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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Awarded $12 Million Contract to Support Human Studies of Novel Treatments for Battlefield Injuries and Scars

PITTSBURGH, May 25, 2010 – A two-year, $12 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Technology Transition (OTT) will jumpstart human trials of three innovative research programs that aim to replace scars and defects with healthy, functional tissues, announced officials of the University of Pittsburgh and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine today at the Institute’s Second Annual Open Session, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Oakland.

The OTT mission emphasizes the rapid translation of preclinical research into human studies to bring successful therapies more quickly to everyday practice, said Alan Russell, Ph.D., director of the McGowan Institute, a joint effort of Pitt and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and leader of the new program.

“This initiative provides fiscal support and also represents a shared commitment to the goal of helping soldiers return to the lives they have put on the line for us,” he said. “All these projects could deliver much-needed solutions for the ills that plague our wounded warriors. They are designed to give back what has been lost or taken away: normal tissues that function properly, adapting to our changing biological environment to keep us healthy and whole.”

In particular, the OTT initiative will focus on efforts to:

  • Replace muscle tissue through extracellular matrix, a protein- and growth factor-rich biological scaffold that appears to recruit stem cells and other precursors to injury sites; primary investigators Stephen Badylak, D.V.M., M.D., Ph.D., deputy director, McGowan Institute and J. Peter Rubin, M.D., Pitt School of Medicine
  • Bring to clinical testing an injectable, porous bone cement for the repair of craniofacial bone defects and restoration of normal bone growth and remodeling; primary investigators Bernard J. Costello, D.M.D., M.D., Pitt School of Dental Medicine; Prashant N. Kumta, Ph.D., Edward R. Weidlein Chair, Pitt Swanson School of Engineering; and Charles Sfeir, D.D.S., Ph.D., Pitt School of Dental Medicine
  • Evaluate the injection of human fibroblasts, a type of connective tissue cell, into contracted burn scars to soften the skin and allow greater freedom of movement; primary investigators J. Peter Rubin, M.D., Pitt School of Medicine, and Paul Kemp, Ph.D., founder, chief scientific officer and executive director, Intercytex

Battlefield mortality has decreased from 30 percent in World War II to less than 10 percent in the conflicts of the present day, partly due to advances in medicine, surgery and trauma care. Still, injured soldiers are returning home with life-changing wounds, including finger and limb amputations that have doubled in rate since WWII.

The OTT Initiative is funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The projects, if successful, could ultimately lead to interventions that also benefit civilians, noted Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.

“Muscle loss, bone damage, and severe scarring that restricts natural movement are not uncommon consequences of traumatic accidents or surgeries that require a large amount of tissue removal,” he said. “We must find more ways to help individuals who are struggling with the aftermath of these potentially devastating problems.”

About the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and its clinical partner, UPMC, to realize the vast potential of tissue engineering and other techniques aimed at repairing damaged or diseased tissues and organs. The McGowan Institute serves as a single base of operations for the university’s leading scientists and clinical faculty working to develop tissue engineering, cellular therapies, biosurgery and artificial and biohybrid organ devices.

About the Office of Technology Transition, U.S. Department of Defense

The Office of Technology Transition (OTT) resides within the Office of Advanced Components and Prototypes within the Research Directorate under the Director of Defense Research and Engineering. OTT consists of five major programs: Defense Production Act, Manufacturing Technology, Technology Transition Initiative, Technology Transfer, and North American Technology and Industrial Base Organization. OTT has the capability to shepherd technologies into product-based acquisition by leveraging resources, stimulating behavior, and acting as a catalyst for change. OTT facilitates the establishment of a viable, economically secure supplier base and stimulates market-based activities to address warfighter capability gaps.

About JIEDDO, U.S. Department of Defense

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) is the Department of Defense's lead counter-IED organization, dedicated to winning the fight against IEDs using all available resources. Working hand-in-hand with military, government, academia, industry, and international partners, JIEDDO is rapidly finding, developing, and delivering emerging capabilities to counter the IED as a weapon of strategic influence.

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