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Association of University Technology Managers®

BetterWorld Report

The Positive Impact of

Academic Innovations
on Quality of Life

2010 Edition

Special Edition
30th Anniversary of Bayh-Dole
AUTM extends its gratitude to
the 2010 Better World Report sponsors




The Positive Impact of

Academic Innovations
on Quality of Life

2010 Edition
Association of University Technology Managers®

Special Edition
30th Anniversary of Bayh-Dole
The Better World Project The Association of University Technology Managers
The Association of University Technology Managers launched AUTM is a nonprofit professional association with a mission to
the Better World Project in 2005 to promote public understand- advance the field of technology transfer and enhance the ability
ing of how academic research and technology transfer have to bring academic and nonprofit research to people around the
changed people’s way of life and made the world a better place. world. AUTM’s 3,000 members represent intellectual property
The project draws from more than a decade’s worth of case stud- managers from more than 350 universities, research institutions,
ies and news from AUTM members — the professionals who teaching hospitals and government agencies as well as hundreds
make academic technology transfer happen. of companies involved with managing and licensing innovations
derived from academic and nonprofit research.
This 2010 edition of the project focuses on innovations that posi-
tively impact the quality of life of people around the world.
Copyright© 2010 by
the Association of University Technology Managers®
Materials and Support
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the
The Better World Project materials are available in print and
written consent of AUTM® is prohibited. This publication does
electronic formats.
not imply endorsement by AUTM or any product or service.
Visit the Better World Project Web site or contact AUTM head-
quarters for details. Association of University Technology Managers®, AUTM®,
Advance Discoveries for a Better World® and
AUTM Better World Project are registered trademarks of the
111 Deer Lake Road, Suite 100 Association of University Technology Managers.
Deerfield, IL 60015 USA
+1-847-559-0846 Printed in the USA. ISBN 0-9778444-7-1
AUTM extends its thanks to Nikki Borman and Jennifer Gottwald for spearheading the 2010 edition of the Better World Report; the
Better World Report Committee; all members of the AUTM board of directors for their ideas, feedback and participation, especially
Kristin Rencher, vice president for communications, for her oversight; AUTM staff; and all of the institutions and companies that told
their stories.

The Better World Report is a testament to the efforts of institutions’ technology transfer offices, their directors and staffs, who gathered
and submitted these stories and more. These contributions tell the story of how institutions are doing their part to improve the world
we live in not only through education but through innovation. It is the return on investment that AUTM brings to light in this report.

Editors and Staff 2010 Better World Report Committee

The stories in the 2010 Better World Report were researched Nikki Borman, Co-Editor
and written by Pam Baker, Ellen Blum Barish, Jock Elliott, Ralph Borman and Co. LLC
N. Fuller, Mary Roberts Henderson and Dave Perilstein. (For
more information on the writers, see the Writer Biographies sec- Jennifer Gottwald, Co-Editor
tion.) Lisa Richter served as managing editor. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

The vignettes were researched and written by Better World Re- Kristin Rencher, Vice President for Communications
port Committee members Nikki Borman, co-editor; Kevin Fiala; Oregon Health & Science University
and Laura Savatski. (For a full list of the committee, see the 2010
Kevin Fiala
Better World Report Committee section.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Better World Report was produced by The Sherwood Group
Jodi Hecht
Inc., an association management firm serving science, technol-
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
ogy and health care specialty fields. AUTM’s management staff
and the Communications Department at The Sherwood Group Yatin Karpe
Inc. provide strategic, editorial and design support for the Better Lehigh University
World Report.
Marc Malandro
University of Pittsburgh

Laura Savatski
BloodCenter of Wisconsin

Kalpa Vithalani
Medical College of Wisconsin The Better World Report 2010

Writer Biographies
Pam Baker is a freelance writer noted for her work in science Mary Roberts Henderson is a writer and publicist specializing in
and technology in leading publications and books. She can be health and medicine. Her clients include international scientific
reached at +1-706-577-9637 or  and medical organizations as well as a regional health system.
She can be reached at +1-812-331-2737 or
Ellen Blum Barish is a Chicago-area writer, editor and educator For more information, visit
specializing in health and health care, medicine and medical
technology, psychosocial topics and reading-writing education. Dave Perilstein is a freelance writer in Albany, N.Y., who
She can be reached at +1-847-207-7695 or at specializes in biotechnology and polymer science. He can You can learn more about her be reached by phone at +1-518-479-7632 or via e-mail at
professional background at

Jock Elliott is a freelance writer in Troy, N.Y., who specializes in Emily Stone is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing
helping high-tech and health care organizations communicate in science and health topics. She can be reached at
with their critical audiences. He can be reached by phone at +1-312-286-8744 or More of her work
+1-518-271-1761 or via e-mail at can be viewed at

Ralph N. Fuller is a freelance science and medical writer based David Wallace is managing partner at Gamechange LLC in
in Stow, Mass. He’s also the author of Stow Things, a book Boston, a consulting group that helps emerging technology
on the history of his hometown. He can be contacted at companies bring innovative ideas, products and services to
+1-978-897-4792 or at For more market. He can be reached at +1-617-794-2260 or
information, go to

The Better World Report 2010

Table of Contents
Acknowledgements iii SafeLane Surface Overlay Improves
Winter Road Safety 24
Preface by Ashley Stevens vii Michigan Technological University
Foreword by Sen. Birch Bayh viii Genetic Testing Takes Guesswork out of Diagnosis 27
Rapid, Cost-Effective Diagnostic System Based on Naval Research Laboratory
Innovative Nano Biosensors Helps Identify and Slow
Jolene Delivers a Message Kids Can Hear 29
Spread of Major Diseases 1
Oregon Health & Science University
Argonne National Laboratory
Power Puck Replaces Batteries With
New Diagnostic Test Warns Mothers
Energy From Air 32
Before Preeclampsia Strikes 4
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Malaria: A New Approach Takes on an Old Disease 35
Protecting Hearing: Spinout Advances
Innovative Noise-Filtering Device 7 Portland State University
Dartmouth College Photodynamic Therapy: A Light at the
End of the Tunnel for Cancer Patients 38
HPV Vaccine: Global Effort Defeats
Cancer-Causing Virus 10 Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research FreezePruf Offers Protection for Crops
Center, DKFZ)
Threatened by Falling Temperatures 41
Georgetown University
The University of Alabama
National Institutes of Health
University of Queensland, Australia Advanced Plasma Technology
University of Rochester Medical Center Zaps Deadly Microbes 44
The University of Tennessee
Camera Takes Aim, Shoots at Diabetic Eye Disease 14
Indiana University Promising Proteases Have Potential to
Reverse Incurable Kidney Disease 47
Academic Research Leads to Solid Electrolyte
Tufts Medical Center
Lithium-Ion Batteries Without Achilles’ Heel 17
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Detachable Coils Defeat Brain Aneurysms
With Skill and Ingenuity 50
Armed With Robo Rehab, Stroke Patients
University of California, Los Angeles
Gain Mobility and Hope 21
Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Better World Report 2010

Table of Contents
Industry and Academic Research in Regenerative Artificial Lung Helps Patients Breathe Easier 81
Medicine Leads to Biological Treatment for University of Pittsburgh
Damaged Joints 53
University of Cambridge MobiliT Rover Converts Wheelchairs to
Massachusetts Institute of Technology All-Terrain Vehicles 84
University of South Florida
National Center for Research Resources 57
Clinical and Translational Science Awards: Researchers Realize a Vision to Help the Blind 86
Accelerating Bench-to-Bedside Research to Improve Health University of Wisconsin

Minichromosomes Carry the Key to Improved Crops, Turning the Page on Middle and
Better Yields 60 High School Illiteracy 89
University of Chicago Vanderbilt University

Shingles Vaccine Outwits the Suffering of a Tiny Sentinels Could Keep World Water
Painful Disease 63 Supplies Safe 92
University of Colorado Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Shear Thickening Fluid Fabric Technology Promises to Other Promising Technologies 94

Save Lives, Protect Bodies and Much More 66 Promising Mayo Clinic Technology Joins the Fight Against
University of Delaware Breast Cancer

Alcohol Sniffer Gives Hospitals a Hand National University of Singapore and Others Develop 3D Bone
Tackling Super Bug Infections 69 Implants to Improve Skull Repair
University of Florida University of Buffalo Pill Crusher Makes Medicine
Easier to Swallow
MuniRem Makes Contaminated Land and
Water Safe for Use 72 University of Colorado Software Makes Kids Game for Learning
University of Georgia
University of Delaware Technology Provides Safer Drinking Water
Plastics Manufacturing Process Reduces
Need for Crude Oil, Conserves Resources 75
University of Maryland

New Protein Therapy Shows Promise for

Treating Muscular Dystrophy 78
University of Nevada, Reno

The Better World Report 2010

AUTM is pleased to present the What is staggering is the sheer diversity of ideas and needs that
5th edition of the Better World these successful transfers address. Much of the research car-
Report, its annual compilation of ried out at universities relates to health care, so it should not be
some of the human stories behind surprising that many of the inventions the report describes im-
successful transfers of academic prove health care, ranging from early diagnostics for retinopathy
technologies to the marketplace. to vaccines to prevent cervical cancer in women and shingles
With the stories contained in this in the elderly to a device to let the wheelchair bound move over
report, AUTM will have presented any type of rough surface. Agriculture is not forgotten, with tools
hundreds of success stories. for improved plant breeding and an antifreeze for plants. There
is a better road surface, a better noise filter, a better battery, a
This year marks the 30th anniver- better water purifier, better fabric with the potential to protect our
sary of the Bayh-Dole Act, the landmark legislation that allowed armed forces and police.
universities to obtain patents on inventions that had been federally
funded. As Sen. Birch Bayh tells in the foreword of this report, one Truly there is no end to the imagination of scientists and the
of the things that kept him and Sen. Bob Dole driving forward in ideas they will come up with, as long as they continue to receive
their battle to pass the legislation was a desire to see the practical the funding for basic scientific research, the fuel that drives the
applications of the results of federally funded research become entire process. This richness and diversity is what makes the
reality and make a difference in peoples’ lives rather than lan- profession of technology transfer such a labor of love for those of
guishing unused in scientists’ laboratories or bureaucrats’ offices. us who are privileged to practice it every day. Academic inven-
This seemed to them such an unconscionable waste. tions are not born fully formed and market ready. It takes vision
(and a lot of faith) to see what they can become, and there are
The theme of this year’s report therefore is “The Positive Im- few moments more satisfying for a technology transfer profes-
pact of Academic Innovations on Quality of Life.” It presents 30 sional than when a company shares his or her vision and agrees
technology development success stories of ideas that have suc- to devote the substantial resources needed to take one of his or
cessfully navigated their way from a scientist’s dream to practical her embryonic ideas and make it a reality.
reality to make a real difference in peoples’ lives. The stories
come from institutions across the United States — and the rest So it is my pleasure to invite you to read these stories, to wonder,
of the world — from federal laboratories, from universities both to marvel and to applaud them. And to ask you to keep support-
public and private, from teaching hospitals and from indepen- ing the federal funding agencies, the scientists they fund and,
dent research institutes. Some of the stories are from overseas, not least, the technology transfer professionals who start these
because the success of the Bayh-Dole model has not been lost inventions on the long road from lab to market.
on global competitors, and dynamic technology transfer profes-
sions are rapidly developing round the globe. Ashley J. Stevens, D. Phil. (Oxon), CLP
AUTM 2010 President The Better World Report 2010


After 30 Years of Our goals were really two-fold. One was to strengthen the economy.
Impressive evidence shows that the law more than met this test:
Bayh-Dole, • More than 6,000 new U.S. companies were formed from uni-
versity inventions.
It’s a Better • 4,350 new university licensed products are in the market.
World Indeed! • 5,000 active university-industry licenses are in effect, mostly
with small companies.
By Sen. Birch Bayh
• More than 153 new drugs, vaccines or in vitro devices have
Has it really been 30 years since we been commercialized from federally funded research since
enacted the Bayh-Dole Act? Many enactment of Bayh-Dole.
don’t remember the time when university inventions were un- • Between 1996 and 2007 university patent licensing made:
likely to benefit the American taxpayer. But I do. ❍ a $187 billion impact on the U.S. gross domestic product,

The Bayh-Dole Act arose as the United States faced a steady rain ❍ a $457 billion impact on U.S. gross industrial output; and
of discouraging economic news. One thing was evident: America ❍ 279,000 new jobs in the United States.
could not invest billions of hard-earned dollars in a public re-
search system that did not maximize its economic impact. However, the second goal captured my heart. We wanted to
improve the quality of life worldwide by transforming federally
Sen. Bob Dole and I looked into why so few federally funded in- funded discoveries from ideas into products.
ventions ever reached the market. There was not a lack of inno-
vation — government bureaucracy was strangling entrepreneurs In reviewing this Better World Report, I think back to a press
under reams of red tape. We found 28,000 government-funded conference Bob Dole and I held in 1978. The National Institutes
inventions gathering dust on agency shelves with not a single of Health had reversed its administrative policy granting universi-
drug commercialized when the government owned the patent. ties patent rights, forcing them to endure lengthy case-by-case
reviews. Several scientists whose inventions were caught in this
We believed that if universities and small companies were al- bureaucratic tangle spoke.
lowed to own and license their inventions free from Washington
micromanagement that we could right the ship. We worked An inventor of an ointment for burn victims described the in-
closely with the founders of AUTM in crafting our bill. Because of credible pain his patients endured. He asked: “Who’s benefitting
their support we overcame incredible odds, and Bayh-Dole was while my discovery is delayed from alleviating their suffering?”
approved at the last possible moment.
His question haunted me. I was determined to pass our bill.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Bob and I wrote numerous bills — and passed a good share
into law. However, few became so personal as we learned of
many potentially important discoveries senselessly bottled up in

The Better World Report 2010

Abraham Lincoln said that the patent system was intended to • The University of Colorado’s new vaccine relieves the intense-
add the fuel of interest to the fires of genius. Yet, policies claim- ly painful disease of shingles.
ing to protect the public by mandating that federally funded • The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s new lithium-ion
inventions be made freely available to all had extinguished the battery makes batteries more energy efficient and more afford-
fires of interest and, thus, innovation. Bayh-Dole relit the flame. able.

