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Two Bioelectrics Researchers Receive VA Catalyst Grants

by Amy Matzke-Fawcett

Two researchers from Old Dominion University's Frank Reidy Center for Bioelectrics have received state grants to further their research in tissue repair.

Anna Bulysheva, research assistant professor, and Christian Zemlin, associate professor, have been awarded VA Catalyst grants in the latest round of funding.

The grants, supported by the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation, support researchers across Virginia who are addressing "large, unmet medical needs," according to the corporation.

The grants will further research already underway at the center.

One $250,000 grant, titled "HuGentra Injections for the Treatment of Myocardial Infarctions," with Zemlin as primary investigator and Bulysheva as co-primary investigator for ODU, will expand work on repairing tissues damaged during heart attacks.

The research builds upon a gel injected into the tissue to repair it. The gel is still in the pre-clinical stage.

"The major goal of this project is to rigorously evaluate a placenta-derived hydrogel for heart repair and regeneration," Bulysheva said.

The second, an $800,000 grant titled "Biofabrication of Regenerative Musculoskeletal Therapeutics," with Bulysheva as ODU's primary investigator, will advance research on ligament and tendon regeneration, specifically the Achilles heel.

It's an area that's primed for development, she explained.

"Now, when someone is injured, they're sutured, but they usually do not fully heal," Bulysheva said. "That's the driving force to get back to full function or at least back to the quality of life pre-injury."

To qualify for a VA Catalyst grant, researchers must have a partner university and a partner company.

"The goal is to help commercialization and also promote collaboration between universities and tech companies in Virginia," Zemlin said.

Zemlin, along with Bulysheva, will collaborate with Jonathan Philpott of Eastern Virginia Medical School and Alex Hubert of LifeNet. LifeNet will provide an additional $250,000 for development.

On the tendon project, Bulysheva will collaborate with Michael Francis of Embody LLC and George Christ of the University of Virginia, with an added $2.4 million for development from the company.

"These two awards are additional examples of ODU researchers working with industry to commercialize their scientific discoveries and, notably, with two companies based in our region," said Morris Foster, Old Dominion's vice president for research.

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