BRIDGE grants support research into the rare disease of sialidosis and the patch to prevent pressure ulcers

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The UMass Medical School Business Development and Innovation Office announced the 2021 BRIDGE Fund grants, which support innovative scientific advancements in the medical school.

The fund is administered by Parth Chakrabarti, MBA, Executive Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Business Development, and managed by Abbas Abdallah, PhD, Technical Director of Business Development. The BRIDGE Fund awards are expected to enable critical research that will accelerate the advancement of discoveries and technological advancements in potentially viable commercial products for the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. The BRIDGE Fund is guided by an external advisory board of industry leaders and will invest up to $ 1 million per year in projects from researchers at UMass Medical School whose work shows promise for commercialization and translation into clinical application.

This year’s recipients are Heather Gray-Edwards, PhD, DVM, Assistant Professor of Radiology, and Miguel Sena-Esteves, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, for their “Gene Therapy for Sialidosis” proposal; and Raymond Dunn, MD, professor of surgery, his proposal, “Preventing Pressure Ulcers: A Wireless Pressure Sensor System to Transform Best Practices.”

Each project received $ 250,000 over two years.

Miguel Sena-Esteves, PhD, and
Heather Gray-Edwards, PhD, DVM

Sialidosis is a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by a deficiency of the sialic acid cleavage enzyme neuraminidase 1 (Neu1), which causes a build-up of sialylated glycopeptides and oligosaccharides in tissues and body fluids. Type 1 sialidosis presents clinical signs in adolescents and 20-year-olds, including difficulty walking which progresses to loss of walking; decreased visual acuity which progresses to blindness; involuntary movements of the arms and legs (myoclonus); nystagmus; convulsions; and hyperreflexia. It is fatal between the third and fifth decade of life. Type 2 is fatal in childhood, and children develop myoclonus and seizures like the type 1 patients described above, but also develop developmental delay, stage loss, intellectual disability, and hearing loss. and visual.

There is no cure or cure for this disease. The project will test AAV vectors that encode the expression of Neu1 in animal models in order to restore Neu1 expression and normal function. Dr Gray-Edwards and Dr Esteves have already introduced AAV gene therapies in clinical trials, including a Tay-Sachs / Sandhoff clinical trial.

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Raymond Dunn, MD

Pressure ulcers are one of the most medically and financially serious hospital complications in the elderly, debilitated and spinal cord injured populations. Excessive pressure on the skin of patients results in a lack of blood supply (ischemia), which usually results in painful and difficult to treat wounds, ultimately leading to physical and psychological damage. In the United States, 2.5 million patients per year develop PUs, resulting in approximately 60,000 deaths per year.

Current pressure ulcer prevention is primarily based on empirical, non-patient-centered, ineffective strategies that rely on providers to mobilize patients every few hours, whether or not the patient’s condition warrants it. Dr Dunn’s proposal would develop portable, integrated and remote communicating patches containing sensors that monitor areas of the body at known risk for pressure ulcer development. The system detects early biological processes that lead to skin damage, then communicates remotely with caretakers in real time for rapid and targeted intervention. A prototype device has already been created and needs some improvement to bring the technology to a stage ready for clinical adoption and licensing.

“UMass Medical School is home to a thriving biomedical research community that attracts nearly $ 300 million in external funding each year and has earned a worldwide reputation for excellence,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “We have noted an increased demand from the life sciences industry to partner with our faculty to advance promising discoveries and we are delighted that the BRIDGE Fund is helping us achieve this on an ongoing and meaningful basis. “

Chakrabarti praised the work of faculty members who made BRIDGE funding proposals. “The research community at UMass Medical School has an incredibly diverse background and thirst for innovation; ideas like these will continue to help the medical school accelerate discoveries that can improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

Related Articles on UMassMed News:
Parth Chakrabarti appointed Executive Vice-Chancellor for Innovation and Business Development
UMass Medical School awards grants to advance commercialization of research findings

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