Thirty years later AUTM members have made our dream a re- It is fitting to say a word about the unsung heroes of Bayh-Dole.
ality. Just look at some examples from the They are the companies that devote the considerable develop-
new report: ment dollars and hard work necessary to
turn early-stage university inventions into
• Indiana University (dear to my heart)
products. No one guarantees their success
creates a retinal imaging technology that
We found 28,000 after taking these risks. Linking the entre-
could make health care more affordable
government-funded preneurial spirit in our public and private
while protecting diabetes patients at risk
sectors benefits us all.
of losing their eyesight. inventions gathering
• The University of Delaware’s water treat- dust on agency shelves Finally, the members of AUTM who devote
ment filter that has the potential to pro- with not a single drug their lives to fulfilling our dream deserve the
vide safe drinking water to reduce 3.4 commercialized when thanks of the millions of people worldwide
million deaths worldwide. the government owned whose lives are better as a result. You’ve
• MIT’s robotic elbow brace allows stroke the patent. created a better world indeed!
victims to recover the use of their arms.
For more information on the Bayh-Dole Act
see page 9.

Birch Bayh was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1962 – 1980. During his Senate career, he authored two amendments to the Con-
stitution — the 25th Amendment on presidential and vice presidential succession and the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age to
18 years of age. He is the author of Title IX to the Higher Education Act, which mandates equal opportunities for women students and
faculty; co-author of the Bayh-Dole Act, which revitalized the nation’s patent system; and chief architect of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Currently, Bayh is a partner in the Legislative and Regulatory Group of Venable Inc.’s Government Division in Washington, DC. The Better World Report 2010

Argonne National Laboratory
Rapid, Cost-Effective Diagnostic System Based on
Innovative Nano Biosensors Helps Identify and
Slow Spread of Major Diseases
Throughout history, human migration highly communicable infectious diseases these diseases at a reasonable cost,
has contributed greatly to the spread of such as tuberculosis (TB), human im- though, creates formidable logistical and
infectious diseases. Trade caravans, reli- munodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, financial challenges. A more innovative
gious pilgrimages and military maneuvers influenza and severe acute respiratory solution that cuts down the number of
spread many diseases such as influenza, syndrome (SARS). tests is needed.
plague and smallpox.
Infectious diseases can be separately Next Generation Disease Screening
Today, epidemics continue at an accel- diagnosed with existing highly effective One possible solution that shows great
erated rate thanks to an internationally gold-standard diagnostic tests such as promise is a high-throughput diagnos-
mobile population with unprecedented culture and/or polymerase chain reac- tic system, which is commercially avail-
access to quick, global travel. This in- tion (PCR). But, the most sensitive and able from Akonni Biosystems, a private
creased international mobility has cre- accurate tests conducted in clinical labs molecular diagnostic company based in
ated the potential for a serious and costly usually take days to provide an answer, Frederick, Md. Called TruSentry, the sys-
health crisis, prompting world health au- while the very rapid tests that require only tem can extract DNA and/or RNA directly
thorities to seek rapid, high-throughput a few minutes are usually less sensitive from either a tiny spot of dried blood or
disease surveillance and reporting pro- and inaccurate. whole blood and then subject the single
grams as a first line of defense. A solution sample to testing for 10 to 20 of the most
needs to identify, manage and contain Performing individual tests for each of prevalent diseases at the same time. Re-
sults are available in less than five hours
— fast enough to allow the analysis of
thousands of samples per day.

The TruSentry diagnostic system can also

be deployed in a single national refer-
ence lab, processing millions of samples
per year or as part of a larger network of
Argonne National Laboratory

separate satellite facilities that are at, or

The Argonne-Engelhardt closer to, the point where samples are
biochip resembles collected. Other configurations can be
a traditional glass
deployed remotely in the field, for exam-
microscope slide that
contains grids of small ple, at the point of an infectious disease
wells or “dots.” outbreak.

The Better World Report 2010

At the heart of the TruSentry system is na- Ph.D., and his team at the Engelhardt of biochips had not been worked out,”
noscale biosensor technology on three- Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow Schabacker says. “It was interesting,
dimensional gel-drops licensed from and subsequently advanced via a joint re- with a lot of capabilities, but there was no
Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. search agreement in 1995 with Argonne manufacturing mindset — the manufac-
Known as a biochip, this high-throughput National Laboratory. Argonne is one of the turing process needed to be scalable to
form resembles a 96-well microtiter plate U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) oldest be commercially viable.
but in a 1 centimeter by 1 centimeter and largest national laboratories for sci-
area that contains several dozen to sever- ence and engineering research. “We really developed a package of stan-
al hundred “dots” or small drops. These dard operating procedures and a cost
biochips also are available in a micro- analysis that showed how our biochips
scope slide-size format for use in point- could be marketable and manufactured
of-care settings. Each serves as a min- in a commercial environment. We also
iature laboratory with a unique protein, Each serves as a transitioned from the original gel-pad
antibody or nucleic acid that will attach to miniature laboratory concept to gel drops, which increased ef-
a particular DNA sequence or antigen to with a unique protein, ficiency and produced a robust product.”
identify infectious diseases such as TB, antibody or nucleic acid
multidrug-resistant TB, HIV, viral hepati- Since this international group of research-
that will attach to a
tis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and influenza. ers started collaborating in 1993, devel-
particular DNA sequence
opment of the biochip has been sup-
“What Akonni has been able to do with the or antigen to identify ported with $22 million in funding from
innovations licensed from Argonne is a infectious diseases government and private sponsors — U.S.
very fascinating success story,” says Yash such as TB, multidrug- National Institutes of Health, DOE, U.S.
Vaishnav, Ph.D., M.B.A, senior manager, resistant TB, HIV, viral Department of Defense, U.S. National In-
intellectual property development and stitute of Allergy and Infectious Disease,
hepatitis B, hepatitis C,
commercialization, Division of Technol- Centers for Disease Control, Motorola
syphilis and influenza.
ogy Development and Commercialization Inc., and Packard Instrument Co.
(TDC), at Argonne National Laboratory.
“It illustrates what can happen when in- The Argonne National Laboratory biochip
novative technologies, developed by two point-of-care diagnostic portfolio contains
international research facilities, with cul- One of the many inventors who worked 29 issued U.S. patents with six pending
tural and geopolitical differences, fit well on developing this innovative technology applications, and the Argonne TDC has
together, and a technology transfer office is Daniel Schabacker, Ph.D., team leader, granted three exclusive licenses with de-
and licensee work together to overcome Bio-Detection Technologies at Argonne, fined fields of use to:
challenges.” where he is the lead scientist for the de- • Safeguard Biosystems — focusing on
velopment of the biochip portfolio. Scha- veterinary diagnostics
International Collaboration backer helped develop the technology for • Aurora Photonics — developing biochip
Leads to Biochip manufacturing the biochips in a commer- imager for research and diagnostics
The special nanoscale biosensor technolo- cial setting. • Akonni Biosystems — developing hu-
gy is the result of an international research man diagnostics
collaboration originally started in 1988 “When I joined the Argonne team, many
by the late Professor Andrei Mirzabekov, aspects of manufacturing and scalability The Better World Report 2010

Innovations Licensed to Startup Today, the relationship is guided by a Unlike today’s real-time PCR-based plat-
Akonni first approached the Argonne TDC fine-tuned license that includes an eq- forms, the Akonni TruSentry system, Banks
in 2003 after hearing Mirzabekov talk uity stake for Argonne in Akonni and a says, can rapidly screen a sample for hun-
about detecting TB in human samples. As cooperative research and development dreds of disease markers at one time by
a startup biotech company, Akonni want- agreement. The result is a successful using hundreds of molecular biosensors in
ed to license the strong portfolio of intel- relationship: So successful, in fact, that a microarray the size of a fingernail thanks
lectual property relating to this innovative former Argonne staff, including a key bio- to all the work, not only at Argonne and
microarray technology to raise funds. chip researcher, have joined Akonni, and Akonni, but the original research started by
both entities are working constructively Mirzabekov and his team.
After submitting a business plan and
completing a licensing questionnaire, Akonni, which is deploying the tech-
Argonne worked with Akonni to identify nology in both point-of-care and high-
key patents and exercise an option agree- throughput screening settings, is in the
Over the years, many of
ment to negotiate a license prior to the re- process of attaining U.S. Food and Drug
them filled with time- Administration approval for its diagnostic
quest for seed funding. After the funding
was obtained, they entered into license consuming processes tests. Banks says this is a major milestone
negotiations. and difficult challenges, on the road to clinical trials and eventual
Vaishnav says both clearance to market it as a commercially
Argonne’s Vaishnav says the first exclu- parties took a flexible available diagnostic system.
sive license included biochips for TB and
approach that resulted
a few other infectious diseases, a reason- “At the end of the day, what we have
in the agreements to developed together is a third-generation
able upfront fee and royalty rates, and
due diligences based on sales and com- evolve so they could molecular diagnostic solution that can
mercialization activity. As the relationship overcome risks, attract provide truly accurate and trusted re-
matured, it became clear to both that they more investors and sults, combined with alert detection and
needed a more dynamic agreement be- collaborators, and take reporting on the world’s most prevalent
yond standard licensing. The result was a and dangerous infectious diseases,”
advantage of growth
collaborative research approach with the Banks says. “It represents the future of
opportunities. molecular diagnostics — a rapid, cost-
guidelines that allowed for advancing the
technology and developing prototype ap- effective diagnostic system can greatly
plications of the biochip. help immigration and health care offi-
cials identify and slow the spread of po-
Over the years, many of them filled with with others to bring the technology to the tentially dangerous diseases and would
time-consuming processes and difficult marketplace. benefit all people.”
challenges, Vaishnav says both parties — David Perilstein
took a flexible approach that resulted in “This technology adds a molecular diag-
the agreements to evolve so they could nostic solution where the current technol- For another approach to molecular diag-
overcome risks, attract more investors ogy, while good, simply can’t perform,” nostics, read about the Naval Research
and collaborators, and take advantage of says Kevin Banks, vice president of sales Laboratory’s technology in “Genetic Test-
growth opportunities. and marketing at Akonni Biosystems. ing Takes Guesswork out of Diagnosis,”
on page 27.

The Better World Report 2010

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
New Diagnostic Test Warns Mothers
Before Preeclampsia Strikes
Preeclampsia is a potentially danger- “In an average OB-GYN practice in the first diagnostics test for preeclampsia.
ous complication of pregnancy that can United States, the doctor will see 25 to It is work born from years of careful re-
strike women as early as the 20th week of 50 women with preeclampsia every year,” search.
gestation with little notice. It is character- says Ananth Karumanchi, M.D., a How-
ized by a sudden spike in maternal blood ard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Starting with the knowledge that after the
pressure, edema and protein in the urine. and associate professor of the Division of placenta is delivered, the disease gets bet-
In severe cases, preeclampsia escalates Nephrology and the Division of Vascular ter, Karumanchi became intrigued with
to eclampsia, which can cause the moth- Biology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medi- the role of the placenta in preeclampsia.
er to suffer potentially fatal complications cal Center (BIDMC), a teaching hospital A kidney specialist by training, he hypoth-
and lead to forced premature delivery of of Harvard Medical School located in esized that the placenta must be secreting
the infant. Boston. “Even though doctors know they toxic substances into the mother’s blood,
will see many women with the disease, either subsequent to the disease process
Preeclampsia adds significantly to in- there has not previously been a way to or as the cause of the disease.
fant mortality rates in all countries and tell which of them has preeclampsia until
regions, but most especially so in areas the onset of signs and symptoms,” says “We took a molecular approach to study-
where there are insufficient resources Karumanchi. ing this hypothesis. We took an approach
to save and treat premature infants. Ac- that was not possible in the past because
cording to the Preeclampsia Foundation, Finding the Warning Markers the technology did not yet exist,” explains
this disease strikes 5 to 8 percent of all That is, until now. Karumanchi and his Karumanchi, who began this research in
pregnant women in any given population, team of researchers are developing the 2001.
some 200,000 annually in the U.S. alone.

The foundation also estimates that pre-

eclampsia is responsible for more than
70,000 maternal and 500,000 infant
deaths globally per year. The only cure for
preeclampsia is forced labor or cesarean
section to deliver the infant prematurely.

