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The Post Academia in Action: From academia to industry and back again

Academia in Action: From academia to industry and back again

This story was originally published on the PIVOT center’s website.


The pathway to a faculty position at a university can be long and circuitous. For Abigail Pulsipher, a research assistant professor in the Otolaryngology and Molecular Pharmaceutics departments, that journey took her from a postdoc in California to working at a University of Utah spinout company — GlycoMira — before landing her current position at the U.

Pulsipher has taken the lessons she learned from industry and applied them to her lab and research at the U. “We base our projects and our hypotheses on sound basic science,” she said. “But then we are also thinking way ahead down the road and kind of engineering backwards because we’re thinking from the ‘bedside back to bench back to bedside’ approach.”

This approach has already proven successful for Pulsipher. Since starting as an assistant professor in October 2022, Pulsipher has received a Research Incentive Seed Grant from the Vice President for Research and School of Medicine at the University of Utah, was named a University of Utah Clinical and Translational Science Institute K12 Scholar, and most recently received Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

With the STTR grant, Pulsipher and her team are developing a new point-of-care test to diagnose a specific subset of patients with chronic sinus disease: eosinophilic chronic rhinosinusitis. “It’s truly a quality-of-life burdensome disease. Patients can have congestion, facial pain, and pressure. It affects their sleep and productivity,” Pulsipher said. These symptoms can last for 12 or more weeks.

Current methods to identify these patients and monitor disease fluctuations in response to treatment are limited. “This technology helps chip away at that problem by coming up with what we hope is a simple solution based on a nasal swab and a diagnostic point-of-care readout,” Pulsipher added. With this technology, Pulsipher and her team aim to improve the efficiency and value of and accessibility to personalized care.

The STTR grant is just one positive outcome of Pulsipher’s journey from academia to industry and back again. Directly, the grant represents the continued collaboration between GlycoMira and the U. Indirectly, the grant is a result of the relationships and experiences Pulsipher developed throughout her career and can be traced back to her postdoc days.

As a postdoc at California Institute of Technology, Pulsipher said she “fell in love” with glycosaminoglycans—essentially long chains