UF Innovations through Translational Science
A Drink that Bred An Industry
In a basement lab in 1965, a University of Florida nephrologist and three of his research fellows worked through the night trying to get the sodium and glucose mixture just right.
The midnight science had started off with a simple enough question: Why did athletes lose so much weight on the field? And how did it affect their performance?After collecting samples from football players on the 1965 UF football team, Dr. Robert Cade and his three fellows made a startling observation: Athletes were losing electrolytes and their blood sugar was dropping significantly during the course of a game.
According Cade’s calculations, his basement-brewed concoction would hydrate athletes, meanwhile increasing the body’s rate of absorption to restore electrolytes lost during sports and activity. Add in a little lemon juice for taste and a little drink known as Gatorade was born. Armed with Gatorade, the 1966 football team went 8-2 and observant reporters took note of the beverage in players’ cups. By 1967, Gatorade had gone commercial and was on NFL sidelines. Gatorade spawned a multimillion-dollar sports beverage industry and has become a staple for parents and pediatricians, too, by helping to keep sick children hydrated. Since its invention in 1965, UF has received more than $150 million in royalties from Gatorade, and these dollars have helped fund numerous initiatives within the UF College of Medicine.
Next Generation Wound Care – Microbe Destroying Bandages
UF researchers were looking for a way to create a bandage that could be kept on longer while promoting faster healing of wounds. To that end, Dr. Chris Batich, Professor of materials science and engineering and Dr. Gregory Schultz, Professor, Institute for Wound Research along with UF graduate William Toreki created a new adhesive bandage capable of doing so . The major breakthrough ,NIMBUS ,was the first and only bandage to use non-leeching, microbacterial dressing technology. The bandage fibers have the ability to kill bacteria from the wound and other bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics. NIMBUS, which has been patented by Quick-Med Technologies, has been commercialized for traditional would care applications with t technology soon to be applied in other advanced wound care products.
A Safe Treatment for Glaucoma
As a chemist the 1950s, Dr. Thomas Maren helped develop a type of oral medication used to treat glaucoma, the third leading cause of blindness. The drug, dubbed diamox, inhibited production of an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase,which, in turn helped to stem the overflow of fluid in the eye. For years, this drug was considered one of the best ways to treat the disease, but the side effects were so severe some patients avoided the treatment entirely. Scientists believed a drop applied to the eye would work better but for years, no one could figure out how to turn a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor into drop that would work on the eye. Maren, who was one of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s first faculty members when it opened in 1956, began trying to solve this chemical conundrum in the 1970s. He made a breakthrough in 1983, but it took time for the advance to be recognized. An ophthalmology journal rejected a paper on his findings five times. In 1986, Merck Pharmaceuticals licensed the drug, now known as Trusopt, and released it in the mid-1990s after clinical trials and testing. For years, Trusopt generated more money for UF than any other invention.
Searching for a Cure
In June 2010, the University of Florida became the first health center in the U.S. to administer a commercially available treatment for late-onset Pompe disease, a rare and complex form of muscular dystrophy that often weakens the heart and respiratory system. Marketed as Lumizyme, the therapy alglucosidase alfa includes intravenous infusions to replace an enzyme called acid alpha-glucosidase, or GAA, in patients. Patients with Pompe don’t produce the enzyme, leading to a build-up of glycogen in the body that destroys muscle cells over time. Developed by Genzyme Corp., the therapy was at the center of the 2010 movie, “Extraordinary Measures.” The film was inspired by John Crawley’s real-life struggle to save his children who are diagnosed with Pompe, an often fatal disorder. The character Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford, is based on a collection of researchers studying Pompe, including UF physician-scientist Dr. Barry Byrne, who served as a technical adviser for the film. Byrne is a professor of molecular genetics in the College of Medicine and the director of the Powell Gene Therapy Center. For 15 years, he has researched and studied Pompe disease. He and his team designed the original clinic trial for the drug in 2003.
Currently, there is no cure for Pompe disease, but Byrne and other UF researchers continue their search. Byrne hopes to augment the current treatment for Pompe with gene therapy.