Despite the severity and high prevalence

of preeclampsia, an ancient affliction,
very little is known about mechanisms

Preeclampsia strikes 5 to
behind development of preeclampsia 8 percent of all pregnant
and less yet about early diagnosis and women.
potential therapies. The Better World Report 2010

The BIDMC research team studied pla- discovery, and it took time for a number certain placental cells in the regulation
centas to find the molecules that might of colleagues across the field to confirm of sFlt-1 production. They are concur-
cause high blood pressure, kidney protein the findings.” rently characterizing other elevated gene
spillage, vascular impact and/or seizures products that may also play a role in pre-
in a pregnant woman — all symptoms of By testing the sFlt-1 protein in pregnant eclampsia and may serve as biomarkers
preeclampsia. “We found a number of rats, Karumanchi discovered that sFlt-1 for early disease detection.
molecules, but one in particular proved reproduces the characteristics of pre-
very important,” explains Karumanchi. eclampsia: high blood pressure, protein Moving this knowledge into clinical trials,
in urine and glomerular endotheliosis — and then commercial use, whereby it can
That molecule is a protein called sFlt-1 a classic lesion found in preeclampsia potentially save thousands of women and
— an antagonist of circulating vascular cases. This established a relationship infants, however, requires more than the
endothelial growth factor and placental efforts of the scientists in the lab.
growth factor (PIGF). sFlt-1 was later
confirmed to be present in large quanti- Finding a Champion
ties in the bloodstream of patients with “The technology piqued a lot of interest,
Over time, the discovery
preeclampsia. but we had difficulty licensing it,” explains
may be offered as a Mark Chalek, director of Technology Ven-
“We found that the sFlt-1 protein levels point-of-care test in tures Office (TVO) at BIDMC. “We spent
increased several weeks ahead of signs a doctor’s office. A the better part of one year trying to find
and symptoms. By finding that early pregnant woman and her a big pharmaceutical company to license
warning marker, we now have a way to doctor would know her the technology. Most large pharmaceuti-
predict which women will suffer from the cal companies were concerned that the
preeclampsia risk in a
disease, and we can prepare early to ad- clinical trials would be too risky and that
dress the problem,” says Karumanchi.
matter of minutes, rather the preeclampsia market would be too
than in several days, small to justify an investment.”
Co-investigator Vikas P. Sukhatme, M.D., when a result comes
Ph.D, Victor J. Aresty professor of medi- back from a lab. But the support for the diagnostic could
cine at Harvard Medical School and chief not be denied.
academic officer and Harvard faculty
dean for academic programs at BIDMC, “It was vital to bring this technology to
adds. “Down the road, the contemplated the bedside, which is consistent with
treatment would be through administra- between excess sFlt-1 in the bloodstream BIDMC’s mission and its unique strength
tion of drug therapies that neutralize the and the presence of the disease. Working in translational medicine,” says Karu-
effects of sFlt1,” he says. with scientists at the National Institutes manchi. “We are fortunate to have highly
of Health, Karumanchi and his team competent staff in TVO, capable in acting
Identified but not Arrested were able to demonstrate that circulating as catalysts to accelerate the project.”
However, the discovery of the sFlt-1 pro- sFlt-1 and PIGF levels can be used for
tein did not arrive in a lightning strike. It the clinical diagnosis and prediction of Part of that acceleration was making the
was a painstaking process. “There was preeclampsia. decision in 2005 to license the technol-
no Eureka! moment,” reports Karuman- ogy to Nephromics, a Massachusetts-
chi. “It took time for us to appreciate the The team is currently studying the role of based startup company.

The Better World Report 2010

Spearheading the negotiations was TVO’s sublicenses to several manufacturers ly,” says Karumanchi. “By eliminating the
Christine Jost, who serves as associate — would allow the test to get to patients guesswork in diagnosis, we may prevent
director. She explains that Nephromics is faster by creating a competition between unnecessary premature deliveries.”
a private startup company based on in- the companies.
tellectual property (IP) arising from both Despite the current absence of a cure,
BIDMC and Massachusetts General Hos- “For example, when we began to nego- a future treatment may indeed eventu-
pital. While this maneuver established tiate with Abbott, Roche pushed back ally result from the research under way
a focused champion, it also posed both hard, claiming there must be only one today. “We are hopeful that the markers
funding and management difficulties. manufacturer for the purpose of com- will prove useful in developing new thera-
petitive exclusivity,” Jeffries says. “We pies and may lead us to a cure one day,”
The initial laboratory research that led to explained that the big companies such Karumanchi says.
this discovery was funded by the National as Roche, Abbott and others compete in
Institutes of Health. However, Nephro- laboratory testing equipment, but not in “Thus far,” Jeffries says, “we have awak-
mics was precluded from sponsoring individual tests, so no exclusive license ened the scientific community to the
Karumanchi’s research in compliance was warranted. We won that argument.” importance of markers we can now utilize
with Harvard’s and BIDMC’s rules. to find a cure. We are a long way off, but
Nephromics has now successfully sub- we are definitely on that path.” At some
Yet Nephromics needed capital to market licensed the preeclampsia diagnostic to point, the test may enjoy a groundswell of
the IP to companies that would actually several leading diagnostic companies public support.
develop a commercial test kit and handle such as Beckman Coulter, Roche Diag-
the clinical trials, testing, manufacturing, nostics, Johnson & Johnson and Abbott “This story is a tremendous example of
marketing and distribution. The company Pharmaceuticals. the marriage of great science, effective
also required managers to complement technology transfer and commercializa-
the scientific expertise of Karumanchi “Our objectives are to get the diagnostic tion, leading to the development of a pre-
and others. kit standardized across the sublicensees, eclampsia diagnostic,” says Chalek. “And
get it to market and get doctors ready to if we are lucky — it will be accomplished
“We are not venture capitalists in the use the kit to save lives,” says Jeffries. in less than a decade.”
traditional sense of managing a fund,”
explains Patrick Jeffries, president of Over time, the discovery may be offered Even luckier still are the mothers and
Nephromics. “We are good at the busi- as a point-of-care test in a doctor’s office. their children who might be spared un-
ness side; and the scientists, such as A pregnant woman and her doctor would necessary risks. As Jeffries says, “Nearly
Karumanchi, are good at the science know her preeclampsia risk in a matter everyone would want to prevent the risks
side. We complement each other. of minutes, rather than in several days, of complications stemming from prema-
when a result comes back from a lab. ture delivery.”
“In essence, our team believed in the sci-
ence, trusted the scientists and figured The interest in this discovery is, for now, — Pam Baker
out how to work well together to attract focused mainly on diagnostics rather
larger companies as sublicensees to get than therapeutics. “That begs the ques-
this product out,” Jeffries says. tion, of course, as to why we should use
the test if there is no specific treatment.
This approach — to offer nonexclusive Babies will still need to be delivered ear- The Better World Report 2010

Dartmouth College
Protecting Hearing:
Spinout Advances Innovative Noise-Filtering Device
Foundation, to advance the academic
Members of a flight crew work in a dan- primarily communicate via hand signals.
research, which had been supported
gerous job environment — it’s chaotic But what if there was a headset that
by earlier rounds of research funding
and deafening. enabled communication while shielding
to Dartmouth from the U.S. Air Force,
flight crews from ear-damaging noise?
the VA and the Lemelson Foundation of
Loud jet engines generate noise levels
Portland, Ore.
that can exceed an excruciating 130 That’s the challenge from the VA and
• A letter of intent from a flexible Dart-
decibels (dB), a measurement of the branches of the military, one willingly
mouth Technology Transfer Office for
loudness or strength of sound vibration. picked up by Sound Innovations Inc., a
an exclusive license with delayed roy-
This is well above the 90 dB that may privately held corporation in White River
alties for the faculty-developed inno-
cause vibration intense enough to dam- Junction, Vt. Launched in 2004, the spin-
vative digital-signal processing control
age the inner ear and, according to the out from Dartmouth College started with:
National Institute for Occupational Safety • The desire to develop a noise-filtering
and Health, the threshold of 100 dB for device
more than 15 minutes where hearing loss • A small team of engineering and busi- Dartmouth Spinout Delivers
is likely. The U.S. Department of Veterans ness graduates and researchers from First Product
Affairs (VA) spends more than $1 billion the private college in Hanover, N.H., Today, thanks to more than $4 million
per year for hearing-loss cases. whose expertise complemented one in development contracts from the U.S.
another Army and the U.S. Air Force, Sound In-
To survive this job environment, flight • $300,000 in early funding from indus- novations has its first product, the ACE —
crews must keep a constant vigil, wear try and government, including the U.S. an earplug for aircrew that incorporates
protective ear plugs or earmuffs, and Army and the U.S. National Science an active noise reduction module that
protects hearing and improves communi-
cation in high-noise environments. Based
on mathematics that successfully conjoin
noise-control algorithms, this highly sta-
ble, hybrid system is undergoing qualifi-
cation testing by the U.S. Air Force with
expected market entry in 2010.

“Looking back over the last several years,

Dartmouth’s noise-filtering this has been one of the most exciting
technology helps industrial things I’ve ever done,” says Dartmouth’s

workers — and others who Laura Ray, Ph.D., who worked out the
work in noisy environments
— protect their hearing groundbreaking mathematics behind the
proprietary algorithms. “I wear many hats

The Better World Report 2010

now, so it’s very different than my life as interest,” says Glennis Gold, assistant this critical contribution has helped the
a professor, where I do research, publish director, Dartmouth Technology Transfer new company avoid a lot of the problems
and find funding.” Office. “Then we started recognizing the that cause startups to stumble.
inventors were enthusiastic about the
The professor in the Thayer School of possibility of starting a company.” “I knew I wanted to start a business so I
Engineering at Dartmouth co-founded was working with several teams at DEN,”
Sound Innovations with fellow Profes- Next, they met someone who helped says Pearson, who is now the chief ex-
sor Robert Collier, Ph.D., who died in them solidify their thoughts about found- ecutive officer at Sound Innovations.
2009 shortly after the earplugs were ing a company. At the time of the encoun- “Since I was focused on finding a startup
flight tested at more than a half-dozen ter, Chris Pearson, a graduate of the Tuck company through DEN, I was introduced
air force bases. Together, they were as- to Dr. Ray. We started to work together,
sisted on the project by two former Dart- built a small team and matured an early-
mouth students, David A. Cartes, Ph.D., stage technology into a product and other
and Alexander Streeter. Today, Cartes To survive this job technologies.”
is an assistant professor of mechanical
environment, flight
engineering, Department of Mechanical Elements of Success
Engineering, at the Florida Agricultural crews must keep a Both Ray and Pearson credit the suc-
and Mechanical University–Florida State constant vigil, wear cesses to date to some key elements:
University’s College of Engineering in Tal- protective ear plugs or • A common willingness to take risks
lahassee, Fla. Streeter is an engineer at earmuffs, and primarily • The ability to make the right contacts
DEKA Research and Development Corp. communicate via hand and attract students/employees at the
in Manchester, N.H.
signals. But what if right time
there was a headset that • An early link they established between
Ray recalls how serendipity played a big
the business and scientific side of
role in early successful formation of the enabled communication
their endeavor
startup. She and Collier, a retiree who while shielding flight
specialized in acoustics, hearing protec- crews from ear- “Dr. Ray isn’t caught up with control, and
tion and environmental noise control, damaging noise? I’m willing to spend time on developing
ran into each other at Thayer where they a company,” says Pearson. “These key
combined their interests in signal pro- ingredients don’t always come together in
cessing and developed their innovative an academic spinout company.
technology. Their efforts to commercial-
ize their discovery really took off when School of Business at Dartmouth with a “It’s important to remember that commer-
they started working with the Technology master’s in business administration, was cialization and research are two different
Transfer Office staff, which helped them focused on finding a startup opportunity worlds. Unless you’ve been involved on
develop a technology disclosure, secure through the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial the business side of taking a product to
U.S. patent protection and locate funding Network (DEN). According to Ray, Sound market, it can be a difficult process for
for their new venture. Innovations might never have taken off academic professors to understand.”
without Pearson because he brought a
“We marketed this technology in the usu- business sensibility that complemented But learning about the commercialization
al way but had little success in attracting the two professors’ academic focus, and process is exactly what Ray finds so inter- The Better World Report 2010

Bayh-Dole Act esting — it’s a new level of knowledge that she
Enacted on Dec. 12, 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act created a uniform feels will help make her a more valuable resource
patent policy among the many federal agencies that fund research, to her students at Dartmouth.
enabling small businesses and nonprofit organizations, includ-
ing universities, to retain title to inventions made under federally “I feel like the many hats that I wear at Sound
funded research programs. This legislation was co-sponsored by Innovations keep me connected to the real
Sens. Birch Bayh of Indiana and Robert Dole of Kansas. The Bayh- world,” she says. “For example, it’s been a true
Dole Act was especially instrumental in encouraging universities to learning experience to understand our custom-
participate in technology transfer activities. ers — 17- and 18-year-old soldiers aren’t inter-
ested in their hearing when they need to focus on
The act is “perhaps the most inspired piece of legislation to be survival. Our challenge has been to find a way to
enacted in America over the past half-century,” according to The enable them to focus and protect their hearing,
Economist. “Innovation’s Golden Goose,” an opinion piece pub- all at the same time.”
lished in the Dec. 12, 2002, edition, the respected publication,
states: “Together with amendments in 1984 and augmentation The Sound Innovations team is well on its way to
in 1986, this unlocked all the inventions and discoveries that had developing the next generation of aviation com-
been made in laboratories throughout the United States with the munications headsets that rely on their patented
help of taxpayers’ money. More than anything, this single policy digital-signal processing methods for active
measure helped to reverse America’s precipitous slide into indus- noise reduction that cancel noise by producing
trial irrelevance.” diametrically opposed sounds. They’re also de-
veloping proprietary chip and electronic designs
Major provisions of the act include: and innovative mechanical designs for advanced
• Nonprofits, including universities, and small businesses may noise reduction and communication products.
elect to retain title to innovations developed under federally These products are expected to improve the
funded research programs. work environment of active-duty soldiers and
industrial workers by protecting and enhancing
• Universities are encouraged to collaborate with commercial con-
their hearing, allowing clear, two-way communi-
cerns to promote the utilization of inventions arising from
cation in noisy environments and enabling them
federal funding.
to effectively listen to sounds from a distance.
• Universities are expected to file patents on inventions they elect
to own. “In the case of Sound Innovations, we were right to
• Universities are expected to give licensing preference to small support this spinout that needed latitude to build a
businesses. business and it’s worked out so beautifully,” Gold
• The government retains a nonexclusive license to practice the says. “The inventor was able to pair herself with the
patent throughout the world. right manager and team to help commercialize this
• The government retains march-in rights. licensed Dartmouth technology that shows great
promise of benefiting the public, exactly the kind of
realization envisioned in the Bayh-Dole Act.” — Dave Perilstein

The Better World Report 2010

Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research Center, DKFZ)
Georgetown University
National Institutes of Health
University of Queensland, Australia
University of Rochester Medical Center
HPV Vaccine: Global Effort Defeats Cancer-Causing Virus
The world’s first vaccine against hu- according to the Centers for Disease phylactic protection followed a long and
man papilloma viruses (HPV) is also the Control and Prevention, and will infect at complicated path of conflict, collabora-
world’s first vaccine developed to specifi- least 50 percent of sexually active people tion and cooperation on its way to your
cally combat cancer. Distributed under at some point in their lives. doctor’s office.
the brand names Gardasil and Cervarix,
by Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline, In other words, HPV strikes more humans The Race for Answers
respectively, the vaccine is widely known than it spares and it continues to spread. Research groups around the world —
for its effectiveness against precursors funded by government institutions in
of cervical cancer in women. The break- The need to confront and prevent this Germany, Australia and the National In-
through medical advancement, recently threat is universally recognized. As such, stitutes of Health in the United States —
approved for use in males, stands to it came as no surprise that scientists, worked furiously on solving the puzzle of
benefit men too. working separately and under different how HPV infects the human body. There
flags, would toil to the same end: Find a were promising signs in several laborato-
According to the World Health Organiza- way to stop HPV. ries in the early 1990s. Leading the pack
tion (WHO), some 500,000 women a toward a breakthrough were the German
year worldwide develop cervical cancer, Miraculously, an HPV vaccine was cre- Cancer Research Center (DKFZ); Univer-
and 274,000 die from the disease. Cervi- ated. Science did prevail. But the pro- sity of Queensland, Australia; and, in the
cal cancer is caused by HPV and is the
most common cancer affecting women in
developing countries. The virus, however,
does not restrain its attack to women or
even to the female reproductive tract;
there are more than 100 known types of
HPV, and at least 13 are cancer-causing.
WHO estimates it also causes 90 percent
of anal cancers, 40 percent of cancers of
Hanswalter Zentgraf

the external genitalia, at least 12 percent HPV causes cervical

cancer, the most com-
of oropharyngeal (throat) cancer cases
mon cancer affecting
and at least 3 percent of oral cancer cases. women in developing
In the United States, HPV is the most countries.
common sexually transmitted disease, The Better World Report 2010

tion with this virus,” the Nobel Committee
said in its statement explaining its deci-
sion for the award.

