Caitlin Howell, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the University of Maine, researches how to design catheters that are less likely to cause infections. News of her research caught the eye of a philanthropic organization, and now, her research has the backing it needs to potentially enter the medical market.
Howell leads a team of researchers at the UMaine Biointerface and Biomimetics Lab studying different coatings that can help prevent protein deposition that could lead to urinary tract and blood infections. Together with Ana Flores-Mireles, assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, they have shown that liquid-infused silicone (LIS) catheters can significantly reduce the deposition of the protein fibrinogen and decrease the risk of major pathogens in the urinary tract.
Open Philanthropy, a grantmaking organization that supports research through philanthropic donations, contacted Howell directly after learning about her research in multiple news outlets and on the University of Maine website.
On Sept. 7, Howell received news that she was awarded $350,000 in support from the organization.
“We were very happy to learn that organizations like Open Philanthropy exist to identify and support research that has the potential to improve millions of lives. Having their support means that we can begin to focus on what needs to be done to move this technology to the market where it can begin to help people,” Howell says.
The funding will support the next steps of Howell’s research, which is translating the technology to the market. The team will be working on intellectual property protection and licensing; customer discovery and market analysis; and beginning the FDA approval process.
“Our goal is to get this technology to the point where it can help all those who rely on catheters. It will be a long process to get this into the hands of doctors and patients, as it is with nearly all new medical technologies, but we are motivated to get it done,” Howell says.