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February 2, 2017

Spinal fusion innovator Vertera continues its rapid rise with GRA Ventures' support

A Georgia Tech-launched startup marketing a spinal fusion device is catching the attention of doctors and investors. Vertera — which this month received a Phase III loan from GRA Ventures — has developed a cervical device, COHERE (above), that mimics the physical properties of bone. Made from an engineered biomaterial that is both porous and strong, COHERE is the first device of its kind approved by the FDA. The technology was named one of the “10 best new spine technologies for 2016” by Orthopedics This Week, and company co-founder Allen Chang was also named to Forbes' "30 Under 30" list for 2017. • More on Vertera >   • Read an interview with CEO Chris Lee >

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January 19, 2017

Gene that Enables Memories, Sense of Direction Produces Schizophrenia-like Symptoms When Mutated

By Toni Baker, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
Mutations in a gene that should enable memories and a sense of direction instead can result in imprecise communication between neurons that contributes to symptoms of schizophrenia, scientists report.

They found that dramatically reducing the amount of protein expressed by TMEM108, a gene already associated with schizophrenia, results in fewer, smaller spines, which work like communication fingers for neurons, said neuroscientist Dr. Lin Mei.

That translates to an impaired ability for neurons to receive whatever signals surrounding neurons are trying to send and mice displaying schizophrenia-like behavioral deficits such as impaired cognition and sense of direction.

"We knew this gene's alteration likely contributed to schizophrenia and we wanted to better understand how," said Mei, chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience and a corresponding author of the study in the journal PNAS.

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January 4, 2017

GRA Eminent Scholar: "Pioneer of Modern Electronics"

By Georgia Institute of Technology
We think of the engineers, scientists and inventors who change the world as icons. Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein – their largest contributions can be recited in just a few words.

But some of them live among us, unnoticed, even though they too made contributions that profoundly impacted everyday life. Russell Dupuis is one of them.

The smartphone you peer into, the LED bulb in your desk lamp, the Blu-Ray player that serves up your favorite film – all are here largely because of Dupuis, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.

That’s because an essential component of their manufacturing traces back to a process that Dupuis developed in the late 1970s, a process that ushered in a new breed of mass-produced compound semiconductors. These electronic components – particularly those forged of elements from columns III and V in the periodic table — can operate at extremely high frequencies or emit light with extraordinary efficiency. Today, they’re the working essence of everything from handheld laser pointers to stadium Jumbotrons.

The process is known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, or MOCVD, and until Dupuis, no one had figured out how to use it to grow high-quality semiconductors using those III-V elements. Essentially, MOCVD works by combining the atomic elements with molecules of organic gas and flowing the mixture over a hot semiconductor wafer. When repeated, the process grows layer after layer of crystals that can have any number of electrical properties, depending on the elements used. 

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