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Elias receives Innovator of the Year award

Friday, February 2, 2018  
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The University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG) has named W. Jeffrey Elias, MD, the 2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year, an award given to University faculty members whose research is making a major impact on society. Elias is recognized for pioneering the use of focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, and for leading the clinical trial that resulted in Food and Drug Administration approval of the approach to treat the condition.

“The selection committee believes Dr. Jeff Elias embodies this award for advancing the focused ultrasound technology for the treatment of essential tremor,” said George Gillies, Ph.D., 2006 Innovator of the Year and member of the 2018 selection committee. “Innovative clinical partners like Dr. Elias, who spearheaded the collaboration with Insightec, the UVA Health System, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and other clinical sites, are critical for driving patient impact.” 

Jeffrey Elias, MD, Professor of Neurological Surgery and Neurology at UVA School of Medicine, has led several clinical trials using focused ultrasound technology as a high-tech and incision-free alternative to brain surgery. The first clinical trial in 2011 saw incredible results for patients with essential tremor, a condition that afflicts an estimated 10 million Americans. The success of the first trial ignited further clinical research on focused ultrasound at UVA and opened a new discussion in the field of neurological surgery around the treatment of movement disorders.

Essential tremor can compromise basic life skills, making anything that requires a steady hand impossible for patients with the condition. The focused ultrasound treatment that Elias has moved from clinical trial to FDA approval at a remarkable rate can have immediate life-changing results for candidates eligible for the procedure.
“We saw an overwhelming interest from patients with essential tremor after the success of the first clinical trial, which became the driving force behind furthering our research around this technology at UVA,” said Elias. “This project requires a multidisciplinary effort among professionals in imaging, engineering, neuroscience, and clinical neurosurgeons, to bring this treatment option to patients who are truly suffering. The resources and support we continue to receive from the University of Virginia are essential for the development of this idea.”

The technology allows for a highly precise treatment without incision using focused sound waves within the brain to create heat that interrupts malfunctioning circuits responsible for the tremor symptoms. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), clinicians like Elias can monitor the procedure in real time and adjust the treatment based on the patient response.

“We are pleased to honor Dr. Jeff Elias as the 2018 Innovator of the Year. His understanding of focused ultrasound technology and its adaptation for the treatment of essential tremor have made a remarkable impact not only for his patients but on the field of neurosurgery,” said Michael Straightiff, Executive Director of LVG. “Elias is leading the way for innovative clinicians in translational research at UVA, and we are thrilled to recognize his accomplishments with this award.”

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