The combined achievements of the

contributors proved extraordinarily suc-
cessful. The HPV vaccine was nearly 100
percent effective — a rare result in clini-
cal trials — in preventing precancerous

Tobias Schwerdt
Tobias Schwerdt

lesions in young women. Gardasil also

proved to be 90 percent effective in pre-
venting anogenital warts. In both cases,
the extremely high success rates were in Lutz Gissmann
Nobel Laureate Harald zur Hausen
women 16 to 18 years old with no pre-
vious HPV infections. This rare success
rate eventually helped fuel collaboration
United States, the National Institutes of as competitors readily acknowledged the suggested that the L1 gene worked in VLP
Health (NIH), the University of Rochester vaccine’s worth to humankind. generation only if active virus production
Medical Center and Georgetown Univer- was present. The L1 protein has the abil-
sity. The knowledge gained by each was The Many Paths to Collaboration ity to spontaneously assemble into VLPs,
leading to a single conclusive answer. Zur Hausen’s co-worker, Lutz Gissmann, hence they can easily be manufactured by
Ph.D., a professor and head of the standard molecular biology technology.
While their research paths took different Division of Genome Modifications and
routes, the starting point for all of the Carcinogenesis at DKFZ, contributed Scientists at other institutions, including
scientists was the same — the findings significant findings crucial to vaccine the team led by Ian Frazer, M.D., of the
of Harald zur Hausen, M.D., D.Sc. (Hon), development: Chief among them were University of Queensland, Australia, and
M.D.s (Hon), professor emeritus. A virolo- virus-like particles (VLP) discoveries. another organized by Gissmann while at
gist and former chair and scientific direc- Chicago’s Loyola University, were rapidly
tor of the DKFZ, zur Hausen is credited Several researchers concluded that the gaining ground on the same or similar
for discovering that HPV causes cervical use of virus-like particles (VLPs) were the solutions to the universal HPV problem.
cancer, in particular HPV 16 and 18. The most likely answer to the HPV problem. The University of Queensland scientists
Nobel Committee awarded zur Hausen VLPs prevent infection by papillomavi- had narrowed down the virus to L1 and
the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for dis- ruses by inducing an immune system L2 proteins, but had yet to narrow it fur-
covering the mechanism of HPV-induced response, also known as neutralizing ther to just L1. They were, however, on a
carcinogenesis that made vaccine devel- antibodies. Early on, Gissmann and team significant path and closing in on the so-
opment possible. noted that the HPV 16 isolate had to be lution that others would arrive at as well.
taken from samples with active virus pro-
“The global public health burden at- duction in order to generate VLPs. Meanwhile in the United States, principal
tributable to human papilloma viruses is scientists at NIH, Douglas Lowy, M.D.,
considerable. More than 5 percent of all Further research showed that VLPs con- and John Schiller, Ph.D., were also work-
cancers are caused by persistent infec- sist of only one protein (L1). Gissmann ing on HPV vaccine development. This

The Better World Report 2010

team examined biochemical and genetic Commercial Interest Sputters some doubt as to how effective the ap-
aspects of the papillomavirus oncogenes Despite overwhelmingly similar findings proach would be using virus-like particles
and their protein products. Once VLPs in many of the world’s leading research and the challenging fact that such a
were discovered to be an effective immu- institutions, commercial interest in the vaccine would be used as a preventative
nization agent, the NIH team developed imminent vaccine was mixed. against cancer, rather than simply against
techniques for large-scale production. an infectious agent,” explains Steven
The NIH team also found that little cros- “DKFZ had a long cooperation on HPV Ferguson, CLP, deputy director, licensing
simmunity exists between different HPV with the former ‘Behringwerke,’ a vaccine and entrepreneurship, Office of Technol-
types. This information is important to company in Marburg, Germany,” explains ogy Transfer at the NIH.
developing a polyvalent vaccine, which is Ruth Herzog, Ph.D., head of the Office of
a vaccine that can simultaneously protect Technology Transfer at DKFZ. “So they “There was significant risk and questions
against several HPV types. were aware of HPV, but the company in the early days, which provided a small
company at the time, Medimmune, to
Over at the University of Rochester, virol- become a significant player in the field in
ogists Richard Reichman, M.D., William the early 1990s,” he adds. “Medimmune
Bonnez, M.D., and Robert Rose, Ph.D., The need to confront was able to leverage their prior research
had set out 20 years before to discover and prevent this experience with VLP vaccines — in this
how the immune system fights HPV in- case, parvovirus, also licensed from NIH
threat is universally
fection. They too created VLPs by putting — to form an early belief that the VLP
recognized. As such, approach could also be commercially
an HPV gene into insect cells using a
virus, which then produced particles that it came as no surprise developed into a product for HPV.”
mimicked the shape of real HPV particles that scientists,
and incited the immune response. working separately Had it not been for U.S.-based Medim-
and under different mune, the outcome for this breakthrough
Still more scientists at Georgetown Uni- may have been much bleaker.
flags, would toil to the
versity, a team led by Richard Schlegel,
M.D., Ph.D., chair and professor of pa-
same end: Find a way “Medimmune did what a biotech should
thology, looked at how the mechanism of to stop HPV. do and did at the time very well: Take
papillomavirus-mediated cell transforma- on early innovative projects, develop
tion can eventually lead to the design of them and sell them to big pharma,” says
viral-specific therapeutics. Following the Herzog. “Medimmune gambled that
development of the first-generation HPV completely underestimated the market the HPV vaccine would be a big winner
vaccine, his work led to second- and potential of a HPV-vaccine, as did others.” and made strategic investments into the
third-generation vaccines that enable technology. In addition, Medimmune
rapid purification of the vaccine and sta- In the United States, reception was not assembled intellectual property from
bilization of its protein conformation. so chilly but still a long way from the fan- different sources, including the NIH, and
fare many thought the accomplishment moved the project to the clinic. Eventu-
The events of discovery were thus suf- deserved. ally they were able to interest a partner
ficiently entangled as to cause confusion in the project, SmithKline, which later on
over who should own any resulting patents. “NIH did receive interest early on from became GlaxoSmithKline.”
vaccine companies, but there was initially The Better World Report 2010

In a parallel effort, U.S. pharmaceutical mercial development sides represents ers, but it is a great testimony to the
giant Merck & Co. acquired some licens- both the size of the market need for this success of academic and federal tech
ing rights from NIH and the University of product as well as the unproven initial dif- transfer,” says Marjorie Hunter, J.D., as-
Queensland, Australia. ficulty and complexity of the underlying sociate vice president, Office of Technolo-
science,” explains Ferguson. gy Transfer of the University of Rochester
Patent Claims and Clashes Medical Center.
The question of who owned the patent on Although the dispute at the USPTO was
the technology remained. hard-fought, the resolution itself proved Even so, the best barometer of success
peaceful. is measured in human lives saved. The
The U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) was left inventors and investors have not lost sight
to sort which of the many scientific teams “In the end, an increasing awareness by of that fact.
was the first to make the pivotal invention. all parties that the underlying science for
the vaccine was in fact sound and that a “I consider myself extremely lucky,” says
In the end, the players themselves re- solution to this very difficult public health Gissmann. “It does not happen often that
solved the problem. In early 2005, Merck problem was actually close at hand, a researcher — within his own lifetime —
& Co. and GlaxoSmithKline entered into provided a means for an agreement that participates in the process of discovery
a crosslicense agreement. To facilitate recognized the contribution of all the par- of the link between an infection and a
the settlement of the patent cases, the ties,” says Ferguson. disease, is part of the development of a
U.S. licensors renegotiated their shares vaccine against it and then lives to see it
of vaccine sales revenues with licensees. While the path to the vaccine was chal- being successfully used.”
This paved the way for millions of women lenging, competitive and even combative,
to benefit from the vaccine’s life-saving the successes were counted on many The sentiment is echoed by all who con-
benefits. fronts. tributed.

“That there were so many institutions “The development of the HPV vaccine — Pam Baker
involved both on the research and com- was a complicated story with many play-

The Better World Report 2010

Indiana University
Camera Takes Aim, Shoots at Diabetic Eye Disease
Of the myriad complications wrought by the United States — or 7.8 percent of the The lack of availability of eye specialists in
diabetes, few are as stealthy as diabetic population — have diabetes, a chronic, all parts of the country is also an issue.
retinopathy, a deterioration of the retina that lifelong disease marked by high levels of
affects nearly 80 percent of those who live sugar in the blood. To avoid the serious “We simply do not have the capacity to
with the disease for more than 10 years. complications of the disease, such as provide everyone with annual eye exams,”
kidney damage, heart disease and the she says.
While slowly wreaking havoc on the retina loss of vision, patients must control their
— the light sensitive membrane that blood glucose and blood pressure — and What is more, a typical eye exam involves
receives and transmits visual images to receive regular eye exams. dilating the pupils, which aside from being
the brain — early-stage retinopathy often uncomfortable, lasts for several hours and
produces no noticeable changes in vision. But due to a lack of time or resources, can render the patient unable to drive.
Yet left untreated, it can lead to blindness. many diabetics — as well as approxi-
mately 6 million Americans who are Elsner’s invention, which she says is more
“Symptoms may appear only when the unaware they have the disease — do not like a digital camera than a high-end im-
condition is in an advanced stage,” ex- receive appropriate eye care. aging device, was designed to overcome
plains Ann E. Elsner, M.A., Ph.D., profes- each of these obstacles.
sor and director of the Borish Center for “Some people with diabetes are busy
Ophthalmic Research at Indiana Univer- working two jobs, some don’t have trans- How the Camera Works
sity in Bloomington, Ind. portation and still others see many differ- With a singular focus — to image the
ent doctors and there are only so many ap- retina — the new device is essentially a
As a result, diabetic retinopathy robs as pointments they can get to,” says Elsner. stripped-down version of the multifeature
many as 24,000 diabetics of their vision cameras used in an eye doctor’s office.
each year and is the leading cause of
blindness among adults between the age
of 20 and 74.

