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Elaine Horn-Ranney holds a sample of a gel, Perf-Fix, which the company is testing for use in eardrum repair surgery.

A Richmond startup company has received a Defense Department contract to test a gel patch for eardrum repair in field settings to treat military service members.

Tympanogen was awarded nearly $250,000 as a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the Department of Defense to support safety testing the company’s gel patch for eardrum repair.

The Defense Department is interested in the product because military personnel sustaining perforated eardrums is one of the most common blast injuries.

“By making eardrum repair faster, easier, and more accessible at the time of injury, we can prevent the complications that lead to this disability for tens of thousands of service members,” said Elaine Horn-Ranney, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We are excited to work with the DOD to develop our eardrum repair gel for field use.”

Tympanogen was founded in 2014 by Horn-Ranney and Parastoo Khoshakhlagh, who both received doctorates in biomedical engineering from Tulane University. The company set up research operations in the Virginia Bio+Tech Park in downtown Richmond early in 2018 when Horn-Ranney moved to the Williamsburg area.

The company has developed a type of polymer hydrogel that it calls Perf-Fix, which can help with the repair of perforated eardrums by encouraging natural regeneration of the tympanic membrane.

It wants to simplify surgical procedures using the gel, which can be applied in an office setting without the need for surgery or general anesthesia.

The Defense Department contract comes after Tympanogen was awarded in August a $1.48 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to help the company further its research.

The testing for that contract is expected to take about 12 months. The company’s goal is to submit its product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2020 and advance into clinical trials after that.

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