Researchers receive $5.4 million from EDGE
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Published: 15-Nov-2010
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 15-Nov-2010

Oklahoma’s Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) Policy Board has approved three research projects for $5.4 million funding disbursement from the EDGE fund.

The three projects were among 12 recommended by the EDGE Advisory Committee following a competitive review process that utilizes peer technical reviewers, leaders in respective fields from across the U.S.  A total of 62 applications were submitted.

The funded projects are:

* Pure Protein, LLC chief scientific officer Dr. William Hildebrand received $1.8 million.

“Currently, only one in three people on a transplant waiting list receive a transplant and 25 percent of those people have an immune response that rejects the transplant,” said Dr. Hildebrand. “Our therapy will suppress the immune response that rejects a transplanted organ while preserving other aspects of the immunity, saving lives and increasing success rates.”

The human immune response uses the HLA alarm system to alert the body of invasion by viruses, bacteria, and cancer. False immune system alarms can cause the body to negatively react to a transplant. The research by Pure Protein will lead to a device that suppresses only the negative reaction to the transplant while leaving the other aspects of the immune system intact.

Pure Protein will develop a protein-based transplant therapeutic device to target only immune responses directed toward the transplanted organ – reducing the rate of rejection while leaving the patient’s immune response otherwise intact. The result will be more successful transplants.

The EDGE funding combined with other sources of leveraged funding for Pure Protein is expected to lead to 30 high-paying jobs.

* Biolytx Pharmaceuticals chief scientific officer Dr. Anne Pereira received $1.8 million.

In Oklahoma, about 3,000 people who enter the hospital this year will contract pneumonia and about half of them will die due to lack of effective treatment options.  The high mortality rate is due to the growing tide of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Biolytx, formed in 2005, has developed an entirely new class of anti-infective treatments using peptides. The peptide will treat serious hospital-acquired infections, including those resistant to current antibiotics. Biolytx peptides can neutralize deadly endotoxins while treating the infection. The EDGE grant will help Biolytx submit an Investigative New Drug application and perform more clinical trials to receive FDA approval to sell the drug.

* Enterprise Electronic Corporation(EEC) president Allyson Turnbull received $1.8 million. Alabama-based EEC, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma Atmospheric Radar Research Center (ARRC), will use the EDGE funds to develop, manufacture and sell world-wide, low-cost, Doppler weather radars incorporating innovative technology.

Current Doppler weather radars are not affordable for many government and commercial entities that would benefit from these systems. There is also a need to collect data closer to the Earth's surface, where weather most affects people's lives.

EEC delivered the first commercial Doppler weather to KFOR in 1981. Since then, EEC has continued to advance radar technology and will use this research to directly develop lower-cost radar systems. The technology is now so precise that it can measure the size and shape of raindrops and snowflakes.

"Norman is the center of the weather community. The EDGE funding will allow EEC to expand our office and manufacturing in Norman, adding approximately 30 technical jobs over the life of the project," said Turnbull.

The 2010 awards represent the third round of funding disbursements from EDGE. In 2009, five awards were granted totaling nearly $7.5 million.

In 2008, five awards were granted totaling nearly $10.5 million.

The projects funded those first two years have created and retained 266 jobs in Oklahoma and have attracted federal grants and commercial contracts totaling over $18 million.

“We’re already seeing results from only two years of EDGE funds. These three new research projects represent incredible opportunities for Oklahoma to increase the formation and growth of advanced technology companies and bring more federal research dollars into our state,” said Dr. Paul Risser, executive director of the EDGE Policy Board. “We didn’t have funding for all of the projects that had merit, and we can’t overlook the need to grow the EDGE Endowment Fund to its full $1 billion total.”

The number and size of awards is determined by the EDGE Policy Board, which is chaired by Gary W. Derrick and consists of Thomas Kupiec Ph.D., David Rainbolt, Ken Levit, Gregory McKenzie, Bond Payne and Stephen Prescott, M.D. The Endowment Fund is managed by a legislatively-mandated which certifies funds available each year to the EDGE Policy Board, which in turn, determines how the money will be allocated.

EDGE investments are specifically directed toward Oklahoma-based projects that have the potential to expand the number of researchers, technicians, support services and related activity within the state; increase the formation and growth of advanced technology companies; leverage additional funding through federal research grants or private investment; and improve Oklahoma’s health and quality of life.


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