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Johns Hopkins Inventors Take Home Honors at Annual Alliance Meeting - 02/27/2014

Johns Hopkins Inventors Take Home Honors at Annual Alliance Meeting

Jonathan Powell, Nita Ahuja and Chad Gordon recognized for technological advances
Release Date: February 27, 2014
Headshot of Jonathan Powell, M.D., Ph.D.
Jonathan Powell, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center Associate Professor Jonathan Powell, M.D., Ph.D., received the BioMaryland LIFE (Leading Innovative Faculty Entrepreneurs) award and $50,000 for his novel type 2 diabetes therapeutic agent at last week's annual Joint Meeting of the Johns Hopkins Alliance for Science and Technology Development and the University of Maryland, Baltimore Commercial Advisory Board. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Nita Ahuja, M.D., an associate professor of surgery, and Chad Gordon, D.O., an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, each received an Abell Foundation prize of $50,000.

Eduardo Davila of the University of Maryland, Baltimore also received a LIFE award. The BioMaryland LIFE and Abell Foundation prizes are presented to faculty members who are making innovative translational research advances that have clear commercial potential.

At this year's joint meeting, 29 inventors from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore presented their innovations to more than 200 venture capitalists, biotech entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical executives. Attendees evaluated and scored inventions based on their translational potential, scientific novelty and competitive position.

Powell's award-winning research identified a gene within the T cells of mice that, when knocked out, induces insulin sensitivity, lowers blood lipid levels and increases the mass of brown fat. Brown fat has been associated with converting food calories into energy and promoting weight loss. This strategy potentially presents a new way to treat or cure type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia and obesity. Ahuja developed a simple, repeatable blood test for detecting pancreatic cancer using a genome screen for high-risk patients. Her prize funds will go toward validation studies in cancer patients and healthy people. Gordon developed a novel computer-assisted planning and intraoperative navigation system for use in complex craniomaxillofacial surgical procedures such as face-jaw-teeth transplantation.

Winner Biographies:

Jonathan Powell, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
Invention: C11567: New Diabetes Type-II Therapeutic

Jonathan Powell received his A.B. from Dartmouth College and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Emory School of Medicine. His postgraduate clinical training included the Osler Medical Residency Training Program in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and fellowship training in hematology-oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass., and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Prior to joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, Powell was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Ronald Schwartz at the National Institutes of Health.

Powell's lab studies the cellular, biochemical and molecular mechanisms surrounding T cell activation, differentiation and tolerance. His research group's findings have been used to develop tolerance-inducing protocols for use in bone marrow transplantation. The group is also exploring a potential cancer treatment based on their insights and has revealed novel pathways regulating glucose metabolism and the generation of brown fat.

Powell was one of the scientific founders of Amplimmune, a U.S.-based biologics company focused on developing novel therapeutics in cancer immunology that was recently acquired by MedImmune.

Nita Ahuja, M.D.
Vice Chair of Academic Affairs; Surgery
Jacob C. Handelsman, M.D. Professor of Abdominal Surgery
Associate Professor of Surgery, Oncology and Urology
Chief, Section of Gastrointestinal Malignancies, Breast, Melanoma and Endocrine Services Invention: C11091: Blood Test for Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer

Nita Ahuja is a surgical oncologist who leads the section on complex gastrointestinal oncology and runs a "bench to bedside" laboratory focused on the development of markers for early detection of cancers and novel therapies for cancers. As a surgeon, she focuses on the treatment of pancreatic, colorectal and gastric cancers. She has multiple patents related to cancer detection and currently runs many multicenter trials based around her work. She has published more than 100 papers, books and chapters. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Association for Cancer Research and the Lustgarten Foundation.

Chad Gordon, D.O.
Assistant Professor, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Clinical Director of Face Transplantation
Invention: C12739: Computer-Assisted Craniomaxillofacial Surgery

In December 2008, while completing his plastic and reconstructive surgery training at the Cleveland Clinic, Chad Gordon helped to coordinate America's first face transplant and was one of eight surgical team members. For his contributions to this event, the Cleveland Clinic presented him with the Bruce Hubbard Stewart Memorial Award for Humanistic Medicine. Gordon has also received numerous local, regional and national awards, including the national Academic Scholar Award by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons for his preclinical face transplant work in swine. Most recently, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research awarded him the Accelerated Translational Incubator Pilot Program Award to assist with the clinical launch of new technology for complex craniomaxillofacial surgery such as maxillofacial transplantation.

Gordon has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and 19 textbook chapters on surgery-related subjects. He is currently an associate editor for Annals of Plastic Surgery and serves on several major journal editorial boards, including the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery and Microsurgery, and has been a speaker on facial transplantation in the U.S. and Europe. The book he co-edited, Transplantation of Composite Tissue Allografts, was published in 2008.

Among Gordon's contributions to facial transplantation and craniofacial surgery are improved methods for optimizing outcomes using computer-assisted applications developed in collaboration with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

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