Skip to content

Researchers awarded funds to continue developing easily applied treatment for diabetic foot ulcers

A research team from Penn State College of Medicine will use $200,000 to further develop a topically applied therapy for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. Researchers hope it will be a safer, more effective and less expensive treatment option for more than four million diabetic patients in the U.S. who have this condition, which if left untreated, may require amputation.

Patricia McLaughlin, professor of neural and behavioral sciences, leads the research team which includes co-investigators Dr. Joseph Sassani, professor and vice chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Ophthalmology and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Ian Zagon, distinguished professor of neural and behavioral sciences.

Due to a difference in skin cell activity, diabetics often experience slower and insufficient healing of wounds, particularly on the foot. Current treatment options are costly, difficult to administer and rarely prevent progression of the disease. McLaughlin’s novel therapeutic — a topical therapy that can be easily applied by patients or caregivers in the home — aims to target the underlying cause of the disease. Pre-clinical studies showed the topical therapy decreased healing time and improved wound quality, likely reducing recurrence of the disease.

The funds are part of the University City Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Program. The Science Center typically receives up to 50 applications annually from 22 universities and research institutions across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for the program, which aims to prepare the most promising new technologies for commercialization to transition from bench to bedside faster.

McLaughlin’s team was one of three awarded funding out of 12 selected finalists. Additional finalists from the College of Medicine included Jeffrey Neighbors and Elias Rizk, who also received critical support in developing their proof-of-concept plans.

The team will use the funds to complete dermatological toxicology studies before moving into clinical trials next year. During that time, the Penn State Center for Medical Innovation and the Science Center’s experienced team of business advisors will provide guidance to the team so they can position their technology for an exit into a startup or licensing agreement with an industry partner.

McLaughlin’s patented technology will utilize a streamlined U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval pathway, which means it could reach patients faster because of previously published data.

Drs. McLaughlin, Sassani and Zagon are the founders of ElkosRX, LLC, a startup company aimed at developing their novel technology for treatment of diabetic wounds. This interest has been reviewed by the University in accordance with its individual conflict of interest policy, for the purpose of maintaining the objectivity and the integrity of research at The Pennsylvania State University.

If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email Penn State Health Marketing & Communications.