As one of the nation's top ten private research universities, USC has a long history of breakthroughs in medicine and life sciences. USC's innovative medical and life science curricula, combined with interdisciplinary biomedical research and graduate training programs, encourage and inspire innovation that impacts our lives in the most fundamental way. Below is a small sampling of exciting spinouts, labs, and projects in medicine and life sciences at USC:
USC has been home to a number of surgical firsts. In 1993, the first double-lobar lung transplant was conducted from living-related donors. That same year, the first gene therapy was performed on a newborn. In 1999, USC physicians conducted the first transfusion-free live donor liver transplant, followed by the first dual kidney and liver transplant from live donors in 2001. Dr. Ross Bremner was the first surgeon in the country to remove a benign chest tumor using a surgical robot aptly named da Vinci in 2001 as well. As part of an FDA-approved trial, USC was home to the first implantation of a retinal prosthesis into a patient in 2002.
In another first for USC, fertility specialists at the Keck School of Medicine recorded the nation's first triplets born from the mother's eggs preserved in liquid nitrogen. The ability to freeze a woman's eggs for possible future pregnancies is critical to those who may face infertility, particularly cancer patients who may lose fertility due to treatment or women facing early menopause. The practice of cryopreserving unfertilized eggs remains rare. Approximately 200 babies have been born worldwide using this technique.
While surgery currently is the treatment of choice in earlier stages of colorectal cancer (CRC), a research team led by Dr. Joseph Heinz-Lenz of the Norris Cancer Center in the USC Keck School of Medicine, discovered a broad range of molecular biomarkers and diagnostic tools that may better predict therapy response rate, the overall outcome and survival rate for patients with CRC. Many CRC patients succumb to their disease and a significant proportion will experience severe treatment-associated toxicities while deriving little or no benefit. A licensing agreement with Abraxis BioScience, and the furthering of this research, could help to overcome this significant concern and enable physicians to select the most effective and least toxic therapy for patients with colorectal cancer.
Snake venom isn't typically on the list of healing substances, but USC faculty member Francis Markland has found a way to use the potent liquid to help break up blood clots and perhaps serve as a tool to fight cancer. His initial work with snake venom resulted in an adapted compound called fibrolase which can be used to dissolve blood clots in the legs and lungs. Today, the drug is called alfimeprase. His more recent work involves the use of contortrostatin, a protein found in the venom of the copperhead snake, to restrict the movement of certain cancerous tumor cells.
Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton leads the USC Science, Technology and Research Program (STAR). The USC STAR Program, impacts over 2000 kindergarten to 12th grade inner city, economically disadvantaged and principally minority Los Angeles students through a comprehensive science and engineering education outreach program. She and her colleagues have developed hands-on problem based science, math and engineering learning experiences as the portal for scientific discovery to address health, environmental and social challenges that face California and the nation. The STAR Program is supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of Southern California Neighborhood Outreach Award, the Kenneth T. and Eileen Norris Foundation, the Toyota Foundation and the Confidence Foundation. More than 50 USC research labs participate in the program.
Epeius Biotechnologies scientists have developed the world’s first targeted delivery system (TDS) that can transport genes or other therapeutic agents directly to diseased areas in the body. This pathotropic, or disease-seeking, technology has enabled the company to develop Rexin-G™, the first tumor-targeted, injectable gene delivery system that has demonstrated remarkable safety and superior single-agent efficacy in clinical trials internationally
NuView has licensed technology from Dr. Peter Conti’s laboratory to develop a cardiac imaging radiopharmaceutical for PET scanning. Together with the USC investigators, NuView is exploring the co-development of this new diagnostic imaging agent which may facilitate the rapid identification of patients with cardiac disease who might benefit from early intervention. The inclusion of F-18 FXA in NuView’s portfolio of adenosine-based technologies and therapies should help to accelerate the awareness of the increasingly important role these products play in the fight against heart disease.
Proactive Oral Solutions, Inc. is a medical device company based upon advanced molecular biology research conducted at the University of Southern California by Dr. Paul Denny at the USC School of Dentistry, which provides highly accurate, non-invasive diagnostic tools for dental and medical uses. Proactive Oral’s proprietary technology provides data-driven medical decision points to allow health care professionals to design evidence-based prevention and treatment plans. With accurate and early identification of the high-risk patient, Proactive Oral's technology will provide substantial savings within the health care community for patients, employers, and dental insurers.
Response Genetics, Inc.(RGI), a Los Angeles-based company built on breakthrough, patented USC technology, announced the Company’s initial public offering of 3 million shares of its common stock at a price of $7.00 per share on NASDAQ Capital Market in June 2007. The Response Genetics IPO demonstrates how a healthy and vibrant relationship between academe and industry can result in successful business ventures that have a significant impact on people’s lives. Response Genetics is the first USC spin-out to go public since the official launch of the USC Stevens Center in March 2007, although the technology licensing team now a part of the USC Stevens Institute has been managing the IP portfolio for more than 8 years.
Tocagen, Inc. is developing gene therapy applications of USC technology, which are based on the use of a replicating retrovirus for treatment of cancer. In the past, most gene therapy applications have used non-replicating viruses, and these attempts have been largely disappointing. Tocagen’s approach using replication-competent viruses has been proven successful in several animal models. The company is preparing to enter human clinical trials for treatment of glioblastoma and melanoma within 12 months. The company has an exclusive license to two USC technologies (one of them joint with UCLA), and is headed up by a seasoned team of entrepreneurs that founded the first gene therapy company Viagene, Inc. (acquired by Chiron/Novartis)
Ronald Nguyen is a young dental student at the University of Southern California. Ron started UltraLight Optix when he thought, "Why can't they make this better?" As a true innovator, he pursued his idea and successfully developed a new dental product, the Feather Light.” With the introduction of "Feather Light," all of the problems that ever existed with luminance in a medical procedure have been solved. This light is the first and only to adopt a super small size and light weight structure, which allow the light to be positioned directly within the line of sight to provide a purely shadow free work environment.