Meet the 2018 Finalists
Presenter: Akiva S. Cohen, Ph.DInstitution: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Project Title: Dietary Therapy for Concussion
Summary: Over 1.5 million people in the United States suffer a new traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year, often resulting in death or long-term disability. Even mild TBI (mTBI), a concussion, can lead to an array of long-lasting neurological impairments. An estimated 3.2 to 5 million Americans currently live with neurological disabilities resulting from TBI. Impacts to the head are common in football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, rugby, and basketball and in pursuits such as horseback riding, cycling, roller-blading, and boxing among others. No concussion is without consequences. In the short-term, athletes’ cognitive and athletic performance may suffer. In the long term, concussions, and perhaps even sub-concussive blows, are thought to cause alterations in brain structures and functions that can lead to impaired cognitive functioning and neurobehavioral problems. Despite the prevalence of TBI, no therapy currently exists to treat the underlying causes of the cognitive impairments suffered by TBI patients. We have developed a dietary therapy that mitigates injury-induced pathologies.
Presenter: John Elfar, M.D.Institution: Penn State Health
Project Title: Repurposing 4AP to Answer the Golden Question in Trauma Surgery (A Single Dose Pharmaco-Diagnostic for Peripheral Nerve Continuity After Trauma)
Summary: When severe limb trauma causes paralysis, surgeons struggle to make treatment decisions because it is impossible to tell whether nerves are completely severed or still connected but not functioning. Tests can help assess muscle, skin, vessels, and bone but there are no early tests for the status of nerve tissue. Nerves control all movement and feeling in a limb and severed nerves require urgent surgery to reconnect the nerve ends for recovery to be possible. Unless we risk further injury and operate just to verify nerve continuity, we must wait weeks in sometimes pointless expectation of spontaneous recovery only to discover that the nerve was severed – by that time it is likely too late for a successful surgical approach. The ability to rapidly diagnose whether paralyzed limbs contain intact nerves could revolutionize treatment of severe limb trauma, and we propose solving this problem by using a clinically safe approved drug (4-aminopyridine) for the entirely new purpose of providing a single-dose test for nerve continuity in our trauma patients.
Presenter: Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D.Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Project Title: Repurposing a High-Blood Pressure Drug to Decrease Pediatric Suicide
Summary: Suicide due to major depressive disorder is a growing cause of death among adolescents and young adults. Pediatric patients treated with anti-depressants have an increased risk of suicide during the first several weeks of treatment due to lowered serotonin levels in the brain. However, early studies suggest that depressive patients respond better to treatment when also given pindolol, a high blood pressure medication. Our clinical trial will test the ability of the anti-depressant/pindolol combination therapy in lowering the risk of suicide in pediatric and young adult patients during this initial 30-day window.
Presenter: Mike Wang, Sc.M.Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Project Title: Repurposing Over-the-Counter Cough Medicine Dextromethorphan As a Rapid-Acting Antidepressant Without Conventional Side Effects
Summary: Conventional antidepressants that boost neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine prove ineffective in reversing the unexplainable increase of depression and suicide for the past 10 years (particularly in veterans and young adults). Fortunately, recent FDA trials show unprecedented treatment success with the party drug and anesthetic ketamine, which reactivates brain networks impaired by depression. Unfortunately, ketamine is impractical for addressing depression at large as it is highly intoxicating, government-restricted, and requires intensive medical monitoring. Over-the-counter cough syrup has long been recognized to act both like ketamine and first-line antidepressants, and might serve as a superior ketamine alternative with 50 years of safe and widespread use.