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Justin Sacks, MD, MBA, and Mohamed Zayed, MD, PhD, Receive 2020 Skandalaris LEAP Funding

The Fall 2020 Skandalaris LEAP (Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program) cycle has ended and a new set of translational research projects have been funded. LEAP is an asset development program and gap fund designed to provide intellectual and financial capital to Washington University affiliate translational projects.

Two of the seven projects selected for funding this year feature Department of Surgery faculty.

Division Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Justin Sacks, MD, MBA, received Skandalaris LEAP funding for his research project, titled “Device and System for Preventing the Development of Pressure Ulcers.” This is the first single-use disposable device capable of performing continuous bedside pressure monitoring, preventing pressure ulcer development/progression, and reducing hospital liability and spending related to pressure ulcer care.

Sacks is the Schoenberg Professor of Surgery. He joined the Department of Surgery as Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division Chief in early 2020, coming from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he was Vice Chair of Clinical Operations and Director of Oncological Reconstruction in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. This Skandalaris funding marks the continuation of a successful research career for Sacks, who previously co-founded a biotech company that develops tissue scaffolding for use in restoring soft tissue to patients. Sacks leads the division in providing the best possible head-to-toe aesthetic and reconstructive care to all patients in a multidisciplinary setting.

Research in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, such as the development of new surgical devices, is represented across a broad discipline of surgical specialties and encompasses clinical, translational and basic sciences studies. The Division’s Plastic Surgery Research Laboratories (PSRL) are a consortium of researchers with the common objective of investigating the pathology, mechanisms and treatments for problems facing plastic and reconstructive surgeons. PSRL research spans the division’s research programs: Aesthetic, Breast Reconstruction, Craniofacial, Nerve, Flap Physiology and Monitoring, Tissue Engineering, Wound Healing and Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation.

Vascular surgeon Mohamed Zayed, MD, PhD, was among the team members to receive funding for a project called AIR Seal: A multi-purpose seal for Aerosol-blocking, Intubation, and Respiration (AIR). AIR Seal allows for quick, easy ventilation of COVID-positive patients through a laryngeal mask airway that is dynamically sealed to block viral aerosol transmission.

Zayed is Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Section of Vascular Surgery. He is also Director of the Vascular Surgery BioBank, which collects arterial and venous specimens from consented patients to be used in scientific investigations. This makes it easier for researchers to gain access to sample specimens while maintaining the highest ethical standards. With access to these samples, researchers from various specialties are able to conduct projects to better understand vascular diseases.

For the Zayed laboratory’s discovery of targeting enzymes in both the arterial wall and blood stream that can influence plaque formation and its progression in the peripheral arterial system, he received the 2020 Innovation Award from the Academy of Science—St. Louis.

A panel of industry experts and community partners evaluated 22 projects on their advantage over the existing standard, the ability of the product to be advanced by an external partner and the ability of the proposed scope of work to move the project towards partnering.