About Dr. Rodeheaver

George T.  Rodeheaver, PhD, Co-Founder

Dr. Rodeheaver is the Richard F. Edlich Professor of Biomedical Research at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center (UVA).  He founded and has directed the UVA Burn Support and Wound Healing Research Laboratory in the Department of Plastic Surgery for over 30 years.  His primary research focus has been the biocompatible management of injured tissue.  Using standardized animal models, he evaluates wound management techniques such as hemostasis, debridement, wound cleaning, bacterial and fungal control, dressings, wound healing agents, and closure techniques.  He also conducts clinical trials on growth factors, topical antimicrobial agents, wound sealants and adhesives and other topical treatments for burns and chronic wounds.

Dr. Rodeheaver has co-authored 4 books (including “Chronic Wound Care: A Clinical Source Book for Healthcare Professionals”), over 30 chapters, and 240 scientific articles on the science of wound care.  As a result of his research, significant advances have been made in the management of burns and wounds.  In an effort to ease the often painful process of wound cleaning, Dr. Rodeheaver developed a biocompatible wound cleaner that is now used as a standard of care around the world.  When burn wound infection at UVA’s hospital became problematic, Dr. Rodeheaver developed an advanced surfactant-based biomaterial for wounds which is biocompatible and has a number of important properties to help damaged skin (PluroGel®).  PluroGel® has been used on burns and chronic wounds at UVA on an estimated 12,000 patients.  In 2008, the University of Virginia Patent Foundation recognized the impact of the PluroGel technology by naming Dr. Rodeheaver the Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year.

Dr. Rodeheaver is recognized internationally as a wound care expert and has been active in many national and international organizations.  He was a founding member of the Wound Healing Society and a charter member of the Society for Biomaterials and the Surgical Infection Society.  Dr. Rodeheaver was a founding member of the USA’s National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP), serving as President for 4 years.  He served on a USA government Guideline Development Panel of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) and helped to develop USA wound care guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers.   In 2005 Dr. Rodeheaver received the NPUAP’s Kosiak Award for Significant Contributions in the Field of Pressure Ulcers.  Dr. Rodeheaver was a founder and long-time planning committee member of the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care and received its Founder’s Award for significant impact in 2003.  He  remains active in the American Burn Association and the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care.

History of PluroGel

In the mid 1970s, Dr. Rodeheaver’s research was focused on the management of traumatic wounds.  As Director of UVA’s Plastic Surgery Burn Support and Wound Healing Research Laboratory, he and his team were focused on finding better ways to clean and treat acute wounds and burns.  A major finding was that it was often difficult and painful to remove dirt, debris and previous-treatment residues from wounds without doing more damage to tissues.  Many of the cleaning products tested, like hexachlorophene, betadine, iodine, polyhexanide or basic soaps and detergents, were toxic – they destroyed healthy cells along with the bacteria and fungus.  Dr. Rodeheaver was determined to find a biocompatible, water-soluble and effective material that could be used to clean wounds without doing more damage.  “The goal of our laboratory is to apply science to maximize the healing process,” he said.

With his background in organic chemistry, Dr. Rodeheaver was perfectly positioned to conduct the research that discovered a correlation between a surfactant’s chemical structure and its toxicity.  Using this information, Dr. Rodeheaver developed an effective and unique biocompatible, water-soluble surgical skin cleaner that was used at UVA and was later marketed worldwide.

When burn doctors then asked his help to solve their problem with infection in UVA’s burn unit, Dr. Rodeheaver accepted.  It was this work that led to the development and use of PluroGel.  Dr Rodeheaver first started with investigations of the effectiveness and toxicity of existing products including the burn creams then in use.  He found that the polyethylene glycol (PEG)-based creams could cause glycol toxicity and renal failure.  Dr. Rodeheaver took the challenge to develop a safer topical treatment for patients.  He built on the knowledge gained from his wound cleaner research and learned how to make an effective, cell-friendly, surfactant (cleaner) water-soluble material in which he could place antimicrobials.  This new material solved several problems at once.  The topical products in use at that time (prior to PluroGel) and products used today worldwide were not water-soluble, and thus often formed a residue or crust in the wound.  This crust interfered with delivery of the next topical treatment and created a location where microbes could grow – the crust had to be removed, which was often painful and time-consuming.  The doctors and nurses found that Dr. Rodeheaver’s PluroGel was easy to remove, did not cause pain at dressing changes, and, with the antimicrobials included eradicated wound infection.

PluroGel with antibiotics quickly became the burn and chronic wound treatment of choice at UVA.  Clinicians at the UVA Burn Center and Chronic Wound Clinic have used it on over 10,000 patients, dramatically reducing the incidence of infection among their patients, creating an ideal wound environment and augmenting the healing process.

In 2008, Dr. Rodeheaver was named Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year by the University of Virginia Patent Foundation for this work.  Dr. Rodeheaver and his team patented their discovery; however, only UVA could make and use PluroGel.

While UVA staff regularly experienced and expected PluroGel’s success, Dr. Rodeheaver often received phone calls of amazement from new staff members after they used PluroGel.  He also received phone calls of dismay from staff leaving UVA who found they had to leave PluroGel behind and could no longer get it or use it.

When Adam Katz, MD, joined UVA’s Department of Plastic Surgery, as the Director of the Chronic Wound Clinic, he was so impressed by PluroGel’s results that he partnered with Dr. Rodeheaver to form PluroGen Therapeutics, Inc., as a spin-out of UVA, to secure regulatory approvals for PluroGel products and make them widely available around the world for the benefit of patients everywhere.