2023 Achievements Marked by New Technologies, Commercialization and Advanced Research

Across next-generation pathogen sequencing, a rapid cooling device for stroke patients and on-a-chip technology, there was no shortage of pioneering work in Louisiana’s thriving life sciences sector in 2023.  

The year’s endeavors also ventured into increasingly personalized health solutions, paving the way for a new era of tailored treatment that incorporates AI, bioinformatics, genomics, 3D printing and virtual reality. Many companies in this space are not just developing advanced technologies, but they are bringing them to market as well.

These themes come from a recent survey of Louisiana researchers, physicians and CEOs, many of whom also spoke to the state’s commitment to fostering strategic partnerships with research institutions, biotech firms and healthcare providers as a reason for the state’s successes. Here’s what they had to say:


Dr. Lowry Curley, Co-founder and CEO
New Orleans

In November 2023, AxoSim completed its first major acquisition with the purchase of the microBrainTM-associated assets of Vyant Bio’s StemoniX subsidiary, making AxoSim a leader in preclinical neuroscience drug development.

The StemoniX acquisition includes the microBrainTM drug discovery platform, a 14,000 square-foot R&D and manufacturing facility near Minneapolis, nine patents and associated intellectual property, and veteran scientists who helped develop the microBrainTM technology. Linked by the Mississippi River, the New Orleans headquarters of AxoSim, dubbed the company’s “Downriver” location, is now joined by colleagues and capabilities “Upriver” in Minnesota. 

The new microBrain™ technology joins AxoSim’s NerveSim® and BrainSim® platforms, which use human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to develop live 3D models of the human brain and nerves, also known as organoids or live biomimetic models. With NerveSim®, AxoSim can study whole nerve conduction to support drug discovery efforts in chronic pain, neurotoxicity and peripheral neuropathy, while BrainSim® includes key brain cell types for the study of myelination-related conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The addition of the microBrain™ technology, with its ability to chart electrical activity in the brain, supports research efforts in disorders such as epilepsy, Rett syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease.

Our goal of delivering human data faster to transform neurological R&D takes a major step forward with the addition of the microBrainTM platform, team and facilities.


BioInfo Experts
Susanna Lamers, CEO and Founder

From 2020 to 2022, BioInfo Experts partnered with LSU Health and Ochsner Health to monitor SARS-CoV-2 evolution in Louisiana. In 2023, with the COVID-19 pandemic waning, fewer samples were available for sequencing and reporting to the Louisiana Department of Health. That allowed us to continue building and expanding our cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, which is focused on pathogen genomics and licensed by healthcare. For example, we incorporated analytics that automatically identify resistance genes in bacterial infections. Our technology development team, spearheaded by Dr. Rebecca Rose, continued to bolster our software security, which is now both HIPAA- and NIST-compliant, an often overlooked component of bioinformatics technologies. 

In terms of commercialization, we explored new innovative markets. For example, gene therapies derived from viral genomes are expanding, and the Food and Drug Administration is now requiring these new therapeutics undergo genomic analysis to ensure quality control prior to human clinical trials; we successfully poised our company and technologies to enter this exciting and dynamic industry.


Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy 
Dr. Stephen Lokitz, Interim Executive Director

In 2023, BRF received $2 million in federal funding, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dr. Bill Cassidy, for a new PET/CT scanner, which will be the most technologically advanced in the state. The new scanner will expand CMIT’s ability to perform clinical and research activities simultaneously. Recently, CMIT has brought a new breast cancer imaging procedure to Louisiana to offer the region and state the latest in diagnostic PET imaging. CMIT continues to expand operations through the distribution of novel PET radiopharmaceuticals to other research and clinical centers and has grown local participation in clinical research by adding clinical trials requiring novel radiopharmaceuticals and advanced imaging procedures. 


Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. Savanah Newell, Discipline Chair for Anatomical Sciences

In the past year, VCOM-Louisiana has seen several academic and research firsts, from new partnerships for fourth-year medical student rotation sites to the college’s inaugural Research Recognition Day event. Perhaps one of the most notable curriculum enhancements made this year is the introduction of a new virtual reality system. The system, a product of TOLtech, serves as both a supplemental study tool and an integration directly into the coursework with its ability to engage students in interactive quizzes and mock exams that test their ability to identify body structures. The VR system allows students to view a full 3D version of a real person and then remove skin and muscle to reveal specific body systems. It even allows users to view areas of the body as cross-sections, which can be helpful when identifying specific illnesses and injuries.  As students progress through their education at VCOM-Louisiana, faculty will be able to adjust the settings of the VR system and walk students through the location and presentations of clinical cases being discussed in lectures and lab settings, thus helping to translate the textbook information students learn directly to the human donors they work within the anatomy lab. This new tool will create a bridge for students to integrate anatomy into the big picture of their medical education, ultimately enhancing the quality of care they’ll be able to provide their future patients.


Life Recovery Systems
Matt Center, CEO

Our product, the FDA-cleared ThermoSuit System (TSS), is a non-invasive rapid cooling device that cools to a target temperature of 33° C in approximately 30 minutes.  

The FDA met with LRS in June to review SISCO study results, concluding that the TSS had achieved its objectives while showing a very strong trend for brain protection and better recovery. The FDA then recommended that LRS end the SISCO study in order to move forward with a prospective randomized trial of rapid cooling in acute ischemic strokes.

This recognition by the FDA is a testament to the unmatched cooling power of the ThermoSuit System. This greatly enhances the investment opportunity in LRS. We are looking forward to continuing to aggressively pursue the FDA clearance for the stroke market.


