PHILADELPHIA — The American Heart Association (AHA) announced today that they have made their first investment through the Science & Technology Accelerator Program into CytoVas, LLC. The company was founded by Jonni S. Moore, PhD, and Wade Rogers, PhD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Emile R. Mohler III, MD, Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, faculty members of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and will further develop research into a screen for a patient's vascular health profile. This new investment program was inaugurated by the AHA to bridge the gap from research to commercialization and bring potentially life-saving diagnostics and treatments to patients more rapidly.

The vascular health profile, currently being developed by CytoVas, measures major indicators of blood vessel health: the number of blood-vessel stem cells and the amount of microparticles, created through the natural cycle of cell death and renewal. More stem cells indicate that blood vessels have an enhanced ability to respond to changes in the body and regenerate in response to injury. High levels of microparticles appear toxic and are thought to contribute to hardening of the arteries and heart attack and stroke. Therefore, the balance of those two components is potentially of significant clinical use as an index of blood vessel health. Since nearly half of the people who have cardiovascular health problems aren't considered at high risk by most commonly used heart-health profiles, there's an urgent need to provide a comprehensive snapshot of blood-vessel damage and the reparative capacity of the body.

The AHA funds will be used by CytoVas for the next phase of development, a clinical study, which will determine whether the test can be used to monitor the effects of statin treatment.

If successful, this technology would first be used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies for drug development and clinical trials to identify cardiovascular side effects of new drugs and to identify patients who may respond particularly well to a new treatment. Ultimately, the test will be used to assess people without heart-disease symptoms who are being considered for cardiovascular preventive treatment, or for routine monitoring of the effectiveness of treatments for people who have cardiovascular disease.

The technology builds on methods developed by the flow cytometry and computational biology group of the Path BioResource center within the Penn Medicine Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, who pioneered the new cell-based assay and a new analysis method termed cytometric fingerprinting. This method automates the task of analyzing large, complex datasets from flow cytometry of blood vessel cells, while at the same time eliminating unintended analyst bias.

With the support of the UPstart Program within the Center for Technology Transfer at the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn researchers co-founded CytoVas, as an early-stage, in-vitro diagnostics company. The team then brought aboard Pascal Yvon, PharmD, MBA, as the CEO and leader of the commercialization strategy. The UPstart Program works closely with Penn faculty and staff to commercialize intellectual property developed at Penn through the formation and development of entrepreneurial companies.

For more information, please read the American Heart Association news release.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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