Omaha's ProTransit Nanotherapy nets DoD grant

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | March 08, 2017

Image with caption: Gary Madsen, Ph.D., former entrepreneur in residence at UNeMed.

Gary Madsen, Ph.D., former entrepreneur in residence at UNeMed.

A $1.7 million grant from the Department of Defense is expected to push Omaha startup ProTransit Nanotherapy closer to FDA approval on a new treatment for acute spinal injuries.

A portion of the award will help ProTransit use UNMC's Nebraska Nanomedicine Production Plant to optimize the production of a proprietary nanoparticle. The nanoparticle was invented by former UNMC researcher Vinod Labhasetwar, Ph.D.

ProTransit Nanotherapy was co-founded by Dr. Labhasetwar and CEO Gary Madsen, Ph.D. Dr. Madsen is the former entrepreneur in residence at UNeMed, the technology transfer office at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Now a professor of biomedical engineering at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Labhasetwar's innovative nanoparticle has shown dramatic potential when injected immediately after a spinal injury. Called Pro-NP, the technology has shown the ability to prevent further damage to the spinal cord. It also may encourage the body's natural repair mechanism to heal the injury, Dr. Madsen said.

Further tests will include a deeper study of the overall treatment effects. If successful, results from those studies will then drive an investigational new drug application with the FDA -- a critical first step toward a clinical trial in human patients. Spine surgeon and Canada Research Chair in Spinal Injury, Brian Kwon, M.D., Ph.D., will lead the additional studies out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Dr. Madsen said the grant attracted interest from the DOD for its potential to be used in battlefield conditions, either "on-site or en route to a trauma center." The technology also has clear civilian applications as a treatment that paramedics could inject in emergencies.

In addition to the new spinal treatment, ProTransit is also developing a topical skin application that could prevent skin cancer while eliminating or reducing wrinkles and other blemishes.