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Six Faculty Projects LEAP Toward Commercialization

Skandalaris Center
May 11, 2020

The Spring 2020 LEAP (Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program) Gap Fund cycle concluded on May 7, 2020, with final presentations and announcements.

The LEAP Gap Fund is open to any person or team with potential or existing WashU intellectual property. Through the program, teams receive mentorship from experts in their fields and work with the Skandalaris Center team and partners to create clear development and commercialization plans to ready their projects.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Skandalaris Center held this year’s evaluation day entirely via Zoom. Over thirty judges scored twenty-two teams on the "partnerability" of the project and the impact of the funds to move the projects forward.

Six teams were selected for funding to ready their projects for commercialization.

Commercialization of SCBeta Technologies

Manufacturing and distribution of research-grade SC-Beta cells.

  • Leonardo Velazco-Cruz – PhD Candidate, DBBS Graduate Research Assistant
  • Kristina Maxwell – PhD Candidate
  • Punn Augsornworawat– PhD Candidate
  • Jeffrey Millman, PhD – Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine
  • Nathaniel Hogrebe, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Medicine


SLO3: A Novel Contraceptive Target

An innovative, non-hormonal, female contraceptive that specifically targets sperm function.

  • Celia M Santi Grau Perez, MD, PhD – Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine
  • Jerod Denton, PhD – Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • Craig Lindsley, PhD – Director, Medicinal Chemistry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine


Modified Arteriovenous Graft for Cell & Drug-Based Therapy

A novel arteriovenous graft platform that we hypothesize can readily facilitate cell and drug therapies.

  • Mohamed Zayed, MD, PhD, FACS – Assistant Professor of Surgery, School of Medicine


SympEl (Sympathetic Electrode System): A Simple Neuromodulation Solution to Address Complicated Diseases 

A patent-pending, platform neuromodulation electrode system designed to be easily placed in a minimally invasive manner near the sympathetic chain located on the sides of the spine.

  • Eric Leuthardt, MD, FNAI – Professor of Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Dan Moran, PhD – Professor, Biomedical Engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering


In situ generation CAR-T for cancer therapy

An approach to facilitate the promising cancer immunotherapy “CAR-T” that makes it cheaper and more patient-accessible.

  • David Curiel, MD, PhD – Professor of Radiation Oncology, School of Medicine


Targeting Ca2+-Permeable AMPA Receptors for Inner Ear Therapy

The first-ever drug for the prevention of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

  • Mark Rutherford, PhD – Assistant Professor, Otolaryngology, School of Medicine
  • Steven Green, PhD – Professor of Biological Sciences and Otolaryngology, The University of Iowa
  • Roland Dolle, PhD – Chemistry Director, Center for Drug Discovery, School of Medicine

Reflecting on his project’s funding win, Dr. Eric Leuthardt shared, “I’m excited to have received the LEAP award. This provides critical funding for an extremely innovative and platform technology that will revolutionize how we think about treating chronic disease. These types of high-risk/high reward projects are not possible without the initial investment from LEAP, which is critical in paving the path towards the future.”  

These projects are supported by Washington University in St. Louis' Institute of Clinical and Translational SciencesSiteman Cancer CenterSkandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and EntrepreneurshipCenter for Drug Discovery, and Office of Technology Management.

“We need innovation and entrepreneurship now more than ever. We are excited that LEAP can serve as a catalyst to move WashU technologies towards the marketplace,” shared II Luscri, Skandalaris Center Managing Director and Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. “We are thrilled to see the LEAP community grow; the faculty and researchers who participated from across the University made great strides during this cycle, and I am proud of the adjustments everyone made to thrive during this unique cycle of LEAP.”

Congratulations to the funded teams.

To learn more about LEAP visit: