Innovation in Orbit

When Elaine Horn-Ranney (SSE ’08, ’13) and Parastoo Khoshakhlagh (SSE ’13, ’15) were pursuing their doctorates in biomedical engineering, they came up with an idea for a gel-based patch — Perf-Fix — to help physicians repair damaged eardrums without surgery. They were determined to take the technology as far as they could go.

They never imagined that would include a trip 240 miles above Earth to the International Space Station.


In December, NASA launched their innovation into space, and Horn-Ranney and Khoshakhlagh were there, watching the launch at the Kennedy Space Center.

“We were just standing there watching it, and I couldn’t believe that we had actually done it. We sent something into space,” Horn-Ranney said.

“The ultimate goal is to develop a space-filling wound dressing that can deliver drugs directly to the wound site as opposed to a patient getting a lot of systemic antibiotics.”

Elaine Horn-Ranney, SSE ’08, ’13

Horn-Ranney and Khoshakhlagh, along with Horn-Ranney’s husband, Dr. Jesse Ranney (SSE ’08), launched their biotech startup Tympanogen in 2014, with help from Tulane’s Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Development.

On the SpaceX Dragon Cargo Ship, Tympanogen’s wound-healing technology is being run through experiments to see how the gel patch works in microgravity. The space agency hopes the technology can be expanded to one day deliver therapeutics to astronauts and help prevent soldiers injured in combat from developing deadly sepsis infections.

The company is still developing its original product for eardrum repair and hopes to test it in clinical trials within the next two years.