UC Davis

Heart valve replacement process wins prize

By From page A13 | May 19, 2013

A new approach to tissue preparation that makes heart valve replacements less likely to be rejected by the body’s immune system — potentially giving transplant patients longer, healthier lives swept top honors at UC Davis’ 13th annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition.

ViVita Technologies, a team comprising a UCD veterinarian and three biomedical engineering doctoral students, took home a total of $12,000 in the  $10,000 for first place, decided by a team of judges, and $2,000 for the People’s Choice award, decided by a vote of the approximately 150 people who attended the awards ceremony Thursday at the UCD Conference Center.

MBA students in the Graduate School of Management run the competition.

ViVita Technologies was driven to create its product to address the current shortage of organs. “But unlike with current heart valve transplants, the patient would be free from a lifetime of (anti-rejection) drugs,” said Maelene Wong, chief executive officer of the nascent company.

The ViVita process removes substances that trigger patients’ immune response while preserving the structural integrity and functional properties of the replacement valve tissue. The method has been successfully tested on small animals, they said.

The proprietary process allows the patient’s own cells to join and grow with the transplant tissue — a process that the team says could eventually be used for any organ transplant. It would also allow for better transplant methods for children, who often need new transplants, and additional surgeries, when their bodies grow, Wong said.

She and two fellow biomedical engineers teamed with Leigh Griffiths, an assistant professor of cardiology and cardiac surgeon in the School of Veterinary Medicine, to develop the technology. Last summer, they honed their business development skills through the Biomedical Engineering Entrepreneur Academy at UCD’s Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Second prize of $5,000 went to Davis Chem, a team of part-time MBA students that is working to commercialize a sustainable method of producing isobutryaldehyde: a common base chemical used in everything from paint to cosmetics, with genetically modified E. coli bacteria rather than with the petroleum products currently used in production.

The patent is held by Shota Atsumi, an assistant professor of chemistry.

— UC Davis News Service

Karen Nikos

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