The UVA Licensing & Ventures Group has named W. Jeffrey Elias, MD, the 2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year, an award given to university faculty members whose research is making a major impact on society. Elias is recognized for pioneering the use of focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, and for leading the clinical trial that resulted in Food and Drug Administration approval of the approach to treat the condition.
“The selection committee believes Dr. Jeff Elias embodies this award for advancing the focused ultrasound technology for the treatment of essential tremor,” said George Gillies, PhD, 2006 Innovator of the Year and member of the 2018 selection committee. “Innovative clinical partners like Dr. Elias, who spearheaded the collaboration with Insightec, the UVA Health System, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and other clinical sites, are critical for driving patient impact.”
Elias, a professor of neurological surgery and neurology at the School of Medicine, has led several clinical trials using focused ultrasound technology as a high-tech and incision-free alternative to brain surgery. The first clinical trial in 2011 saw incredible results for patients with essential tremor, a condition that afflicts an estimated 10 million Americans. The success of the first trial ignited further clinical research on focused ultrasound at UVA and opened a new discussion in the field of neurological surgery around the treatment of movement disorders.
Essential tremor can compromise basic life skills, making anything that requires a steady hand impossible for patients with the condition. The focused ultrasound treatment that Elias has moved from clinical trial to FDA approval at a remarkable rate can have immediate life-changing results for candidates eligible for the procedure.
“We saw an overwhelming interest from patients with essential tremor after the success of the first clinical trial, which became the driving force behind furthering our research around this technology at UVA,” Elias said. “This project requires a multidisciplinary effort among professionals in imaging, engineering, neuroscience, and clinical neurosurgeons, to bring this treatment option to patients who are truly suffering. The resources and support we continue to receive from the University of Virginia are essential for the development of this idea.”
The technology allows for a highly precise treatment without incision using focused sound waves within the brain to create heat that interrupts malfunctioning circuits responsible for the tremor symptoms. Using magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI), clinicians such as Elias can monitor the procedure in real time and adjust the treatment based on the patient response.
“We are pleased to honor Dr. Jeff Elias as the 2018 Innovator of the Year. His understanding of focused ultrasound technology and its adaptation for the treatment of essential tremor have made a remarkable impact not only for his patients but on the field of neurosurgery,” said Michael Straightiff, executive director of the Licensing & Ventures Group. “Elias is leading the way for innovative clinicians in translational research at UVA, and we are thrilled to recognize his accomplishments with this award.”
Elias will be honored Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the Innovator of the Year award ceremony. He will give a public lecture highlighting his research from 3:30-5 p.m. in the Dome Room of the Rotunda. All UVA faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend.
About Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award
The highest honor bestowed on University of Virginia innovators since 1992, the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year award recognizes an individual or team each year whose research is making a major impact. Named for former UVA Professor Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. (“Goose”) Henderson, a 25-year veteran of privately owned financial services businesses, the award is a tribute to their enduring support of and commitment to the University and its innovators. The endowed award is managed by the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG). Award winners receive a $10,000 cash prize and formal recognition at a special awards reception.
About University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group
The Licensing & Ventures Group is the University of Virginia intellectual property management and innovation commercialization organization for UVA’s research portfolio. Founded in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) UVA affiliated foundation, UVA LVG receives approximately 200 invention disclosures, executes approximately 80 commercial transactions and launches five to seven new companies each year. During the 2017 fiscal year, UVA LVG was awarded 82 patents in the United States and abroad. Its mission is to maximize the impact of UVA innovation assets via commercialization while providing high levels of customer service, value-added business development, new venture creation and a focus on driving quality transactions.