel the love.”

That was no problem for the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd. The women who took the stage for the final, emotional, public shaving of the evening were clearly rock stars in the eyes of their supporters. Van Leuvan, Rebekah Russell, Katie Cesario and Janille Olivo all watched their long locks flurry to the ground. Theater arts major Christina Higgins, the other female shavee, had her head shaved earlier in the evening.

“You’re beautiful!” male and female students shouted as the women gathered up their pony tails, all of which were donated to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair due to medical problems.

Making a statement

Many of the St. Baldrick’s participants shaved their heads in tribute to family members or friends who have battled cancer. The female shavees had those goals—and a few more.

They wanted to make a public statement about beauty, about confidence, about courage. Kids with cancer, they note, don’t have any choice when they lose their hair due to treatments.

“I’m trying to make a statement and illustrate the point that hair is not beauty. It doesn’t define who we are and it certainly doesn’t define our beauty,” says Russell, an art major whose family traveled from Cary, N.C. to watch her shave her mane of red ringlets.

“As women, we’re so attached to our hair. We think that makes us who we are. But it doesn’t,” says VanLeuvan.

Russell raised $2,300 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, while Cesario, a sophomore history and education major, raised $1,000. Olivo, a junior liberal studies major, raised $2,070 and Van Leuvan raised more than $800.

Clinical mental health counseling student James “Bubba” Castorina was the top male fundraiser at $1,070. He asked his barber to carve out “$20K” in the back of his head in celebration of Rowan students reaching their goal. As they have for the past three years, barbers from Glassboro’s Hair To There volunteered their services for the evening.

Rowan’s Student University Programmers (SUP) was the event sponsor. Cesario serves as director of signature events for SUP and spent the evening coordinating the event before taking her turn in the barber’s chair.

Remarkably, since 2011, Rowan students have raised more than $50,500 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

The support from the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd was exhilarating, Van Leuvan says.

“Until I got onto the stage, I didn’t realize how many people were there. We had students from all majors at the university standing together, side by side.

“This event gave us a chance to sit back and see that we’re a community and a family at Rowan. It was so great—so emotional—to see the support, especially from students,” says Van Leuvan.

“I will be talking about this experience for the rest of my life.”