July 17, 2000 NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The innovative polymer research of Dr. Kathryn Uhrich, associate professor of chemistry at Rutgers, is in the spotlight today (July 11) at the Springboard 2000 Mid-Atlantic venture forum, a session organized by the National Women's Business Council.
Uhrich is the scientific founder of Polymerix Corp., a company based on a broad range of technologies with medical, dental, cosmetic and industrial applications. These technology platforms are the product of her discoveries at Rutgers, and Polymerix is being created with the encouragement and support of the university.
The company makes its debut in today's forum with a presentation by Polymerix Chairman and CEO Karen Giroux to venture capital investors gathering at America Online's Virginia headquarters. Springboard 2000 is a national initiative designed to increase the investment channels for women entrepreneurs and facilitate investments in women-led firms by corporate, angel and venture investors across the United States. Polymerix is seeking additional financing at the forum to manage its technologies, direct them toward appropriate applications, and create working relationships with commercial entities for product development and eventual market introduction.
"Prominent among Dr. Uhrich's discoveries is a technology that should enable many well-known drugs to be made more effective and/or safer to use," said Giroux. "In the case of aspirin, the process of making it into a plastic acceptable to the body enables the PolyAspirin™, as we call it, to be very slowly released. The slow release feature further enables the local reduction of inflammation, promotion of healing and even the stimulation of bone regrowth, a feature of particular significance in treating periodontal disease, the major cause of tooth loss."
Other medical applications of this technology may be in the treatment of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disorders and tuberculosis. Another Uhrich technology planned for development through Polymerix is a method for making various substances water-soluble. This is expected to have a wide range of applications for drug delivery, cosmetics and industrial uses. Drug-delivery tests have demonstrated a thousand-fold increase in efficiency in certain cases.
Because the new polymer drug applications utilize drugs already known to be safe and effective, the cost to get them to market is expected to be five- to 10-fold less than for most new drugs. More than $10 billion a year is spent in the United States on the medical products Polymerix hopes to improve or replace.
Yet another technology involves a technique for making microscopic protein patterns on polymers. This technology also may have a wide range of applications, including repair of nerve injuries and medical diagnostics.
Recognizing that university-based research drives the engine of science and technology, and our economy, Rutgers is licensing these technologies to Polymerix. Rutgers expects the company to develop and market these products of basic research, with the goal of ultimately improving the health and well-being of the American public. The university's Office of Corporate Liaison and Technology Transfer has also facilitated the process by making connections with business consultants and patent attorneys.
"Rutgers is very pleased to have a role in the formation of Polymerix, a company that has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to New Jersey and provide the public with health and quality-of-life improvements," said Joseph J. Seneca, university vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers. "Professor Uhrich is a superb scientist on our faculty and Polymerix will bring her discoveries to market and help with the medical needs of large numbers of people."
Dr. Uhrich, a recent recipient of a Rutgers Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence, is a full-time member of Rutgers' Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick. She lives in Hoboken but is originally from Grand Forks, N.D. Her role at Polymerix will be to chair the company's Scientific Advisory Board and to serve as a consultant, guiding the development of her discoveries and ensuring that her ideas are appropriately marketed and made available to the public as products.
"I just want to do the basic research," she said. "But when my first journal article came out and 12 different companies called me within two days, I knew I had to do something. If I can do my basic science and set up this company to develop it, then in the end we'll be able to help people and make the world a better place. This could be pretty extraordinary."
The Springboard 2000 Mid-Atlantic venture forum is one of a series of forums showcasing women entrepreneurs and providing investors with access to new investment opportunities in the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy -- women-led businesses. Springboard 2000 is spearheaded by the National Women's Business Council in collaboration with prominent women's business organizations, such as the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, the Center for Women & Enterprise, and major corporate technology partners.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A photo of Professor Uhrich can be downloaded from http://ur.rutgers.edu/medrel/photos/Uhrich.JPG. For additional information on her research, contact Kathryn Uhrich at (732) 445-0361 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on Polymerix Corp., contact Karen Giroux at (732) 745-0098 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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