After a successful Massey TBI Grand Challenge kick-off event in February, the competition came to a close on May 31 with the Wolverine Den (MCIRCC’s version of Shark Tank). Five teams were awarded funding thanks to the generous gift from the Joyce and Don Massey Family Foundation.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, contributing to about 30 per cent of all injury deaths. At the same time, current diagnosis, monitoring and treatment strategies for TBI are primitive, largely supportive in nature, and are ineffective at reducing the extent of the injury.

Innovation in severe TBI care is urgently needed in order to improve patient outcome and ease the burden on physicians and caregivers. The Massey TBI Grand Challenge aims to bring interdisciplinary teams together to create high-impact, milestone-driven solutions that address the golden hours of care after severe traumatic brain injury.

This year, 9 teams were selected to pitch their TBI solution at the Wolverine Den. The winning teams were scored highly by an independent panel of clinicians, innovation and commercialization experts, national TBI experts, and Department of Defense representatives.

Determined to reward the most innovative proposals, the panel did not go easy on teams during the rousing Q&A sessions and sought out answers to potential gaps or unknowns in their pitches. However, presenters brought their “A-game,” with multimedia presentations and comprehensive subject matter knowledge.

The goal of the Massey TBI Grand Challenge is to impact TBI patient care and improve outcomes. After listening to the pitches, panelists and attendees walked away from Wolverine Den feeling hopeful for the future of TBI care. After thoughtful deliberation, the “Wolverines” submitted their funding recommendations, which were approved by the Massey Oversight Committee.

2019 Massey TBI Grand Challenge Winners

Evaluating Non-Invasive Mitochondrial Modulation

Although TBIs are a diverse injury and the molecular/clinical mechanisms are complex, mitochondria appear to be a common effector that contribute to brain injury. The group proposed a non-invasive therapy platform that utilizes specific wavelengths of near infrared light (NIR) to target mitochondria and modulate the molecular events occurring during secondary brain injury.

Although TBIs are a diverse injury and the molecular/clinical mechanisms are complex, mitochondria appear to be a common effector that contribute to brain injury. The group proposed a non-invasive therapy platform that utilizes specific wavelengths of near infrared light (NIR) to target mitochondria and modulate the molecular events occurring during secondary brain injury.

Valproic Acid Treatment for Varying Severities of Traumatic Brain Injury & Optimizing Valproic Acid Administration in Isolated TBI 

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The groups have been working to develop novel pharmacologic treatments to patients with TBI, with a focus on a class of medications known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. One well known HDAC inhibitor is valproic acid (VPA), which is limited largely to patients with epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. This project will aim to answer practical questions that are critical to appropriately using VPA in TBI patients and support an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

The groups have been working to develop novel pharmacologic treatments to patients with TBI, with a focus on a class of medications known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. One well known HDAC inhibitor is valproic acid (VPA), which is limited largely to patients with epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. This project will aim to answer practical questions that are critical to appropriately using VPA in TBI patients and support an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

POC Device for Real-Time Measurement of Biomarkers

Biomarkers found in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma have the potential to monitor the progression of TBI injuries and refine TBI diagnosis and prognosis. Microfluidic technology offers a route to achieve point-of-care monitoring, as it allows laboratory processes to be miniaturized into integrated portable devices. The team proposed a miniaturized microfluidic device that is capable of high-frequency repeat quantitation of 8 or more biofluid biomarkers in whole blood, displaying results on a handheld device, such as a smartphone, within 15 minutes.

Biomarkers found in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma have the potential to monitor the progression of TBI injuries and refine TBI diagnosis and prognosis. Microfluidic technology offers a route to achieve point-of-care monitoring, as it allows laboratory processes to be miniaturized into integrated portable devices. The team proposed a miniaturized microfluidic device that is capable of high-frequency repeat quantitation of 8 or more biofluid biomarkers in whole blood, displaying results on a handheld device, such as a smartphone, within 15 minutes.

Neuroprotection with Intranasal Insulin after TBI

The intranasal delivery route makes it feasible for paramedics or combat medics to initiate therapy for TBI within minutes of injury. Intranasal Insulin therapy is already in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. The group sought to demonstrate the neuroprotective effect of early high-dose intranasal insulin. They proposed a rigorous translational approach to evaluate and optimize a novel drug delivery strategy that can be initiated soon after injury by non-medical providers as a highly effective and low-cost neuroprotective treatment for TBI patients.

The intranasal delivery route makes it feasible for paramedics or combat medics to initiate therapy for TBI within minutes of injury. Intranasal Insulin therapy is already in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. The group sought to demonstrate the neuroprotective effect of early high-dose intranasal insulin. They proposed a rigorous translational approach to evaluate and optimize a novel drug delivery strategy that can be initiated soon after injury by non-medical providers as a highly effective and low-cost neuroprotective treatment for TBI patients.

Novel Systolic Target Assessment Tool (STAT)

In this project, the group will refine and test the next iteration of their device that provides automated, targeted SBP monitoring: the systolic target assessment tool (STAT). The device will be capable of identifying current SBP, and most importantly, will provide a near continuous indication of a patient’s pressure relative to a threshold SBP needed for optimal TBI management.

In this project, the group will refine and test the next iteration of their device that provides automated, targeted SBP monitoring: the systolic target assessment tool (STAT). The device will be capable of identifying current SBP, and most importantly, will provide a near continuous indication of a patient’s pressure relative to a threshold SBP needed for optimal TBI management.