At the Penn State board of trustees meeting Thursday, President Eric Barron updated the board on the progress of the Invent Penn State initiative.
Introduced by Barron in 2015, Invent Penn State is a commonwealthwide initiative that encourages entrepreneurship through a collaborative effort between Penn State students, faculty, community members and businesses.
Barron said he preferred to show rather than tell how successful IPS has been by inviting innovators to tell their stories to the board. One of the highlighted stories was told by Jeffrey Catchmark, professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
Catchmark was awarded a grant through IPS to aid in his development a biofoam pad that can be used for wound treatment. When he developed the biofoam, a wound care application did not occur to Catchmark.
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“I gave a presentation at the Materials Research Institute’s bio-materials innovation group and Peter Dillon, the head of surgery, was there and he looked at me and said, ‘Do you realize what you have there?’ ”Catchmark said. “And I said, please tell me.”
Dillon told Catchmark that the product he originally developed as an inexpensive, biodegradable replacement for Styrofoam could be used to cover wounds. After testing the biofoam in that role, Catchmark discovered that the product absorbs blood while expanding to apply pressure on the wound.
The unintended purpose of the biofoam was realized and the product is now in the development and testing phases.
Catchmark attributed the success of the product to IPS and Barron’s vision.
“That is just a sample and I suspect it speaks a lot louder than anything I might do standing up here,” Barron said. “This is my interpretation, the dam is breaking. And out of that is coming a huge flood of entrepreneurial ideas and efforts.”