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Penn State Hershey launches Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

For many scientists, seeing the results of the work they do in a lab or clinical setting developed into a diagnostic or treatment tool that can help improve people's health is the ultimate career goal. Yet faculty entrepreneurs play many different roles and face a variety of challenges during the early and critical phases of company formation. For example, start-up companies typically cannot afford to hire a leadership team. One of the ways Penn State College of Medicine is trying to support entrepreneurship among its faculty is by providing a team of experienced innovators through the new Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program to provide advice and experience to fill that void.

Gregory Jackson, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, is serving as the inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence. In his role, Jackson works with clinicians, faculty, staff and students to provide guidance on their entrepreneurial endeavors.

As chief scientific officer at MacuLogix, Jackson provides firsthand experience as a faculty entrepreneur. The technology behind MacuLogix, a company focused on developing and commercializing a breakthrough diagnostic tool for early stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), was initiated by Jackson while at the University of Alabama Birmingham and further developed at Penn State Hershey.

Research studies completed in the department of ophthalmology at Penn State Hershey enabled MacuLogix to recently receive a critical clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to begin commercializing the AdaptDxTM dark adaptometer. AdaptDx TM has been used as a research tool in investigations of retinal health and measures how quickly eyes are able to adjust to darkness.

AMD is the leading cause of adult vision loss in developed countries. Diagnosis often follows already significant vision loss because AMD often causes no symptoms early on. There is no cure for macular degeneration, but earlier diagnosis would allow doctors to address its causes and slow disease progression.

MacuLogix recently reached a significant stage of fundraising to allow the company to complete the development and begin commercialization of AdaptDx as the first practical diagnostic for early detection and tracking of AMD. The device will provide doctors with an easy-to-use, functional diagnostic similar to routine perimetry testing for glaucoma. This tool will allow doctors the ability to intervene at the earliest possible time to prevent vision loss and improve quality of life.

“This device is the culmination of over a decade of basic science and translational research, and my hope is that it will lead to earlier detection and earlier treatment of this sight threatening disease,” Jackson said. “I am grateful to the Department of Ophthalmology and Penn State College of Medicine for supporting this effort to improve the quality of life of our senior citizens.”

The Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program is supported by a $425,000 grant as part of the Discovered in PA, Developed in PA (D2PA) program from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

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