Elsner hopes a new invention, a pat-

ented laser scanning digital camera, will
broaden the opportunities for diabetics
A team of researchers at
and others to be screened for retinopathy Indiana University led
— and stave off the effects of the devas- by Ann Elsner hopes this
tating disease. patented laser scanning
digital camera will make
Matthew Muller

diagnostic eye exams

Early Detection: more affordable and
The Key to Maintaining Sight convenient for diabetic
The National Institutes of Health esti- patients.
mates that more than 23 million people in The Better World Report 2010

By simplifying subsystems and using ing both diabetics and those without and clinical care. But it was while study-
modestly priced components that need the disease to detect the early signs of ing another eye disease called age-related
only minor assembly, the cost of the retinal damage. By widely deploying the macular degeneration at the Schepens
camera will be significantly below that of camera in locations such as community Eye Research Institute in Boston that she
current models on the market. and senior centers, government offices discovered — quite by accident — a new
or even in a mobile van — Elsner hopes application for imaging the innermost
“There are devices out there that pro- to make diagnostic eye exams more af- layer of the eye.
vide really high-quality pictures,” says fordable and convenient, especially to
Elsner team member Matthew S. Muller, underserved populations. “We found that infrared imaging worked
M.B.A. “But for screening purposes, better at imaging the retina than anyone
all we need is good enough pictures to could have imagined,” says Elsner. “Us-
know whether or not an individual needs ing infrared imaging, our camera pro-
a more thorough examination. Cameras vides sharp, clear-cut pictures, which is
with expensive technology are overkill for But Elsner and her really helpful when imaging older eyes.”
mass screening.” team are anxious to
begin sales of their Elsner began working in earnest on the
By using infrared light, the novel camera various technologies behind her new
camera for another
not only quickly images the retina with- imaging device in 1999. By the time she
out dilating the pupils, it provides sharp,
reason: They know that joined Indiana University (IU) in 2004,
high-contrast pictures of any eye — the early detection of she had several patent applications to
young, old, blue, green or brown. diabetic retinopathy has bring with her. With the help of the IU
the potential to save a Research and Technology Corporation
“No matter how high the resolution, you diabetic’s life. (IURTC), Elsner established a startup
can miss the pathology for diabetic reti- company, Aeon Imaging L.L.C., to begin
nopathy if the contrast isn’t there,” says the commercialization process.
The Licensing Deal
Finally, because the camera is compact “Our goal is to decrease health care costs “Given that she was early in the process
and easy-to-use, it can be operated by and increase availability by putting the of commercializing her technology, we
specially trained personnel in remote lo- camera in places that can’t afford expen- granted a research field-of-use license
cations, as opposed to only in a doctor’s sive machines,” she says. with an option to convert to a commercial
office by an opthamologist or optometrist. license,” says Bill Brizzard, director of
Images recorded by the camera are then An Invention Decades in the Making technology transfer at the IURTC. “This
transmitted via computer to physicians Like many new inventions, Elsner’s cam- gives Dr. Elsner full rights but is initially
or specially trained graders, who share era concept incubated for several years less burdensome cost-wise.”
results with patients. before coming to fruition.
In addition to managing the prosecution
Bringing Diagnostic Screening As a postdoctoral fellow working at the of her patent applications, the IURTC has
to the People University of Chicago and researcher at assisted Aeon Imaging by putting Elsner
The combination of features makes the the University of Pittsburgh, Elsner spent in contact with consultants and research
new imaging device perfect for screen- decades immersed in diabetes research collaborators at Purdue University in La-

The Better World Report 2010

fayette, Ind., as well as providing input on
business plans and grant applications. Pictured here with the
laser scanning digital
The camera project has attracted sig- camera they hope will
identify early eye disease
nificant funding from multiple sources, in diabetics are Indiana
including more than $1.5 million from the University staff mem-
National Institutes of Health and $200,000 bers (from left to right)
from the Indiana Economic Development Victoria Rosati, Kate
Montealegre, Ann Elsner,
Corp. The Small Business Innovation Re- Dean VanNasdale, Chris

Bryan Haggerty
search Program and Indiana Clinical and Clark, Benno Petrig, Matt
Translational Sciences Initiative are also Muller, Bryan Haggerty
backing the Aeon invention. and Joel Papay.

“The amount of funding the camera has

attracted is impressive,” says Brizzard. “I testing the diagnostic camera in multiple But Elsner and her team are anxious to
think it’s attributable to a combination of locations to ensure the device is opti- begin sales of their camera for another
Dr. Elsner’s credentials, the merit of the mized and meet requirements for U.S. reason: They know that the early detec-
project and the technical expertise of the Food and Drug Administration approval. tion of diabetic retinopathy has the poten-
team she has assembled.” In addition to testing in Bloomington, tial to save a diabetic’s life.
Muller’s new grant supports the testing of
That team includes Benno L. Petrig, thousands of volunteer patients in Oak- “When diabetics have eye problems it
Ph.D., an electrical engineer from Swit- land, Calif., through a collaboration with often means their disease is out of con-
zerland with significant experience devel- the University of California, Berkeley. trol,” says Elsner. “It’s a warning sign that
oping medical applications for the eye; they need to pay more attention to their
Dean A. Van Nasdale, O.D.; and software “There are other screening technologies health.”
expert Bryan P. Haggerty. out there that have gotten bad reviews,”
says Elsner. “We need to know that our Elsner hopes widespread retinal image
Muller, an optical engineer and M.B.A. camera will work for all patients.” screening will lead not only to a better
graduate from IU’s top-ranked Kelley quality of life for diabetics — but also to
School of Business, is not only serving Seeing her camera become operational fewer lives lost to the disease.
as principal investigator on the project’s will be the culmination of decades of re-
most recent grant, he is also orchestrat- search on the eye — a body of work that — Mary Henderson
ing Aeon’s marketing efforts. has given Elsner a keen appreciation for
“There are a lot of individuals who have
either technical or business skills, but not “This has been a longtime dream of
many with both,” says Brizzard. “Matt is mine,” she says. “Diabetic retinopathy is
a sharp guy and a real find.” the No. 1 cause of vision loss in working
adults in the country. It’s an extremely
The Final Phase: Testing important problem that involves loss of
Elsner and her collaborators are currently income and other social costs.” The Better World Report 2010

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Academic Research Leads to Solid Electrolyte
Lithium-Ion Batteries Without Achilles’ Heel
Most of the major automotive companies versions because it carries more energy be solved before the next generation of
are developing them. Demand for their with less weight than other materials. But lithium batteries can safely be used in a
crucial ingredient is poised to take off. before EVs can ever surpass gasoline- wide range of applications.
And the mainstream public is enamored powered vehicles, researchers need to
with the products they power. address weight, as well as a propensity to A Lightweight Polymer-Based
catch fire and explode — the long-term Solution
The focus of all this attention is a battery Achilles’ heel in battery technology. For years, researchers have explored
with core material — lithium, a soft, light- ways to improve the reliability and safety
weight silver-white metal. Lithium-ion (Li) One approach to reduce the weight of of lithium batteries. They’ve tried to re-
batteries, which have ushered in a new the battery is to replace the graphite elec- place the volatile liquid electrolytes in
age of portable electronics, hold out a trode in current lithium-ion batteries with use today with a stiff polymer electrolyte
promise of mass-market electric vehicles, a lithium metal electrode. The problem to prevent the dendrites from forming.
EVs for short. They are poised to overtake with this battery is the growth of minute Unfortunately, stiff polymer electrolytes
the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batter- metallic lithium spikes, called dendrites, have never provided the high conductiv-
ies used in the famous electric-gasoline that grow on the lithium metal electrodes ity needed to justify the development of
hybrid Toyota Prius that’s come to stand with repeated charge and discharge this type of battery — until now.
for green motoring in the consumer’s eye. cycles, especially if the battery is charged
quickly. The dendrites reduce battery life Seeo Inc., a Berkeley, Calif.-based bat-
Advocates claim new advances in tech- and can cause electrical short circuits tery startup company founded in 2007,
nology have enabled the lithium-ion bat- that make the battery overheat and catch believes it has found the perfect lithium
tery to leap frog the lead-acid or NiMH fire. This is a major problem that must chemistry to make batteries that can hold
lots of energy, are cheap to make and
safer to use than current lithium-ion bat-
teries on the market. A team of scientists
at Seeo has developed a nanostructured
solid-state battery with no flammable or
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

volatile components, which makes it ideal

for use in:
• Batteries for electrically-powered ve-
In Figures 1a and 1d, lamellar struc- • Electrical-grid load-leveling devices
tures — lengthwise channels along which • Medical and other specialty devices
ions can travel — are visible. Figures 1b
and 1c display the block copolymer with
hexagonally lamellar structures. Seeo claims its battery can deliver an en-
ergy density beyond 250 watt hours per

The Better World Report 2010

kilogram (Wh/kg) today with a research collaborate with some of the top battery look at how ions flow through polymers,”
and development (R&D) path toward scientists in the world and ensure that the says Balsara, who also is a professor in
400 Wh/kg vs. today’s lithium-ion bat- research never lost practical relevance.” the Department of Chemical Engineering
teries that normally deliver less than 200 at UC Berkeley. “The relevancy of our
Wh/kg. Seeo also says its battery can Singh, who received a doctorate degree research on batteries didn’t hit until after
operate at higher temperature than in chemical and biomechanical engineer- we started.”
standard lithium-ion batteries, making it ing with a focus on the self-assembly of
a good choice for more rugged, outdoor soft materials such as biosurfactants and The team found out the idea of mixing
applications attached to a solar energy polymers, went on to co-found Seeo in polymers with ions wasn’t new. Research-
system. 2007 with Balsara and fellow doctoral ers in the 1990s tried to make ions con-
student Hany Eitouni, who received a duct, but soon abandoned their research
At the core of this battery technology is doctorate degree in chemical engineering because the:
a novel solid polymer electrolyte mate- with a focus on polymer materials and • Solids they were experimenting with
rial that can transport lithium ions while specialized expertise in ionic transport wouldn’t conduct and
providing inherently safe and stable sup- through polymers. Today, Singh and • Plasticizers and/or solvents added to
port for very high-energy electrode chem- Eitouni are vice president of R&D and the host polymer matrix to achieve
istries. Seeo has an exclusive license to engineering and director of materials de- high conductivities deteriorated the
this advanced technology from Lawrence velopment, respectively. mechanical properties needed to en-
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley sure the electrolyte could be manufac-
Lab), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)- Academic Research at the Core tured, stored and used.
funded national laboratory managed by Balsara and his research team of talented
the University of California. students refined techniques and devel- They also uncovered research articles
oped an unusually hard ion conductor with “fuzzy” conclusions that the non-
“The novelty of the technology is in the — 50-nanometer channels composed of conductive part of a battery needed to
perfect marriage of materials engineer- a softer polymer laced with lithium salts be soft to assist conduction of the ions in
ing, polymer science and electrochem- encased in a hard polymer matrix. Since the conducting part. This later research
istry. World-renowned experts from these a lithium dendrite is 20 times as large as helped the team decide to construct a
disciplines were able to share their ideas the soft polymer channels, it is too large nanostructure ion electrolyte using ordi-
and collaborate under the prestigious to force its way into the material. Their nary polymers. Their Berkeley Lab-fund-
Batteries for Advanced Transport Tech- technology offers: ed research allowed them to completely
nologies (BATT) Program at Berkeley • High thermal stability decouple the electrical and mechanical
Lab to come up with a new platform • Low rate of self-discharge properties of the polymer electrolyte ma-
for Li batteries,” says Mohit Singh, who • Safe, stable operation in a wide range terials, which allowed them to optimize
led the academic research project as a of environmental conditions both these properties at the same time.
postdoctoral student at the University of • Flexibility to novel forms and packaging
California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) under • Manufacturing capabilities with con- “We revisited one of the longest-standing
the guidance of Nitash Balsara, Ph.D., a ventional polymer processing methods challenges in Li-batteries: stabilizing the
scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sci- Li-electrolyte interface and making the
ences Division and a researcher with the “I came to Berkeley and challenged my switch to a higher energy density sys-
Lab’s Environmental Energy Technolo- students: What can we do with polymers tem safer,” Singh says. “We started with
gies Division. “We had the opportunity to that we don’t do today? We decided to research conducted by a UC Berkeley The Better World Report 2010

chemical engineering group, led by Pro- Berkeley Lab marketed the technology to achieve the United States Advanced Bat-
fessor John Newman, that essentially ex- a number of companies working in the tery Consortium goal of 5,000 cycles.
plained why polymers that conduct ions lithium-ion battery arena. This nanostruc-
can’t stabilize the Li-electrolyte interface. tured polymer electrolyte technology was “We knew this technology had potential,”
The conclusion of the research was that competitive because it won one of R&D says Berkeley Lab’s Virginia de la Puente,
ion-conducting polymers don’t have suf- Magazine’s prestigious R&D 100 Awards a senior licensing associate in Technology
ficient mechanical strength to stabilize Transfer and Intellectual Property Man-
Li-electrolyte interface, as there is an agement. “We had about 15 prospects
inverse relationship between mechanical but no one was willing to take a risk on
properties and ionic conductivity. an academic-based technology except
Berkeley Lab marketed one venture capital firm focused on early-
“So, we approached the issue from a the technology to a stage companies.”
different angle: We asked how we can number of companies
make a very mechanically stable polymer working in the lithium- Academic Adds
conduct ions? We came up with what I ion battery arena. This Entrepreneur to Resume
think is an elegant approach of using a Balsara hooked up with Khosla Ventures
nanostructured polymer
nanostructured polymer electrolyte to (KV), which was established by Silicon
decouple mechanical properties from ion electrolyte technology Valley’s influential Vinod Khosla. Taking a
conduction.” was competitive sabbatical, Balsara convinced his former
because it won one students, Singh and Eitouni, to join him
‘Something Weird’ Led to of R&D Magazine’s and co-found Seeo with about $2 million
Technology Transfer prestigious R&D 100 in funding from KV. Seeo also raised an
“As we were writing the paper about our additional $3 million in 2008 from KV
Awards for 2008 and
discovery, something really weird hap- and $8.6 million in 2009 from a group
pened,” Balsara explains. “We said wait a was expected to meet of investors including GSR ventures and
minute, we may be on to something that the energy density goal Google.
has implications beyond an academic established by the DOE
paper.” for electric vehicles — “If it weren’t for Professor Balsara getting
the highest hurdle for the early-stage government funding for
At this point, Balsara and his team found his battery research and a gestation pe-
battery technology.
out about Berkeley Lab’s Technology riod over a couple years with interesting
Transfer and Intellectual Property Man- results, this team might not have come
agement Department. up with something no one has seen be-
fore,” says Atiq Raza, a serial entrepre-
“Initially, I thought we were going to for 2008 and was expected to meet the neur who served as the chief operating
find out about a mountain of stuff that energy density goal established by the officer and the president of AMD and now
we weren’t interested in doing,” Balsara DOE for electric vehicles — the highest is the chair of the board at Seeo.
says. “The reality is they were very helpful hurdle for battery technology.
in taking the paper we were writing and “But Seeo is not just a story about fund-
molding it into what we needed to file for In addition, predictions based on recent ing. We’re also the product of timing and
a patent.” tests indicate that Seeo batteries will the ability to make things happen — the

