News & Stories

Fayez Safadi, Ph.D.

National Institute of Aging Funding Leverages Innovative Osteoporosis Therapeutic Research at NEOMED’s REDIzone

It’s a question worth asking: After a researcher finishes their grant-funded project, what happens next?

Some recent good news for Northeast Ohio Medical University researcher Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., demonstrates the eyes-on-the-prize focus that scientists need to keep through years of work.

A quick look back: In 2016, I-Corps@Ohio selected Dr. Safadi and his team to participate in an intensive program at The Ohio State University to help them move new technology – in this case, a product called Osteoactivin, developed to promote bone healing – from the lab to the marketplace.

Dr. Safadi’s research in  preclinical animal models shows promise for the use of Osteoactivin to regenerate bone for spinal fusion. “It is primarily being developed to help postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis,” he says. According to a new research study, the worldwide market for spinal fusion is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.8% over the next five years, reaching $5.2 billion in 2024.

National Institutes of Health Funding Awarded

Dr. Safadi spun off a company called GPN Therapeutics, Inc. from NEOMED research on Osteoactivin that he did in collaboration with orthopaedic surgeon Scott Weiner, M.D., and others at Summa Health in Akron, Ohio. Now, his company has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of $308,000 from the National Institute of Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

GPN, led by Dr. Safadi as chief scientific officer, will soon have an office in the Research, Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Zone (REDIzone®)  at NEOMED – a place where biotechnology innovators like Dr. Safadi move products from the lab to the marketplace through public-private partnerships. Some of the research for the study will also be performed in Dr. Safadi’s lab at NEOMED, which is part of the University’s Musculoskeletal Research Focus Area.

Student success

Grant funding has allowed Dr. Safadi, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at NEOMED, to hire Thomas Mbimba, Ph.D., to take the lead on the research. Dr. Mbimba completed a doctorate in the Kent State University Biomedical Science (BMS) program with Dr. Safadi as his advisor, and Dr. Safadi is excited to be able to have Dr. Mbimba as the lead scientist for GPN Therapeutics.

“I’m proud of him,” says Dr. Safadi. “It’s great when you train a student, they go out and gain experience in an industry setting, then come back to NEOMED and the REDIzone to move the technology forward.”

Dr. Safadi also credits the contributions of graduate students and College of Medicine students for the continued success of his Osteoactivin research. In particular, he names second-year College of Medicine student Ravi Patel and third-year College of Medicine student Jessica Lin.