Koppes Awarded NSF I-Corps Grant
ChE Assistant Professor Ryan Koppes was awarded a $50K NSF I-Corps grant for his "Thermally drawn nerve guidance channels".
Abstract Source: NSF
To regain the use of limbs following traumatic injury, severe peripheral nerve injuries require surgical intervention. Approximately 200,000 repair surgeries are carried out in the U.S. every year. However, with current strategies, few patients reach a full functional recovery. Currently, the preferred intervention takes 'less important' nerve from the patient to aid regeneration at the site of injury, leading to multiple surgical sites and tissue morbidity. Therefore, there is a clear need for synthetic nerve guidance channels to effectively replace the use of patients' own tissue. The advantages of the proposed technique to produce nerve guidance channels are a consistent high yield and internal fiber features that are defined on the macroscale, reducing the need for expensive microfabrication techniques. This team has harnessed this materials processing technique to work with biologically relevant polymers as well as incorporating features including electrodes and topography to enhance tissue growth. The proposed guidance channels have shown promise for guiding and enhancing the rate of nerve growth, but much work both on the technical and business side of this project is required to translate this technology to the market and ultimately to patients.
This team's current hypothesis is that the end user for the proposed technology will be the patient and the primary customer will be the surgeon who implants the device. Additional stakeholders may be, but are not limited to: procurement officers, primary care physicians, and/or hospital technology officers. The I-Corps program and aggressive customer discovery will be paramount in identifying the key stakeholders involved in all aspects of commercialization, including product production, customer acquisition, and end usage. The team aims to use the I-Corps program process to build its understanding of customers and value propositions by interviewing 80-q100 stakeholders, and also plan to expand further the material library to further improve the biocompatibility and efficacy of the nerve guidance channels.