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Called to Be: Health & Environment

Title:Donor-supported GUMC Gap Fund continues to advance innovative research

Author: Lauren Poteat
Date Published: September 15, 2023

The Georgetown University Medical Center’s Gap Fund, now in its third year, provides generous support to promising and innovative medical research at stages when funding can be difficult to secure.

A collaboration between the Office of Advancement and the Office of Technology Commercialization, the Gap Fund was first created in 2021 through a $1M gift from Bill Baker (C’54) and Ruth Baker (Parents’80, ’84, ’88).

“Research-based technologies that come out of universities are usually incredibly early stage with limited federal funding available for commercially relevant validation and de-risking,” said Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, Georgetown’s vice president for technology commercialization. “Having the Gap Fund has enabled Georgetown researchers to advance their research and increase the likelihood of significant global impact. This funding is critical to helping enhance the entrepreneurial culture of Georgetown researchers. We are so grateful to the alumni willing to support this important initiative.”

The fund invests up to $100,000 per project for one year to help bridge the gap between developmental milestones, with an opportunity to qualify for subsequent funding.

This year’s GUMC Gap Fund awardees are driving innovation in three distinct areas of medical research.

Liver fibrosis detection

Radoslav Goldman, director of the department of oncology, biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown University Medical Center, is developing a technology for non-invasive serologic detection of liver fibrosis. Goldman’s technology will help patients potentially avoid invasive biopsy procedures and thus will allow doctors to better manage disease prevention and intervention strategies.

Pulmonary hypertension treatment

Tinatin Brelidze, associate professor of pharmacology, and Yuichiro Suzuki, professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is conducting research focused on the use of Kv11.1 channel inhibitors for treatment of pulmonary hypertension, a lethal artery and lung disease that can lead to heart failure. They identified a new use for an FDA-approved drug, currently used for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias, that can be repurposed for treatment of pulmonary hypertension, which currently has no cure.

Filters for airborne particulates

Kai Liu, professor of physics at the Georgetown University Department of Physics, is researching nanoporous foam-based multifunctional filters. Liu believes the substances’ mechanical stability, chemical resistance, ease of cleaning and reuse, and recyclability make them promising filters for combating COVID-19 and other types of airborne particulates.

“We very much appreciate the Gap Fund support, which comes at a critical juncture of our technology development, in bridging the gap between fundamental materials research and prototype demonstration,” says Liu. “It will allow us to demonstrate a smart metal-foam-based platform that combines multiple functionalities for air filtration and cleaning.”

Getting involved in the advisory board

An advisory board, currently comprising eight alumni and friends of the university with expertise in the biomedical and technology commercialization industries, guides the selection of fund beneficiaries. The group invites additional experts to join the board and support this work at Georgetown.

“Participating as a member of the Gap Fund advisory board has provided me with a meaningful way to remain connected with Georgetown and has allowed me to support the important work happening at the Medical Center,” says advisory board member Jonah Cashdan (C’16).

To learn more about ways to support the GUMC Gap Fund, contact Mark Antonucci at

Georgetown University has filed patent applications in the U.S. and Europe directed to technology reported here with Levi and Glazer named as co-inventors; a patent has been issued and patent applications are pending in the U.S. Canada and Europe with Smith as one of the co-inventors (co-owned with NIH); and a U.S. patent application is pending on Liu’s technology. For information about the technologies described, contact Sharon Pula at