Louisiana Cancer Research Center
Dr. Joe Ramos, Director and CEO
New Orleans

The biggest achievement of the year is our newly announced statewide collaboration among LSU, LCMC Health, the Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC) and Tulane University, which will serve to accelerate the attainment of the first National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Louisiana. The LSU LCMC Health Cancer Center will work with LCRC and its partner institutions to promote education and conduct research in the diagnosis, detection and treatment of cancer while pursuing a National Cancer Institute designation as lead applicant.

We also expanded LCRC membership to researchers throughout the state, who come from multiple colleges, universities and institutions that are connected to and benefit from LCRC resources and relationships. And, we created a new LCRC Office of Community Outreach and Engagement to assist researchers in bringing basic research from the bench to the community while bringing input from the community to inform research priorities.


LSU Health New Orleans
New Orleans
Dr. Steve Nelson, Interim Chancellor

In 2023, LSU Health New Orleans achieved multiple milestones in the life sciences innovation space. This included the execution of its largest-ever license agreement for a technology to treat rare genetic disorders such as Huntington’s disease, the success of several faculty start-ups in moving therapeutic and diagnostic products through FDA and clinical trial milestones, and the discovery of novel approaches for treatment of ischemic stroke, breast cancer, PTSD, and age-related macular degeneration.  

With our concerted effort to engage in partnerships with the bio/pharmaceutical industry in every phase of our research, we also this year have significantly expanded the scope of our innovation enterprise to advance both our research and our clinical impact for public benefit.


Obatala Sciences
Dr. Trivia Frazier, President, CEO and Co-Founder
New Orleans

Looking back over 2023, we have several significant accomplishments to be thankful for. Here are just a few: 

We are excited about traction from our two new hydrogels that launched in April of this year. The hydrogels are human-derived, similar to our flagship hydrogel, ObaGel®, and they are used for culturing cells in 3-dimensions or performing robust cell growth outside the body. These hydrogels expand our portfolio of materials that can serve as an alternative to or replacement of mouse-derived gels for culturing human cells.

We received an award from the International Trade Association in recognition of our product export activity in the UK. We also received national recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency. I had the pleasure of traveling to Baltimore to accept the award on behalf of Obatala, directly from Under Secretary of Commerce Donald Cravins Jr.

We acknowledge that our progress is largely supported by our partnership with entities such as the Louisiana District Export Council, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and local universities, including the University of New Orleans. 

Two of our licensed patents within our intellectual property portfolio were issued this year.


Kiley Grant, CEO

If 2023 could be summed up in a word for Oleolive, it would be “finally.”  This word embodies our year because it resulted in the launch of our product, Oligen, which has been in development for nearly five years and has been anticipated for a very long time. Now, Oligen has far exceeded our expectations and is creating challenges to keep up with demand – a good problem to have

Oleolive was started to create Oligen, a dietary supplement that contains oleocanthal, the most potent phenolic compound found in extra virgin olive oil. The technology was licensed from the University of Louisiana at Monroe at an early stage and had to be commercialized from the ground up. This was done through several SBIR/STTR awards, eventually resulting in a heavily researched product that Oleolive figured out how to produce at scale. 

In addition to our “finally” product, we are also pursuing an IND for a compound that has shown stellar results in pre-clinical testing. This compound targets Alzheimer’s disease through a traditionally taboo target, PPAR gamma/delta. However, we have reason to be encouraged, with the industry seeming to re-accept the target as valid with the recent publication of topline results from other similar compounds. 


Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director
Baton Rouge

Pennington Biomedical researchers are at the forefront of research to identify the most appropriate diet for a specific individual. This year, the National Institutes of Health launched the Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH) study, the largest research effort of its kind, with an enrollment of 10,000 study participants from diverse backgrounds across the country. Pennington Biomedical joins 13 other sites across the United States in the study with the goal of learning more about how our bodies respond differently to food. 

Drs. Eric Ravussin and Leanne Redman from Pennington Biomedical received this five-year, $8.6 million grant, and information from their research will enable physicians to offer truly personalized nutrition prescriptions for patients that will improve health and treat chronic diseases. Enrollment in the study is underway. 

Overall, 2023 was another monumental year for researchers at Pennington Biomedical. In addition to the NPH study grant, our researchers received numerous multi-million grants to look at things like food waste, hypoglycemia and cardiovascular risks of limited sleep. A nearly $1.3 million grant was also awarded this year to support the efforts of Louisiana healthcare institutions to share health data for research purposes, something that can benefit the entire state.


South Rampart Pharma
Dr. Hernan Bazan, CEO
New Orleans

In 2023, South Rampart Pharma, Inc. achieved several pivotal milestones. Most notably, we received FDA Fast Track Designation for SRP-001, our innovative non-opioid analgesic for acute pain. This accelerates our path to market and positions SRP-001 as a safer alternative to opioids, acetaminophen and NSAIDs.

We also secured a second NIH commercialization grant, bolstering our R&D capabilities and affirming the scientific community’s confidence in our work. Furthermore, our global IP strategy took a significant leap with the granting of a composition of matter patent for SRP-001 in China and Europe. This patent adds to our robust IP portfolio, which now spans multiple countries, including the U.S., India and Japan.

These achievements have set the stage for our continued growth, enabling us to forge new partnerships and expand into new markets. They also underscore our commitment to developing safer, more effective treatments for pain management, thereby contributing to Louisiana’s burgeoning life sciences ecosystem.

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