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Research / Discovery

Reynolds garners innovation award for wound-healing agents

May 15, 2013

CSU startup company Diazamed receives a 2013 TechConnect National Innovation Award for research on agents to speed wound healing and the body's acceptance of biologically implanted materials.

Melissa Reynolds, right, in her lab.A Colorado State University chemist’s game-changing quest for a Holy Grail long sought by medical professionals earned a coveted spot at a global showcase of top emerging technologies in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Reynolds and her startup company Diazamed have received a 2013 TechConnect National Innovation Award for their research on agents to speed wound healing and the body’s acceptance of biologically implanted materials, such as catheters, stents, or surgical meshes.

“Wounds that do not heal and medical implants that are rejected by the body create huge risks for patients beyond the initial wound and surgical procedure, including infections, cell death, limb loss, cardiovascular conditions, secondary injuries, diseases, and more. It’s imperative to find innovative solutions,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds’ research group is making materials embedded with nitric oxide, a powerful, naturally occurring substance within the body that acts to block infections, prevent clotting and boost healthy cell growth.

Reynolds’ work was vetted and selected for The National Innovation Summit and Showcase sponsored by TechConnect, a global technology outreach and development organization. TechConnect says it organized the event for industry, university, government and media representatives “in support of the White House and Congressional call for innovation commercialization initiatives.”

Top tier research
According to Steve Foster, CSU Ventures director of licensing and business development, “only 20 percent of 500 submissions were accepted to present, which means that Reynolds’ technology placed in the top tier of all submitted technologies as ranked by the TechConnect Corporate and Investment Partner Committee.” Foster is accepting the award and presenting Reynolds’ work at the summit and showcase.

Reynolds’ research team and company are making biomaterials in the form of biodegradable polymers and nitric oxide-based, metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs.

“We focus on synthesizing materials and artificial surfaces that replicate the natural function of cells through the release of nitric oxide,” Reynolds, an assistant professor of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences at CSU, explains. “These materials can effectively reduce or completely inhibit the complications associated with biologically implanted materials.”

Such biodegradable healing agents could be imbedded in gauze bandages carried by soldiers or stocked in first-aid kits used by relief workers rushing to the scene of earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, Reynolds says.

They also could be applied on medically implanted devices, such as artificial blood vessels, or on catheters and IVs, to stimulate the body to more readily accept them.

“Then, these devices could last longer, and we would reduce secondary infections and implant rejection and promote faster healing,” Reynolds adds.

Confronted with the risk of life-threatening infections when her own body rejected a shunt, Reynolds is determined to minimize that risk for others. While she was always interested in biomedical research, Reynolds says her own experience “brought home the reality of what patients go through when researchers talk about preventing painful and costly complications for patients. Now, I can’t help but think about what a huge quality of life impact this could be for others.”

With extensive experience in business prior to joining CSU, Reynolds says she enjoys the partnerships between academic, industry and government agencies. She hopes her life-saving coatings will be readily available in some hospitals in about three years.

“We can integrate our platforms with existing medical-device platforms, which should make the transfer from research phase to clinical and human phases much more rapidly,” according to Reynolds.