The Oregon State Venture Development Fund is supporting Oregon’s innovation economy by building on innovations developed right here. The fund operates on donations and provides a tax incentive to donors. The annual awards make funding available to entrepreneurial faculty and staff to transform emerging technologies into viable, commercial ventures that create jobs in Oregon. The fund also supports opportunities for students to gain experience in applying research to commercial activities.

Five innovators were chosen for the 2017 Oregon State Venture Development Fund awards:

Promising new treatment being developed for people with rare bone cancer

Each year, hundreds of young people in the United States are diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor that occurs in the bones and soft tissue around them. Advancements in treatment have improved outcomes, but patients still face a lifetime of potential effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Mark Leid, an associate dean for research in the College of Pharmacy hopes to change that.

Leid is focused on identifying new drugs to treat the disease, improving survival rates and long-term quality of life. In a promising development, Leid identified a protein that could inhibit the viability of Ewing’s sarcoma and other types of cancers in vitro. The award allows Leid to pursue this early stage of drug discovery.

Probiotics for shrimp? Researchers discover a way to keep shellfish healthy

There are so many ways to enjoy shrimp: pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp and shrimp soup for starters.

That’s reflected in the 330 million pounds of shrimp sold annually in the United States at a value of $2.3 billion. Those sales figures would be even better if not for the staggering 61 percent annual loss in shrimp crops due to disease.

Claudia Hase, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has developed an innovative approach to preventing bacterial infections in shrimp. Using a novel marine probiotic that incorporates targeted nutrients into living organisms that shrimp eat, she has been able to reduce shellfish mortality in the lab. Hase’s application technique improves the uptake of probiotics compared to other methods.

Preventing losses from disease could strengthen the U.S. shrimp industry, ensuring there are plenty of shrimp for shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burgers, shrimp sandwiches and more.

New therapies target the powerhouse of our cells to prevent disease

As we age, the risk for all major diseases — heart failure, neurodegeneration, arthritis, diabetes and inflammation to name a few — increases. That’s because the powerhouse of our cells — the mitochondria — become weaker due to the loss of an antioxidant gluthathione, which supports a cell’s defense.

Researchers Joseph Beckman and Tory Hagen in Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute set out to develop a glutathione analogue that specifically targets mitochondria.

The challenges of targeting gluthathione to mitochondria are formidable. After five years of work, the first generation agent was developed. A provisional patent has been submitted through the Oregon State University Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development (OCCD). Beckman and his team are developing new therapies for three specific markets: treating Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions; an anti-aging cream; and a biodefense for sulfur mustard exposure. The potential for these three markets exceeds $5 billion.

Researchers discover how to turn a protein into cancer cell killers

One of the most common methods for fighting cancer is using chemotherapy to reduce the size of tumors. Often, patients respond well to this treatment. But in about 40 percent of cases, the cancer continues to develop and progress. These patients have a very poor prognosis and there are few alternative treatment options available.  

Siva Kolluri, an associate professor of environmental and molecular toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, has discovered a way to turn the cells that resist cancer treatment into cancer cell killers.

Kolluri and his research team have identified drugs that can convert these resistant cells. Next, they will test the safety and tolerability of the new targeted anti-cancer drugs and evaluate a method to screen patients using a biomarker tool to match them to the right therapy.

The new treatment offers hope for people facing stubborn cancers.

SUTURELOCK™ leaves patients in stitches longer for better healing

Sutures, staples or glue are needed about 20 million times a year in the United States to close a wound from an injury or surgery. Sutures are the most common and effective method used, but problems persist when wounds open up, become infected or scar.

Now a new device, the SUTURELOCK, improves the effectiveness of surgical sutures.

Inventors Jen Akeroyd, a Ph.D.-trained nurse, and William Lear, a dermatologist and surgeon, created a way for sutures to remain in the skin for up to six weeks — three times longer than usual — so the skin has time to heal and regain its optimal strength.

SUTURELOCK is intended for use on incision wounds that could be difficult to heal. It’s ideal for people who do not heal easily or who have illnesses, such as diabetes or collagen disorders.

Akeroyd and Lear are Corvallis residents and participated in the Oregon State Advantage Accelerator program where they started a company, JULVIA Technologies.

Initial studies through the College of Veterinary Medicine using Yucatan hairless pigs — the gold standard model for skin studies — indicate less scarring with SUTURELOCK.

Now JULVIA will study how SUTURELOCK works for people who are undergoing dermatology surgery for skin cancer. The research will test their product for tolerability and adverse effects. Soon, surgeons could have a better tool for closing wounds.