Bear Cub Fund grants given to five WUSTL professors

Washington University has awarded four Bear Cub Fund grants totaling $150,000 to support innovative research projects that could be attractive for licensing by commercial entities or serve as the foundation for a start-up company.

The grants were awarded to: William A. Frazier, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics; Gerald Linette, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine; Daniel W. Moran, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering; and Burton Wice, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine, and Kenneth Polonsky, M.D., the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine.

“There is no shortage of promising ideas and technologies in Washington University laboratories,” said Samuel L. Stanley, M.D., vice chancellor for research. “The Bear Cub Fund is important because it helps scientists demonstrate that their projects have commercial value.”

The Bear Cub Fund, made up of endowment income and capital from private sources, is administered through the University’s Office of Technology Management (OTM). OTM, with Brad Castanho, Ph.D., as co-director, worked with BioGenerator and other advisers from the St. Louis life sciences community to select awardees.

Frazier’s project has the potential to treat wide-ranging medical problems, including severe burns, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease, a complication of diabetes, by opening up blood vessels to increase blood flow. He will test monoclonal antibodies for their ability to improve vascularization and increase survival of skin grafts in animal models.

Linette’s grant will fund work to make adoptive T cell immunotherapy a reality for patients with infectious diseases and cancer. This therapy involves harvesting T cells from the patient’s immune system, expanding their number and then putting them back into the body, where they can be activated to recognize and destroy tumor cells or infectious agents. Linette’s technology can rapidly expand and enrich the T cell population and will establish proof of concept using cytomegalovirus as a model antigen to manufacture T cells. This infection is common among patients who receive organ transplants.

Moran has developed a microelectrode that may help restore movement in patients paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and also suppress seizures in epileptics. Its novel design enables selective stimulation of small groups of nerve cells and the production of action potentials in one direction. Computer simulations have confirmed its utility, and now Bear Cub funding will enable the electrode to be fabricated, implanted in the sciatic nerves of rats and evaluated.

The grant to Wice and Polonsky will support a potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes. This form typically develops later in life but is becoming more common among overweight children and teens. The researchers have developed a mouse model of type 2 diabetes and found they can restore the body’s response to insulin by administering the hormone Xenin-25, alone or in combination with a peptide known as GIP. They now plan to evaluate the therapy in patients.

The deadline for the next round of Bear Cub applications is Oct. 31.

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