The University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to support the development of potentially life-saving bone regeneration technology during a Nov. 15 visit from Sen. John Boozman. The visit celebrated on-campus research initiatives that the senator championed for federal support.

Pioneered at the UA Little Rock Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, the NuCress™ scaffold is a multifunctional device designed to promote controlled, robust bone regeneration in fractures, gaps where bone is missing, and major injury defects, including previously untreatable catastrophic injuries. Such technology is highly needed by a wide variety of patients, including wounded soldiers, victims of major accidents and trauma, and those with various bone diseases.

The $750,000 grant, provided by the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program, will investigate the scaffold’s ability to combat infection while regenerating bone. Earlier this fall, UA Little Rock received a $5.6 million grant from the Department of Defense to fund the pre-market development of the same bone regeneration technology. Sen. Boozman supported both grants during the application stages.

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“The commitment by DOD to continue advancing bone regeneration technology demonstrates the importance of this research and the opportunities it presents for our wounded warriors,” Sen. Boozman said. “I’m proud to support this award so we can discover breakthroughs, spark innovation, and achieve things we might have thought were impossible. This and other important research being conducted at UA Little Rock is essential to moving us forward and gives Arkansas something to be very proud of.”

During the visit to UA Little Rock’s nanotechnology center, Sen. Boozman met with faculty and student researchers and toured the labs in which the NuCress™ scaffold materials are developed. The bone regeneration research is led by researchers at UA Little Rock (principal investigator Dr. Alexandru Biris), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (principal investigator Dr. Mark Smeltzer), and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (principal investigator Dr. David Anderson).

Sen. John Boozman, his staff, and UA Little Rock members hear a research update from Dr. Nitin Agarwal.

“We are honored by both the DOD’s and Sen. Boozman’s continued support of our research,” Biris said. “Without it, we could not continue to develop this potentially life-changing technology.”

The NuCress™ bone regeneration scaffold also recently received a TechConnect Defense Innovation Award for the second consecutive year. Judged by a team of military and industry experts, the award is given to the top 15 percent of submissions to the annual Defense TechConnect Summit and Expo. Award selections are based on the potential positive impact the technology will have for the military and national security. The award was presented to NuShores Biosciences LLC, the licensee of the NuCress™ scaffold.

“The recognition of our NuCress™ technologies by the Expo judges is gratifying and much appreciated,” NuShores CEO Sharon Ballard said. “This year’s conference validated the marketplace need for our initial orthopedic product and for applying our NuCress™ technologies to new medical indications.”

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Additionally, Sen. Boozman met with Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and distinguished professor of information science, who received a $2.4 million grant from the Department of Defense earlier this year to develop ways to track emerging cyber-social threats and strengthen social cybersecurity research infrastructure. Sen. Boozman also supported this effort.

Agarwal updated Sen. Boozman on how technology being developed at UA Little Rock in the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) has been used to track malicious activities, including the dissemination of propaganda, hoaxes, and disinformation to influence beliefs and behaviors. These technologies include Blogtrackers and YouTubeTracker.

In this most recent grant, Agarwal will develop research infrastructure to assess social media, specifically blogs and YouTube, in real-time and respond to the growing weaponization of online discourse in influencing peacekeeping, and tactical, operational, and strategic operations. The research infrastructure will include the development of models, software applications, and training programs. Military units at all levels will benefit from the intended goals of the project in the identification of threats and opportunities within the information environment.

“We are thankful to Senator John Boozman for supporting the social networking research at UA Little Rock,” Agarwal said. “The senator recognizes the importance of developing new approaches, software tools, and training programs for national security in cyberspace, and this grant was enabled through his support of funding for the Navy’s Social Networks Analysis program.”

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 839 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. This work is supported by the Department of Defense, through the Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program under Award No. W81XWH1920014 and through the Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program under Award No. W81XWH1910742.  Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.

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