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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Commercial Success Shows Promise of ODU Bioelectrics Research

Old Dominion University's path-breaking bioelectrics work, which has demonstrated the ability to kill cancer cells and heal wounds, has generated more than $41 million for the University and its researchers.

The $41.6 million total represents the value of shares of stock transferred from Pulse Biosciences, a publicly traded company formed last year in California to pursue the discoveries made at Old Dominion's Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics.

Reidy, a member of the Board of Visitors who contributed significantly to launch and expand Old Dominion's bioelectrics research, said, "The goal of ODU is to retain, educate and graduate its students, and our students will be among the beneficiaries of Old Dominion's success in marketing technology with significant commercial value."

The formation of Pulse Biosciences will help the public, as well, expediting the practical applications of ODU's research.

The $41.6 million sum represents the largest commercialization success in the University's history. It also marks the largest total for a Virginia university in the past year.

Old Dominion President John R. Broderick announced the milestone Wednesday at his 10th State of the University Address at Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Old Dominion's bioelectrics research, focusing on pulsed power, was launched in the 1990s. Lightning-quick nano-second bursts, lasting just billionths of a second, have been shown to kill cancer cells and might stimulate an immune response that prevents cancer from recurring, said Stephen Beebe, a research professor at the center.

Researchers at the Reidy Center also are working on other applications, including atrial fibrillation, medical imaging, bacterial decontamination of food and the removal of diseased tissue.

Richard Heller, a professor and eminent scholar at the Reidy Center, said Beebe and Karl Schoenbach, the center's first director, "were critical to the initiation, growth and success of this technology. While cancer therapy is a major focus, there are many applications that can have a major influence on developing effective therapies. The ODU center is recognized as the global leader in this area of research."

The center has grown with contributions from Reidy as well as investment capital from alumnus Mark Strome, whose $11 million donation also helped created the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

Pulse Biosciences drew from 19 patents and patent cases developed by 21 inventors with ties to Old Dominion.

Schoenbach, a professor and eminent scholar emeritus, said their work "shows the value of interdisciplinary research." The inventors included "faculty, post-docs and students with backgrounds in physics, electrical engineering, chemistry and biology."

He added: "Only with the continuous support of the administration were we able to succeed in our quest for these new bioelectric applications. We are very proud that our work will lead to new medical therapies, particularly new cancer therapies."

Pulse Biosciences also is developing research conducted at Eastern Virginia Medical School and the University of Southern California.

Beebe said Old Dominion's research "provides the cancer treatment community with an important, new and unique cancer therapy that could be a game changer."

He added: "It's very satisfying to see it come to this level. I'm overjoyed. It's taken a long time to get here."