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Air Force issues awards to VCU-backed shock therapeutic startup Perfusion Medical

The U.S. Air Force’s venture capital and innovation arm, AFWERX, has awarded two grants to Perfusion Medical.

Perfusion Medical Inc. received AFWERX’s “Phase I” Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants in April. Perfusion is developing a drug that seeks to stop hemorrhagic shock caused by severe blood loss. Its solution, called PEG-20K, was invented by a team led by Martin J. Mangino, Ph.D., a professor of surgery, physiology and biophysics in the Department of Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine.

AFWERX is a U.S. Air Force program fostering a culture of innovation within the service. Encompassing a number of programs — including the U.S. Small Business Administration’s STTR grants — and supported with relatively small amounts of funding, the initiative is intended to circumvent bureaucracy and engage new entrepreneurs in Air Force programs.

Perfusion’s PEG-20K can open the smallest blood vessels in the body, the capillaries, after a person experiences shock due to losing blood. When PEG-20K is administered intravenously after a patient has suffered substantial blood loss, it prevents the all-too-common “reflow problem” when cells swell with water and prevent blood transfusions from doing their job. PEG-20K applications could include war zones, ICU units, cardiac care centers, and mass casualty scenarios. (Former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator for Virginia Mark R. Warner visited Perfusion and Mangino’s lab earlier this year).

VCU has received more than $12 million from the U.S. Army over the past decade to develop PEG-20K. Perfusion Medical has raised more than $1 million to help bring the drug to market.