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Getting mugged may have been the best thing that ever happened to Jacob VanLandingham.

It changed his life, that much is certain. The head injury he sustained also inspired him to develop a drug to treat concussions, an invention that has the Florida State University professor and researcher knocking on the door of what could end up being the next big thing.

VanLandingham has created what he hopes will be the first Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine for treating mild traumatic brain injuries such as concussions.

“It’s an unmet need,” the Gadsden County native said.”We’re trying to take people out of the dark.”

But first there’s the back story, how VanLandingham evolved from a career as a physical therapist into a neuroscientist fascinated with brain injuries.

It starts in Gainesville in the summer of 1995, when VanLandingham was helping his older brother move into an apartment so he could begin medical school. VanLandingham was blind-sided by a vagrant, knocked to the ground and struck the back of his head on the curb.

His head hurt — a lot. But he didn’t think anything was too wrong until the next day when he realized he was woozy.

An emergency room doctor discovered VanLandingham’s brain was bleeding. He had suffered a concussion, and for the next 19 months he coped with short-term amnesia. Eighteen years later, he is still aware that his sense of smell has been dulled.

VanLandingham believes that if there had been a nasal spray available similar to what he has developed, a product to quickly reduce swelling in the brain, his recovery time could have been shortened immeasurably.

His drug, Prevasol, contains the female hormone progesterone. It is almost two years in the making at this point, still 90 days from earning a patent, VanLandingham said.

While it will be at least three years, and more likely five, before VanLandingham’s product will be readily available — and that’s assuming all goes well along the way during clinical trials and investors continue to step up — a lot has happened already.

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VanLandingham, eager for clinical patient trials to get under way, sees unlimited markets for his drug, from youth sports programs to the military to aging Americans who are more prone to falls that can cause concussions. It could even be used as a preventative treatment, prior to participating in contact sports, he said. Traumatic brain injuries are a big business in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.7 million Americans sustain a TBI every year, and 75 percent of all TBIs are concussions or other mild brain injuries. Treating them is a multi-billion dollar industry.

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Comments:
Mr. VanLandingham’s story demonstrates how you can still feel symptoms of so-called “mild” TBIs many years later. The professor’s creation sounds promising. His use of the pregnancy hormone progesterone recalls the remarkable progress of TBI victim Andrea Vellinga, who was injured in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse. Her family enrolled her in a trial using progesterone, and she has shown dramatic improvement (although it will still be another year before they know whether she was given the actual drug or a placebo).
 
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