The Better World Report 2010

opportunity to introduce an innova- improvements offered by solid-state was a small company. Established com-
tion in energy that promises to solve a lithium-ion technologies, which would panies sometimes don’t have the level of
problem with one of the strongest mate- be targeted for utility-scale operations, intensity required to develop and com-
rial development groups and scientists particularly Community Energy Storage mercialize an innovation like this.”
in the country that have made leaps and projects.
bounds in taking a concept and building Today, Balsara is back on campus. Singh
batteries, which, we hope, will go into the “Sometimes you can have a really prom- says he is still involved, offering “optimism
next generation of cars and grid backup ising technology, but the only party that’s and support through his insights and con-
solutions.” willing to take a risk is a startup com- tacts” that help to lead the charge in a lot
pany,” says Berkeley Lab’s de la Puente. of directions the Seeo group is going. But
One new area where the team at Seeo is “For this technology, the best placement the fundamental goal for the scientists
looking to make things happen involves and engineers is to improve the reliability
a DOE Smart Grid Demonstration Project and safety of lithium-ion batteries, which
for which the company has received $6 both business and society appear ready
million to develop and deploy a 25 kilo- to embrace as the next crucial source of
Their Berkeley
watt-hour (kWh) prototype battery system mobile energy.
based on its proprietary nanostructured Lab-funded research
polymer electrolytes. The award is de- allowed them to com- — David Perilstein
signed to demonstrate the substantial pletely decouple the
electrical and mechani-
cal properties of the
polymer electrolyte ma-
terials, which allowed
them to optimize both
these properties at
the same time. The Better World Report 2010

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Armed With Robo Rehab, Stroke Patients
Gain Mobility and Hope
Some robotic devices are designed to new connections in order to complete a
give people superhuman powers. Others desired movement. For new connections
are made to unleash the power of human to form, brain cells must begin commu-
potential. nicating — which is where the Myomo
system comes in.
Such is the case with the Myomo e100
NeuroRobotic System, a wearable ro- How the Myomo System Works
botic brace that helps stroke patients When patients attempt to move their
recover the use of their arms. While the arms, electrical muscle activity signals are
1 lb., 11 oz. Myomo system is decidedly sent from the brain to the arm muscles
more compact — and less complicated along the skin’s surface. The Myomo sys-
— than futuristic exoskeletons that offer tem detects and processes these signals
super strength and extra protection, this with software and forwards the data to a
“smart” elbow brace has the potential to robotic device that provides just enough
help millions of stroke survivors perform assistance to help patients complete the
the tasks of daily living and reduce one intended movement.

of the nation’s major causes of disability.
With repeated use over a period of weeks After six weeks of rehab with the
The Stroke Effect or months, the patient performs simple Myomo elbow brace, patients expe-
According to the American Heart Asso- tasks they would do at home — such as rienced a 23 percent improvement
in arm movement.
ciation, every year in the United States opening a jar, turning on a light switch
nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke, a or carrying a laundry basket — all while
potentially life-threatening event in which wearing the elbow brace. The experience
the blood supply to the brain is tempo- of attempting and then completing the improved ability to move the arm. Results
rarily disrupted. Of those who survive, as movement — a process completed with of a pilot study showed that, after six
many as half experience partial paralysis the help of a “power assist” from the weeks of rehabilitation with the Myomo
in one arm — and only one in five regain Myomo device — appears to be the im- elbow brace, patients experienced a 23
full use of the limb. petus for the brain’s relearning process. percent improvement in arm movement.

Because brain cells and neurologi- The theory, according to leading stroke Myomo’s Inventors
cal pathways are damaged by stroke, rehabilitation expert Joel Stein, M.D., The Myomo NeuroRobotic System was
patients cannot effectively control their is that, by facilitating patients’ ability to developed by John McBean and Kaila
weak muscles, resulting in partial pa- practice tasks repeatedly, new connec- Narendran as part of their graduate stud-
ralysis. But new studies reveal that the tions are formed in the brain and existing ies at Massachusetts Institute of Technol-
brain is capable of re-wiring — making connections are reinforced, resulting in ogy (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

The Better World Report 2010

As kids, both McBean and Narendran The Myomo inventors continued to tap in 2007, the company received approval
suffered fractures that required reha- into what Narendran calls MIT’s “en- from the U.S. Food and Drug Administra-
bilitation to reawaken atrophied muscles. trepreneurial ecosystem,” an array of tion for its robotic elbow brace.
Using those experiences as a jumping- support services that includes the Ven-
off point, the two friends applied their ture Mentoring Service and Technology The experience was validating for Mc-
knowledge of robotics and a cursory Licensing Office (TLO). Bean and Narendran, who, despite their
understanding of neurology to create a initiative and drive, were surprised by the
prototype of the Myomo device. “MIT’s licensing office is viewed as among product’s success.
the best by entrepreneurs because they
Early feedback from Stein, professor and are straightforward and consistent to ne- “As graduate students, we didn’t know a
chair at the Department of Rehabilitation lot about business, but we had this idea
Medicine at New York’s Columbia Univer- and it seemed to us it should work,” says
sity College of Physicians and Surgeons, McBean. “We couldn’t believe it when it
empowered the inventors to push forward As kids, both McBean actually did and no one had done it.”
with their idea.
and Narendran
Myomo Market Potential
“Dr. Stein was convinced that stroke
suffered fractures that Kelly says the market potential for the
survivors could benefit from the device,” required rehabilitation Myomo NeuroRobotic System is vast.
McBean says. to reawaken atrophied
muscles. Using those “Our potential is embarrassingly large,”
MIT’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem experiences as a he says. “There are more than 5 million
Receiving a grant from MIT’s Deshpande stroke survivors in the country, and about
jumping-off point, the
Center for Technology Innovation in 2001 3 million of them have some level of arm
put the Myomo invention on the fast track.
two friends applied disability. Personal robotics, like PCs,
In addition to providing the inventors with their knowledge of have portability and multiple uses. We
critical funding, the center also supplied robotics and a cursory can take the Myomo and drive it across
valuable support services including a understanding of the care continuum from rehab hospitals
volunteer mentor named Steve Kelly, an neurology to create to home health agencies.”
entrepreneur with three successful tech-
a prototype of the
nology startups under his belt. What’s more, recent studies — as well as
Myomo device. clinical experience with the Myomo device
With guidance from the Desphande Cen- — show that patients can improve up to
ter, Kelly and other mentors, the inven- 20 years following a stroke, not just within
tors scored the top prize at the 2004 MIT a six-month window as originally thought.
$50K Entrepreneurship Competition. gotiate with; you know what the rules of
the game will be and they don’t change. There are also rehabilitative needs for
“MIT sets a model for commercialization They also have a lot of support infrastruc- other joint braces as well as different
of late-stage research projects and tech ture,” says Kelly. patient groups, such as those with spinal
transfer,” says Kelly, who eventually be- cord injuries and degenerative diseases,
came president and CEO of the Boston- Working with MIT’s TLO, Myomo com- who could benefit from wearable robotic
based Myomo Inc. pleted a license agreement in 2006, and, devices. The Better World Report 2010

to take a manageable bite and digest it. that seeing hope return to patients’ faces
Myomo has stayed focused on how to after using the device validates their
bring value back to their investors and choice to work in rehabilitation.
what they need to do to create commer-
cial value in the face of market realities.” “Seeing the reaction on someone’s face
when they move their arm for the first
Putting Myomo to Work time, it’s powerful,” says Kelly. “For
For now, under Kelly’s leadership, Myomo people who had a stroke yesterday, they
has established some half-dozen clinical put the brace on and realize all is not lost.
Connor Gleason

partnerships. Now deployed throughout For stroke patients who lost use of an arm
myriad hospitals, long-term care facilities years ago, it’s powerful to see that limb
and home health agencies, the robotic move again.”
elbow brace is receiving positive reviews.
Steve Kelly
Patient reaction to the Myomo device
“Rehabilitation specialists, including both even inspired the company’s name, ac-
occupational and physical therapists, are all cording to Narendran. A stroke survivor,
But Kelly says the company will expand finding the product very useful,” Kelly says. surprised by her newfound ability to
slowly and deliberately to a national foot- Some therapists have dubbed Myomo move her arm after using the device, ex-
print. therapy “robo rehab,” while others say claimed, “It’s my own motion!”

“We’re eager to get this out to people who The success has had an equally big im-
need it, but we are conservative about pact on its inventors.
making sure everyone has a positive first
“Seeing the reaction on
experience,” he says. “It’s every engineer’s dream to make
someone’s face when they something that goes on to affect a lot of
According to MIT’s James R. Freedman, move their arm for the first people in a positive way,” says Narendran.
technology licensing officer, the com- time, it’s powerful,” says McBean couldn’t agree more. “It’s not
pany’s strategy is a good one. Kelly. “For people who hard to drag yourself to work when you
had a stroke yesterday, know you’re restoring quality of life for
“Myomo has done a good job of staying people who had otherwise given up hope.”
they put the brace on and
focused and on track,” Freedman says.
“For startup companies, it can be hard realize all is not lost. For — Mary Henderson
stroke patients who lost
use of an arm years ago,
it’s powerful to see that
limb move again.”

The Better World Report 2010

Michigan Technological University
SafeLane Surface Overlay Improves Winter Road Safety
When an experimental strip of SafeLane improves safety tremendously. To De-ice or to Anti-ice?
surface overlay was laid down on the Creation of the SafeLane surface overlay
icing-prone Wolf River Bridge at Crandon “Beyond this,” Alger notes, “the epoxy represented a combination of several
in northeastern Wisconsin in 2003, offi- overlay ‘armors’ the roadway and extends technologies. One is the epoxy coat-
cials hoped to cut down on the four to five its useful life. And, the system reduces ing on the surface of the roadway, most
weather-related motor vehicle accidents the amount of chemicals needed to keep commonly a two-part glue designed to
the structure saw each winter. it ice-free, so it’s a big advance environ- expand and contract like the underlying
mentally.” roadway itself.
It reduced them by cutting them to zero for
all of the next five years. However, SafeLane overlay is more ex- The epoxy hardens the surface, but,
pensive than regular paving, so it is used more importantly, it provides the base for
A SafeLane system installed in 2005 on a mostly to target specific trouble spots like an overlay of small, aggregated quarter-
problematic ramp for the Blatnik Bridge bridges, access ramps and intersections inch pebbles — somewhat like the tex-
at Superior, Wis., yielded the same, zero- rather than to cover full-length roadways. ture of rough sandpaper — that can soak
accident results. An analysis of other test up and hold anti-icing agents like a hard
sites in several states during the 2005- Patented by Michigan Tech in 2001 and sponge. Applied ahead of time, these
2006 winter season — all normally haz- licensed to the Deicing Technology Divi- chemicals remain dormant until the
ardous — reinforced those results: no sion of Cargill Inc. in 2004, the SafeLane moisture of snow or sleet releases them
ice-and-snow-related accidents. product has now been installed at more and their anti-icing action.
than 85 highway and 15 sidewalk and
At the same time, similar untreated airport sites in states from Maine to Texas “There are a couple of different ways to
stretches of roads and bridges near each to California. maintain a highway in winter,” Alger says.
were a mess.

“Rather than putting down chemicals to

melt snow and ice once they’ve accumu-
lated, SafeLane embeds anti-icing chemi-
cals in the roadway ahead of time,” says
Russ Alger, the technology’s inventor and
Michigan Technological University

director of the Institute of Snow Research

at Michigan Technological University in With its composition
of quarter-inch stones,
Houghton, Mich. SafeLane surface overlay
is presently being used
“Melting agents are stored for release on problem spots like
when they’re needed — when a storm bridges, access and exit
ramps, and intersections.
comes. They help prevent ice from form-
ing from the time the storm begins. This The Better World Report 2010

“One is the traditional de-icing approach for de-icing, but Alger found that sodium bonds them to the stone.
— plowing the roadway and applying chloride in a liquid brine is more effective
chemicals to melt the ice that has been for SafeLane application. Field Testing and Licensing
formed. The other is anti-icing — using By the time Alger contacted Michigan
chemicals to keep snow and ice from ac- “The aggregate has to hold onto the anti- Tech’s Technology and Economic Devel-
cumulating at all.” icer and release it in reaction to moisture,” opment office, he had taken his findings
Alger notes. “It has to be durable and able beyond the simple idea stage.
Alger continues, “There are different ways to hold the chemical well. Those two char-
of anti-icing. You can focus on the pave- acteristics don’t necessarily go hand in “Russ worked on it in earnest before he dis-
ment or on the chemicals. Or, you can closed it to us in 2001,” notes Technology
do what the SafeLane system does and Director Jim Baker. “We filed for a patent
combine the two — creating a pavement that year and began a search for a corpo-
that releases the salt brines that prevent rate partner. We undertook tests with the
“I met some folks from
ice from forming in the first place.” Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Cargill at an AUTM
When researchers began looking at anti- conference. They “I met some folks from Cargill at an AUTM
icing in the mid-1990s, it was a new idea. responded quickly. We conference. They responded quickly. We
Working with liquid sodium chloride on now have a series of now have a series of patents that the
different pavements, Alger realized the university owns and have exclusively
patents that the university
samples were behaving differently. licensed to Cargill. The initial research
owns and have exclusively
was supported by university discretionary
“I found the difference was in the pave- licensed to Cargill. The funds, with Cargill supporting some of the
ments themselves,” he says. “At the same initial research was later work.”
time, in a separate project I was looking supported by university
at epoxy overlays to armor pavement. The discretionary funds, with A study of 26 sites during the 2006-2007
two of them crashed together, and I saw winter repeated earlier observations of ex-
Cargill supporting some of
some possibilities.” cellent results — but added a caveat: At a
the later work.”
few test sites it appeared that wet, heavy
To test his ideas, Alger explored a broad snowfall diluted the chemicals to the
range of pavement materials, aggregates point that the test segments performed
and chemicals in his 10’x15’ cold lab, no better than control stretches.
subjecting six-inch- and eight-inch-square hand. Very porous isn’t really good for an
blocks to temperatures as low as -400 F. aggregate material — the anti-icer stays in Overall, the analysis revealed, SafeLane
Between tests, they would be washed and the pores. We want it to stay at the surface, surface overlay worked well: It kept treat-
subjected to cold temperatures multiple where the ice forms.” ed segments free of ice and snow and it
times to assess the chemical’s lifespan. dramatically improved safety. It cited one
Limestones and dolomites proved to be interchange in Superior, Wis., that had
While several types of chemicals are uti- excellent for this. Not so porous, they keep seen 87 accidents before installation and
lized as melting agents, the most common the anti-icer at the surface — it dries out just one afterward.
is sodium chloride — the equivalent of and crystallizes in tiny surface pores. Also,
table salt. Solid salt granules work best Alger believes that a chemical reaction The 2006-2007 study’s finding that dilu-

The Better World Report 2010

tion over time can diminish effectiveness
wasn’t a surprise.

