Sarah Goodwin
Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
October 20, 1998


Four Emory University School of Medicine faculty members recently received a boost in their entrepreneurial ambitions when they won awards from the Faculty Research Commercialization Program (FRCP), a six-year-old program that helps faculty members develop commercialized products based on their university research.

The FRCP is funded and operated by the Advanced Technology Development Center, a small-business incubator at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Emory radiation oncologists Ian Crocker, M.D. and Tim Fox, Ph.D.; neurologist Alan Levey, M.D.; and interventional cardiologist Neal Scott, M.D., won the one-year awards ranging from $30,000 to $100,000. Faculty members at Georgia's six GRA member universities are eligible to compete each year for the FRCP awards, which average $350,000 annually. Successful candidates must partner with an advisor from the local business community.

Transferring technology from a university researcher's laboratory or clinic to the marketplace can sometimes speed up the process of turning ideas and medical inventions into improved patient care. At the same time, commercializing research can increase the funding available for additional investigations. The FRCP program helps solve the problem faculty researchers often encounter in attracting enough financial support to prove the commercial worthiness of their discoveries.

Winning proposals are selected because they are likely to be commercially successful, because they fit within Georgia's technology base, and because their project leaders have high qualifications. The grants may include support for working towards a proof-of-concept prototype, a commercialization plan, or a patent, copyright or licensing agreement. The program is available to faculty within the six universities of the Georgia Research Alliance.

A Planning System For Preventing Restenosis During Angioplasty

Dr. Crocker and Dr. Fox are hoping to commercialize their new software product, called iPlanTM, which is designed to help physicians prevent blood vessels from closing up again following angioplasty to open blocked vessels. Approximately 450,000 angioplasties are performed annually in the U.S. to unblock arteries and help prevent heart attacks, but 30-40% of these patients experience restenosis, or re-narrowing of the arteries.

Dr. Crocker already has been a successful medical entrepreneur as one of a team of Emory researchers that developed the Beta-Cath system to delivers radiation to an area of a blood vessel undergoing angioplasty.

This intracoronary radiation therapy (ICRT) system was successfully tested in the Beta Energy Restenosis Trial (BERT), the first FDA-approved vascular radiotherapy trial. Dr. Crocker, along with Emory cardiologists Spencer King, M.D. and Keith Robinson, M.D., licensed the Beta-Cath system to Novoste Corporation, a Norcross-based biotechnology company that is continuing to conduct clinical trials and plans to launch the new system soon as a commercial product.

"The success of intravascular radiation therapy depends on proper dosing for different segments of the artery during angioplasty," explains Dr. Crocker. The new iPlanTM system is designed to help physicians using any ICRT system plan therapy to maximize efficacy for each individual patient.

"The system enables radiation treatment planning to be done real-time in the cardiac catheterization laboratory," says Dr. Fox, "providing the guidance needed to accurately and safely prescribe the proper amount of radiation and to document the amount delivered."

Dr. Crocker and Dr. Fox have developed an iPlanTM prototype and have tested it with patient data from the BERT trial. A variety of ICRT systems are under development nationwide, and as the market for ICRT continues to develop, the two entrepreneurs predict that it will be performed in every large hospital in the country and that iPlanTM could potentially form the basis of a multi-million-dollar company.

Catheters for Radiation During Angioplasty

Neal Scott, along with Georgia Tech faculty member Janet Hampikian, recently formed a new Emory startup company called Pegasus Catheter Systems that will manufacture catheters for use by interventional cardiologists and interventional radiologists. One of the first catheters, and the one covered under the FRCP grant, will be used for intracoronary radiation therapy during angioplasty. The new catheter, says Scott, will be easier to use, more accurate, and less expensive than a variety of other radiation-delivering catheter systems currently under development. Scott's catheter also will allow physicians to treat large as well as small arteries. The catheter will use either beta or gamma radiation, delivered via a radioactive isotope.

Diagnosing Early Alzheimer's Disease

Emory neurologists including Allan Levey, M.D., Ph.D., Tim Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., Jim Lah, M.D., Ph.D., and Judy Benett-Desmolik, Ph.D., are using clues they have found in the physiology of Alzheimer's disease patients to develop a diagnostic blood test for the disorder. The team has discovered that cells with mutations in genes that cause the rare, inherited early-onset (< 60 yrs.) form of disease can be measured and identified using a new technology called microphysiometry. More importantly, the same physiological changes are present in blood cells of the disease from patients with sporadic forms, i.e., those cases not due to a single genetic cause. These sporadic forms are much more common. The team has some evidence that the physiological changes may even precede the onset of symptoms.

Although there is not yet any real cure for Alzheimer's, the ability to identify Alzheimer's disease at an early stage might help considerably in screening potential drugs to treat the disease, Dr. Levey points out.

Three to four million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, including 50,000 in the Atlanta area. Individuals who reach 85 years of age have a one in two chance of developing the disease. The Emory group is collaborating with Terry Blum, director and professor in the Dupree School of Entrepreneurial Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech faculty member Mike Healey, both of whom have research interests in commercializing healthcare technology.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1998. All Rights Reserved.