In today’s show, written by Morgan Ellen Estabrook, outreach and communications manager for the U.Va. Patent Foundation, we look at Dr. George T. Rodeheaver and PluroGel™, his patented gel which reduces suffering and improves the recovery of burn victims and patients with chronic wounds.
The Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.Va. Patent Foundation, recognizes an inventor or team of inventors each year whose technology has proven to be of notable value to society. This year, Dr. George T. Rodeheaver was honored May 19th at the UVa Patent Foundation’s annual awards banquet at the Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville.
Robert S. MacWright, executive director of the UVa Patent Foundation, said, “…Dr. Rodeheaver was chosen for this top honor because of his work to reduce the suffering and improve the recovery of burn victims and patients with chronic wounds. This work has made a big difference for patients at the U.Va. Health System, and Dr. Rodeheaver’s continued efforts will bring its benefits to patients everywhere.”
Dr. Rodeheaver, the Richard F. Edlich Professor of Biomedical Research, said he is especially thrilled to have been selected as the winner of an award named in part for his friend and long-time collaborator. “This award is not only an honor for me but also a tribute to Dr. Edlich, who has made so many contributions to emergency medicine over the years.”
Dr. Rodeheaver’s most notable invention is an ahead-of-its-time antimicrobial gel that has proven significantly more effective than existing therapies in treating severe burns and chronic wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers and venous leg ulcers.
Trade-named PluroGel™, the topical treatment is unique in that it thickens at high temperatures (such as body temperature) and liquefies at cooler temperatures. As a result, PluroGel effectively delivers healing medication when applied to the body but is easily removed by cool water, making it much less painful to remove than existing therapies.
Dr. Rodeheaver’s innovative technology, for which he received a full U.S. patent in 1997, has been used to treat patients throughout the U.Va. Health System. More than 2,000 patients — some referred from up to 400 miles away to receive the treatment — have benefited from the invention.
Rodeheaver said, “The technology has had a dramatic impact so far. The fact is that in our burn center, we have been able to eliminate infection, which was the leading cause of death 15 years ago. And we have had great success in healing chronic wounds, many of which, with traditional remedies, had not healed for numerous years.”
Because of the level of success achieved within the U.Va. Health System, Rodeheaver has worked diligently to commercialize the technology through a start-up company, PluroGen Therapeutics Inc., which he founded with associate professor Adam J. Katz, M.D., also of the Department of Plastic Surgery. PluroGen is currently seeking Federal Drug Administration approval on the product so that it can be made available commercially to the public, beyond the University hospital.
After 36 years at the University and over 200 journal articles, Rodeheaver, who was filling out a grant application when he received word of his award said, he continues to enjoy pushing forward on the frontiers of science. According to the faculty member-cum-inventor and now entrepreneur, who considers himself to be “old-school. It is a new paradigm for me; it’s unique and exciting. Entrepreneurship in particular is something I see as a brand-new adventure.”
You’ve been listening to the Oscar Show, I’m Jacob Canon. Join us next week when our topic will well look at Dorrie K. Fontaine, recently named Dean of UVa’s School of Nursing, and her career advocating better care for critically ill patients.