By Jeff Schweers | Staff writer
When Edward Bonfiglio was a U.S. Navy corpsman on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009, he was shot in the left leg, the bullet severing his sciatic nerve and leaving him with no sensation below the knee.
Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., gave him two options — amputate the knee or try an experimental new procedure using a nerve graft from a cadaver. Bonfiglio elected to undergo the nerve graft.
Today, Bonfiglio is training for the Paralympics and attending Penn State. He was selected to ride in the American Association of Tissue Banks' Donate Life float in the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, the organization announced this week.
The technology that saved Bonfiglio's leg was developed from a discovery made in a lab more than 20 years ago by University of Florida pediatrics and neuroscience professor David Muir and developed commercially by Alachua-based Axogen Inc.
That journey through the pipeline from research lab to market is one that has been made by hundreds of discoveries by UF scientists and faculty, aided by the Office of Technology Licensing.
"OTL is that link ... to take things out of labs and move them into the public sector, which is something guys like me are not aware of or good at, and it's scary," David Muir said. "I don't know how to invest money. I never had any."
Like the latticed framework that grafts donor nerves to host cells, the Office of Technology Licensing binds UF's intellectual property to startup entrepreneurs and investors who are able to turn that research into prototypes that can be tried and tested and federally approved for public consumption.
Housed in the Innovation Hub along with two dozen startup companies, law firms, financial advisers and venture capital firms, the Office of Technology Licensing is able to match those discoveries with the team of entrepreneurs and investors looking for the next big thing.
"The prestige of the Innovation Hub and the results it has made in the marketplace are now attracting top venture capitalist firms from around the country," said Jon Spence, a Gainesville business consultant, investor and adviser to the University of Florida's Leadership Development Institute.