“Chemical duration is a function of the

frequency and vehemence of a site’s

Michigan Technological University

weather,” Baker notes. “Areas with heavy
precipitation likely need more frequent
application. Even so, SafeLane overlay The SafeLane product has
now been installed at more
sites tend to need less treatment than
than 85 highway and 15
other roads. A bridge that used to get sidewalk and airport sites
anti-icer two times a week may now need in states from Maine to
it only once a month.” Texas to California.

Corporate Licensing
Since those 26 sites of 2006-2007, the
number of SafeLane surface overlay in- Cargill focuses on selling the two-part “The fact that it’s a single layer lowers
stallations has increased exponentially, system — epoxy and aggregate — but the cost substantially,” Alger notes. “And
says Sean Riley, marketing manager for installation, although specialized, relies the smaller aggregate means it’s a little
Cargill’s Deicing Technology Division. To- on subcontractors (Alger, for one, has easier for somebody with a snow shovel
day, he notes, there are SafeLane product founded a company that does this). Car- to clean up.
sites in more U.S. states than not, and gill sells the chemicals as well, but not as
installations have begun in Canada. part of the SafeLane system. It’s up to the “Most importantly,” he adds “the evidence
customers to buy and apply it. is clear is that SafeLane technology im-
“From our point of view it has several ben- proves highway safety significantly for driv-
efits,” Riley says. “Most importantly for our Alger and Cargill have developed a sec- ers forced to deal with winter-time ice and
mission, it’s a great anti-icing product. But ond version of the SafeLane technology snow. And it does it in a way that’s better
it also helps preserve the pavement. And, — a product that uses eighth-inch stones for the environment.”
since customers can use less chemical, in a single layer, versus the highway’s
it’s more environmentally sound.” double layer of quarter-inch stones, for — Ralph N. Fuller
use on sidewalks, bike paths and airport
taxiways and service roads. The Better World Report 2010

Naval Research Laboratory
Genetic Testing Takes Guesswork out of Diagnosis
Interpreting a patient’s symptoms, then available, the RPM test sample was a Today’s process is always to start with a
working backward to determine the cause perfect match. More remarkably, the test hypothesis and ask, What should I test for?
could be made obsolete by a digital and — developed in 2006 — identified the But one only gets results of what one is test-
genetic tool that is mistake-proof, faster H1N1 strain several years later. No other ing for — so these tests could change our
and rapidly improving. TessArae LLC is test today can do that without specifically understanding of epidemiology.”
accelerating the process of diagnosing being designed against the target organ-
infectious diseases using resequencing ism it seeks to identify. Although there are no reliable measures
pathogen microarray (RPM) testing. The of missed diagnoses, adverse treatment
process uses tiny computer chips that “The beauty of it is the computer does all reactions or those made too late to identify
take details from culture swabs to identify the work in converting the sequence into and cure patients, RPM’s creators say it
bacteria and virus samples using a portion A, C, G, T, “ says TessArae Chief Executive can remake the delivery of health care. It
of genetic code then matches it against a Officer Klaus Schafer, M.D. “Even if doctors can reduce errors and improve targeted
database of known diseases. Even better, think they know what they’re looking for, treatment to provide cost savings, better re-
after thousands of RPM tests, there have they are often wrong or find out too late. sults, more quickly than current practices.
been no false positive results. This test is especially useful when vague
symptoms such as cough or fever are all From the Air Base to the Lab
The venture merges information technol- that is known. I’m a physician by training. With a story as complex as a prime-time
ogy, medicine and microbiology. RPM medical drama, RPM technology began as
begins by removing everything from the an experiment to spot infectious diseases
sample organism except nucleic acids, at U.S. Air Force bases. The path began
permitting genetic codes to be read. What with concerns over biological weapons
begins as a patient’s throat swab contents in 2001 — when deliveries of anthrax
ends up as a series of pathogen genetic via mail made headlines, prompting re-
code. When compared against databases search on computer-assisted diagnostics
of known codes, test results are returned to protect against biological attack.
with pinpoint accuracy.
At the same time, Affymetrix Corp. was
Those details can be critical when doc- pioneering the lab on a chip — computer-
tors need to identify a particular flu, assisted diagnostics using genetic codes
disease variant or even a co-infection of virus and bacteria samples. Schafer
— such as during the 2009 flu outbreak. calls RPM microarrays “the software to
RPM technology quickly detected an Affymetrix hardware.” By the mid 2000s,
H1N1 virus sample even before the or- genetic medicine was getting recognition
Resequencing pathogen microarray
ganism’s genetic sequence was known. testing has the potential to remake
for treatments, but diagnostics was still
When those results did not fit any known the delivery of health care. emerging.
flu strain, it pointed to a new influenza. A
week later, when the sequence became Virologist Clark Tibbetts, Ph.D., teamed

The Better World Report 2010

with RPM co-inventor David Stenger, key thing is that all parties have an interest Ebola virus and other human diseases,
Ph.D., of the Naval Research Laboratory in moving things forward. And by starting TessArae received a U.S. Department of
in Washington, D.C. While serving as a in and moving outward, TessArae really Agriculture innovation award for food safe-
civilian Air Force official, Tibbetts had mastered this genetic testing for inherited ty, applying RPM tests to finding obscure,
proposed using RPM predecessor tools diseases, as well as infectious diseases, rare diseases in food stock. Single-use
to monitor virus and flu outbreaks at where there are chances to leverage the tests wouldn’t be cost-effective, Stenger
Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Medi- technology and grow more rapidly.” says, but can be profitable when multiple
cal teams knew that military installations tests deliver more results. Additional ap-
— especially during initial basic training From Military to Marketplace plications have emerged in tracking ge-
— were prone to infectious virus out- Tibbetts and Schafer left the govern- netic, inherited diseases. Also, because
breaks when recruits came together from ment to start the company and signed a the same condition may affect two people
all over the world. After Air Force tests, cooperative research and development in different ways, having proof — instead
a later proof-of-concept test of RPM was agreement with the NRL, giving TessArae of waiting for symptoms or reactions —
used to safeguard Washington, D.C., dur- time to continue while seeking investors means patients get treated sooner.
ing the 2004 presidential inauguration. and customers. “Part of the challenge in
developing new technology in Washing- In 2009, TessArae and Affymetrix col-
Several scientific breakthroughs were ton, D.C., is that it can be a conservative laborated to identify H1N1 flu strains
combined by the RPM team to increase its place,” Stenger adds. “And what we were within hours — while the National Insti-
capabilities, gradually expanding the num- trying to do was rather ambitious. I wrote tutes of Health used older, slower meth-
ber of samples on each array microchip. most of the patent applications in 2004. ods. Outside the medical office, RPM test
Up to 70 nucleotides can be scanned Just before people thought we would fail, results will allow doctors to more accu-
simultaneously and quickly compared they began to see potential to be a real rately report a specific strain of influenza
to genome databases. According to its gold standard in medicine.” and geographically map the spread and
patent, issued in July 2009, more than a speed of outbreaks.
dozen contributors shared credit with the Those prospects took shape when TessArae
Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). opened in Potomac Falls, Va., in 2007. Reg- Yet RPM applications intended for sol-
ulatory approvals from the U.S. Food and diers have not been implemented. Com-
Building ongoing research relationships Drug Administration and other agencies mercial prospects and other forces have
and multidisciplinary talents were crucial are still based on polymerase chain reac- shifted attention — another unexpected,
to commercialization. Joel Schnur, Ph.D., tion (PCR) testing developed in the 1980s. but not unusual, result in the path of a
directed NRL’s Center for Bio/Molecular So the company is helping federal officials trailblazing technology, Schnur says.
Science and Engineering, contributing develop new frameworks for evaluating digi-
his experience in transferring nonmedical tal alternatives and modernizing aspects of — David Wallace
military technology to the marketplace. genetic diagnostics.
For another approach to molecular diag-
The route from government lab to busi- Other opportunities for RPM are open- nostics, read about the Argonne National
ness plan can be challenging, because ing up in unexpected fields, and Stenger Laboratory’s technology in “Rapid, Cost-
of federal regulations on publishing de- notes the database of known genetic Effective Diagnostic System Based on In-
tails of intellectual property in full view of codes is growing logarithmically every novative Nano Biosensors Helps Identify
companies that might be pursuing similar year, which will advance applications. and Slow Spread of Major Diseases,” on
advances in private, TIbbetts notes, “The Beyond current testing for avian influenza, page 1. The Better World Report 2010

Oregon Health & Science University
Jolene Delivers a Message Kids Can Hear
She may appear an unlikely superhero — if you had to leave after 10 seconds? That using a new and popular platform. Just
dressed in thrift shop fashions and out- gets people thinking about using earplugs as the iPod supports the iTunes music
landish hairstyles — but Jolene is coming or other protection.” store, Jolene provides a friendly introduc-
to the rescue of schoolchildren around tion to Dangerous Decibels.
the world, teaching them about the dan- Jolene is part of a broader education pro-
ger of hearing loss caused by loud music gram, called Dangerous Decibels, that In many ways, hearing and public
played through headphones. began in the Portland area in 2000. Gen- health are both a professional and per-
na Martin’s innovation — much like the sonal concern for William Martin, Ph.D.,
Developed from the research and inno- iPod itself — was not in being first with creator of Dangerous Decibels and an
vative outreach by the Oregon Health & new technology. Instead, it was about de- OHSU professor who does research on
Science University (OHSU) in Portland, mocratizing and spreading the popularity noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) pre-
Jolene is changing behaviors at a critical vention. He holds a joint appointment in
time. More of a what than a who, Jolene is otolaryngology/head-neck surgery and
a mannequin equipped with off-the-shelf public health preventive medicine. He
electronics that measure sound level in launched Dangerous Decibels to educate
decibels and a sidekick who simply and kids about NIHL — a condition he experi-
clearly explains the effect loud noise has ences firsthand. Over the last decade, the
on the human body. Wherever she visits, program has worked with other groups in
people use a music player to identify the the region and nationwide including a
volume they normally listen to, and then walk-through giant ear exhibit at the Or-
the earpieces are shared with Jolene. egon Museum of Science and Industry.

In her ears, however, she records the “There are consequences as you get
sound volume in decibels, and then older, and kids, by the time they’re 30,
her creator, Genevieve “Genna” Martin, could have the hearing of a 60-year-old
hands over a piece of paper saying how because of overexposure,” says William
long it is safe to listen. Martin.

“I wanted to make a cooler version that A Growing Problem, Often Overlooked

appealed to young people — not just The Dangerous Decibels group started
measuring the output of an iPod but with a National Institutes of Health grant
something that people want to interact to educate children about hearing health.
with at a health fair or event,” she says. According to the National Institute on
“The average concert is 120 decibels, Jolene is part of a broader education Deafness and Other Communication Dis-
and it only takes 10 seconds before your program, called Dangerous Decibels, orders, approximately 30 million Ameri-
that began in the Portland area in
ears may begin to get damaged. So we 2000. cans are affected by hearing loss. And
ask, would you buy a ticket for a concert as many as 25 million have experienced

The Better World Report 2010

tinnitus, the ringing that indicates ear Toxicology to pursue a project that could its technology portal. Organizations in 44
damage most commonly caused by loud spread the message about hearing safety states and 21 countries have downloaded
sound exposure. Without much educa- and portable music. the instructions.
tion into what sound levels are normal or
safe, people can be at risk for NIHL — She modified a second-hand mannequin Operating more like an open-source
both from one-time extreme exposure or using some power tools and a silicone ear development project, where each user
ongoing loud sound. For example, usual used to demonstrate hearing aids. After can customize a Jolene with a unique
conversation is approximately 60 deci- look, clothing or style, the venture is
bels, and city traffic noise can reach 85 managed by the Martins and the uni-
decibels. Hazardous noise starts above versity’s technology transfer office,
85 decibels for a period of eight hours “The average concert which chose to freely share the plans
during one day. to encourage broader use. No wonder
is 120 decibels, and it
Jolene has siblings Günter, Shoque,
An explosion or gunshot can reach 140 only takes 10 seconds Flame and Deci-Bell as far away as Aus-
decibels. Riding a motorcycle — even before your ears may tralia, Canada and on military bases in
with a helmet — can average 100 deci- begin to get damaged. Europe. They appear on a family album
bels. Persistent loud sound in enclosed So we ask, would Web site hosted by Dangerous Decibels
space such as subways or sports arenas you buy a ticket for a (
can also accelerate hearing loss when
concert if you had to
exposure causes damage to the sensi- “It really has its own momentum, and get-
tive hair cells of the inner ear and related leave after 10 seconds? ting it out to groups worldwide has been
nerve endings. That gets people great,” says Michele Gunness, OHSU
thinking about using senior technology development manager.
The Pacific Northwest has a cluster of earplugs or “And when it’s built by young people,
organizations devoted to the science other protection.” they’re more likely to pay attention to the
and public health aspects of hearing message.”
issues. The American Tinnitus Associa-
tion is based in Portland. Among military The construction isn’t that technically
personnel, tinnitus is the most common difficult, adds Genna Martin, but it’s not
service-related disability and NIHL ranks mounting and wiring a microphone and always easy finding torso-and-head man-
second. The U.S. Department of Veterans sound-level meter, Jolene was created — nequins. So she often scours eBay for
Affairs has its national research center in named for a minor TV series character auction items. What makes Jolene unique
Portland devoted to preserving hearing and dressed in a leather jacket and blue- is her approachability. People often come
for affected soldiers. dyed hair. and ask about it in public, and that curi-
osity makes them receptive to the advice
During her high school years, Genna From there, the duo traveled to confer- of reducing volume, limiting the duration
Martin volunteered with Dangerous Deci- ences and events where people asked for of loud noise and wearing protective gear.
bels, educating fourth graders on hear- their own model. That led to the Jolene
ing safety. In 2005, she took a summer Cookbook, an online guide with photos Jolene Makes New Friends
internship at OHSU’s Center for Research that OHSU makes available as a simple, One hallmark of Jolene’s success is the
in Occupational and Environmental royalty-free download agreement through students willing to counsel younger kids The Better World Report 2010

about the dangers of extreme noise. people who were at dangerous levels said graduated from Boston University in
Martin’s advice is spreading to new audi- they would change the behavior. That’s a 2009 and now works as a researcher in
ences thanks to the reach of the Web and remarkable feat with a really simple and OHSU’s department of otolaryngology. So
social media such as Facebook — where fun innovation.” a 91-decibel sound starts to cause harm
Jolene Ohsu has more than 100 friends, in half the time of an 88-decibel level.
and explains “I’m pretty quiet but I love Research shows that in a 24-hour-period, That bit of science is easier to accept
music and meeting new people!” every additional 3 decibels above 85 from a neutral third-party like Jolene.
increases and accelerates hearing dam-
“In our study, we saw that 16 percent of age, according to Genna Martin, who “It’s gone far beyond anything we imag-
16-18 year olds were listening consis- ined, especially the requests to translate
tently at levels above safe limits every day into Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and
of the week — it was like working in a other languages,” William Martin says.
factory or at a logging site listening to a “It’s changing young lives. This is prob-
“It really has its
chainsaw for eight or nine hours a day,” ably the single thing in my career that will
own momentum, and
William Martin adds. “We gave people have the greatest impact.”
the measurements showing how long getting it out to groups
they could listen safely, and 44 percent of worldwide has been — David Wallace
great,” says Michele
Gunness, OHSU senior
technology development
manager. “And when it’s
built by young people,
they’re more likely to
pay attention to the

