Big Bucks Go to Aggie-Founded Company

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A company founded by John Criscione, an assistant professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is one of four recipients of a total of nearly $6 million from the state’s Emerging Technology Fund that were announced May 31.

The ETF is a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature last year to help businesses get innovations to the marketplace. Criscione’s company, CorInnova Incorporated, will receive $500,000 for the commercialization of its heart therapy device.

“We are very pleased,” said Criscione, who is both a Ph.D. in engineering and an M.D. “Economic development tends to go to large, established companies, but even the biggest companies start small. Our company plans to grow a hundred fold, and this grant will enable us to be both born and bred in Texas.”

Criscione’s research into how mechanics––the study of force and motion in matter–applies to the biology of the heart led to the creation of a cardiac physical therapy device intended to ward off congestive heart failure following a heart attack.

The device pumps air into the chamber around the heart to squeeze the heart and push blood out. Letting the air out of the chamber allows the heart to expand and fill with blood. Criscione’s invention modulates the growth of the heart, but doesn’t replace the heart or its action.

“After a car accident or surgery, physical therapy can help repair the joint to become more functional. I think we can do the same for the heart,” Criscione said.

Criscione and CorInnova co-founder Dennis Robbins are currently conducting one-day animal trials on sheep. If all goes well, clinical human trials could begin in 2008.

Recipients of ETF funding are selected by a 17-member advisory committee of high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts who review potential projects and recommend projects for funding to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House.

“The ETF is an important catalyst for the commercialization of A&M System innovations,” said Guy Diedrich, the A&M System's vice chancellor for technology commercialization. “The investments made in A&M System companies will help these start-ups attract venture capital investment that otherwise wouldn’t be available.”

The other recipients are CardioSpectra, Inc., of San Antonio; Xilas Medical, Inc., of San Antonio; and Molecular Imprints, of Austin. The first award, $2 million to Texas Tech University, was announced earlier this year.