The Better World Report 2010

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Power Puck Replaces Batteries With Energy From Air
The quest for renewable energy is not ter, did market research and came back The discovery, however, always precedes
entirely fueled by recent political winds and said he wanted to license it,” she the deal and is rarely achieved in a hurry.
or green movements. Much of the mo- explains.
mentum comes from earlier efforts to The Path to Power
overcome the one obstacle that prevents Thus the technology known as Ther- Back in the 1990s, John DeSteese, an
nearly every technological achievement moelectric Ambient Harvester (TEAH) engineer at PNNL in the Energy Technol-
from reaching its zenith: cheap and con- became a near-overnight success and ogy Development Group, proposed and
tinuous energy. the basis for the product called Perpetua conducted a funded project to explore a
Power Puck. large variety of energy conversion tech-
The Perpetua Power Puck, a source of nologies that can produce electric power
energy for remote wireless sensors and “The deal still took about a year to put from all forms of environmental energy.
radio frequency transmitters that lasts together,” says Cejka. “Considering that Wind and solar power are common ex-
for decades, thus sprang from a recur- over the course of the process, a com- amples that are now in commercial use.
ring need for new energy sources but pany had to be established, investors
debuted in a most timely fashion. The had to be engaged and the terms of the “My emphasis was on devices that oper-
device completely eradicates the need license concluded, this deal went rela- ate indefinitely in remote areas without
for batteries or an electrical supply by tively quickly.” human attention,” he says. “I recognized
using ambient temperature differences. little work had been done to exploit the
Although in development for years, the natural thermal energy in the environ-
technology appeared to burst onto the ment, particularly in devices that produce
commercial scene, but not without its tri- less than a watt of electricity.”
als and not without the intricate work of
several partners. He continues, “I invented the concep-
tual energy-harvesting basis of the Power
Perpetua Power Source Technologies Inc.

“Research and development work on this Puck when I discovered the limitations of
technology began over a decade ago,” ex- the prior design of this kind of device.”
plains Cheryl Cejka, technology commer-
cialization director at Pacific Northwest TEAH, the technology in the Perpetua
National Laboratory (PNNL). The timing of Power Puck, directly converts heat into
its completion as a marketable technology, electricity using the thermoelectric ef-
however, could not have been more per- fect. In other words, it produces electrical
fect. “We were fortunate to have someone power from the heat that is available in its
interested in the very early stages of our surroundings.
The Perpetua Power Puck is the
marketing efforts,” says Cejka. flagship product using the Flexible
Thermoelectric Film technology “It’s the way some digital thermometers
“One of the founders of Perpetua Power work,” explains DeSteese. “If I make two
Source Technologies Inc., Jon Hofmeis- junctions of dissimilar metals, holding one The Better World Report 2010

junction at, say, the freezing point of water purpose. Among the applications identi- tronics to be deployed in areas otherwise
(32 F) and the other junction in air, the fied so far are sensors for law enforce- not practical,” explains Hofmeister, who
circuit of just these elements will produce ment, border security, hospitals, automo- serves as Perpetua’s president.
a voltage proportional to the difference in tive, consumer electronics and tracking
temperature of the two junctions.” devices for outdoor sportsmen, athletes Perpetua negotiated an exclusive license
or pets. from Battelle, the entity that has operated
Using just the right combination of ma- PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy
terials maximizes the effect, he says. since 1965, to develop and commercial-
“Optimizing the material properties en- ize the technology in 2007. Perpetua then
ables the effect to significantly increase worked on ways to improve volume manu-
performance,” he adds. “Now, multiply
Market applications facturing of the thermoelectric material,
the number of junctions by a factor of include powering which it branded Flexible Thermoelectric
thousands using semiconducting manu- ultra-long-life location Film. The film is incorporated into market-
facturing processes, and we have a de- devices for military able products and solutions such as the
vice like the Power Puck that produces personnel and first plug-and-play Perpetua Power Puck.
renewable energy to run sensors and
responders. It is also
data communication equipment.” “We first heard about Pacific Northwest
ideal for some medical National Laboratory’s work with flexible
Cejka says the PNNL team and Perpetua applications, such as thin-film thermoelectics through relation-
have created “a remarkable amount of those that help patients ships with the University of Oregon,” says
new materials and embodiment technol- with diabetes, heart Hofmeister. “The southern Willamette Val-
ogy that culminates in Perpetua’s current disease and sleep ley area here in Oregon, including the Uni-
product.” versity of Oregon, Oregon State University,
and Oregon Nanoscience and Microtech-
Because it has no moving parts, the nologies Institute, is one of the top thermo-
Power Puck is ideal for harsh climates electric research areas in the world.”
and remote industrial, military, environ-
mental and agricultural applications. Green Aspect Adds Perpetua began selling products in early
The company recently won government Commercial Appeal 2009, and the Perpetua Power Puck is
contracts to develop wearable energy The green aspect of the Power Puck add- the flagship product using the Flexible
harvesters that convert body heat into ed additional commercial appeal as coun- Thermoelectric Film technology.
energy for powering wireless sensors. tries around the world seek new sources
Market applications include powering of renewable or alternative energies and a “They are designed to harvest waste heat
ultra-long-life location devices for military means to reduce landfill poisons. from almost any warm surface for power-
personnel and first responders. It is also ing wireless sensors used in industrial ap-
ideal for some medical applications, such “Energy harvesting can make a direct en- plications such as condition-based moni-
as those that help patients with diabetes, vironmental impact by reducing the num- toring of critical equipment,” he says.
heart disease and sleep disorders. ber of batteries disposed of in landfills
every year, save businesses significant “We’re teaming with wireless radio
The Power Puck can power virtually any money by eliminating costly battery re- providers, energy storage companies,
wireless sensor, regardless of the sensor’s placements and enabling valuable elec- industrial equipment manufacturers and

The Better World Report 2010

facility owners bringing our industrial so- PNNL also has a rewards and recognition Everyone involved likes to see the re-
lutions to market.” program that has recognized the team’s search out on the market helping people
efforts which DeSteese applauds. in all walks of life and in real scenarios.
The Power of Partnerships
Hofmeister credits the PNNL team for “I can only speak for myself,” says the “Because so many ideas, and even those
being “extremely helpful in making sure primary inventor, DeSteese, “but being that get as far as being reduced to prac-
that Perpetua succeeds in bringing ther- recognized as an inventive individual by tice in the laboratory, still fail to find com-
moelectric energy harvesting to market.” peers and the scientific community is my mercial application, the special joy that
biggest motivation.” comes from this invention and its subse-
Indeed, it takes a team effort to bring quent development is knowing that it will
any new idea to market, but it isn’t a true actually enter the marketplace as a useful
partnership unless the effort benefits all. and hopefully socially beneficial product
rather than remaining a soon-forgotten
“Collaborating with commercial partners The green aspect of laboratory curiosity,” says DeSteese.
on efforts like this reduces research and the Power Puck added
development costs for companies and al- additional commercial The Power Puck may power sensors for
lows the development of new products,” appeal as countries decades, but its success also helps pow-
says Cejka. “And, each successful effort around the world er the next batch of discoveries at PNNL.
recognizes the work of our talented R&D
seek new sources of
teams and further fuels the desire to — Pam Baker
commercialize their innovations.” renewable or alternative
energies and a means to
reduce landfill poisons. The Better World Report 2010

Portland State University
Malaria: A New Approach Takes on an Old Disease
As a professor of chemistry specializing in child dies from malaria somewhere in the Today, Peyton is still a professor of chem-
nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy world every 40 seconds.” istry at Portland State University (PSU)
at Portland State University in the 1990s, and still immersed in nuclear magnetic
David Peyton, Ph.D., was studying the Children and pregnant women are es- resonance spectroscopy, but now he is
structures of molecules when a colleague pecially at risk. If young children survive the inventor of a potentially significant
asked him for assistance with spectro- their first malaria infection, their risk of breakthrough in the treatment of malaria.
scopic analysis of a new class of drugs. death from subsequent bouts is dimin- By chemically bonding chloroquine with
ished, since their immune systems will drugs called resistance reversal agents,
That collaboration two decades ago have adapted somewhat. But their vul- he’s created a new, hybrid agent more
was Peyton’s introduction to malaria, a nerability during the first infections is very effective than either one alone. He calls
scourge that annually infects more than high. Pregnant women are vulnerable be- it reversed chloroquine.
300 million people and causes 1 mil- cause their immune systems are lowered
lion deaths worldwide, according to the by their condition. Unborn children are Malaria in Brief
National Institutes of Health. From that also greatly at risk. Malaria is caused by tiny, single-celled
early collaboration, he developed a deep parasites of the genus Plasmodium.
concern about the disease. “Frustratingly,” Peyton says, “there are There are more than 100 species, and
drugs for malaria that have been effective different species of malaria are found in
“First and foremost,” Peyton says, “ma- in the past — particularly chloroquine many kinds of birds and animals. Hu-
laria is a human problem. More than 40 — but that have lost their potency as mans are vulnerable to just four species.
percent of the Earth’s population lives in the malaria parasite evolved an ability to One, P. falciparum, is responsible for the
areas where it is a health risk — primarily resist them.” great majority of the most serious human
in Africa and Asia. It’s estimated that a infections and for most deaths, especially
in Africa.

Key to human Plasmodium infection is the

Anopheles mosquito. Infected Anopheles
inject the parasite into humans as they
feed on their blood. The parasites then
begin a cycle of invading their human
hosts’ liver cells and releasing merozoites
that invade the red blood cells. Some of
these transform into sexual forms that,
ingested by mosquitoes as they prey on
Chemistry Professor
humans, repeat the cycle.
Kelly James

David Peyton
developed a hybrid
drug to treat malaria. Chloroquine was developed in 1934, but
ignored until after World War II, when

The Better World Report 2010

it became widely used to treat — and The specific mechanisms are unclear, ogy transfer office that he might be onto
prevent — malaria. Optimally, it works but Peyton suspects that when a reversal something. PSU submitted its first patent
by establishing itself in a Plasmodium’s agent is administered with chloroquine as application for the work that year. Thus
digestive vacuole, binding with heme, a two separate parts of a simple cocktail, the far, outside funding included National
component of hemoglobin released by its reversal agent has trouble getting into the Institutes of Health grants. The next step
digestion. This binding prevents the para- Plasmodium’s digestive vacuole where it is was to find funding to move the research
site from sequestering the toxic heme and needed to keep choloroquine from being and development forward.
leads to the death of the parasite. But ejected. Thus, large doses are required. In
over time, P. falciparum evolved an ability a chemically bonded hybrid, he suggests, “David was so concerned with advancing
to eject the chloroquine from its vacuole, the research that he became involved in
rendering the drug ineffective. the search for a company,” notes Dana
Bostrom, the university’s director of in-
Resistance Reversal Agents Today, Peyton is
novation and industry alliances. “We sent
Peyton settled on the concept of com- him to a weeklong ‘boot camp for scien-
still a professor of tists’ at the university called Lab2Market.
bining resistance reversal agents with
chloroquine because he believed that chemistry at Portland It focuses on technology transfer and
restoring the effectiveness of a standout State University commercialization. One part is a mentor-
medication like chloroquine was more (PSU) and still ship program, matching them with expe-
promising than trying to develop a new immersed in nuclear rienced entrepreneurs. Through it, he met
malaria drug from scratch. Lynn Stevenson and Sandra Shotwell.”
magnetic resonance
spectroscopy, but now
“Resistance reversal agents are drugs Designing DesignMedix
that have little or no anti-malarial proper- he is the inventor of a Stevenson and Shotwell had both been
ties of their own,” he says. “In fact, they potentially significant technology office directors at separate
include things like antidepressants and breakthrough in the universities before they joined together
blood pressure medications. But admin- treatment of malaria. to form a consulting firm, Alta Biomedi-
istered in combination with chloroquine, cal Group, based in Portland, Ore. Since
they help it overcome the parasite’s re- each had had experience with malaria
sistance. The catch is, as separate medi- drugs in the past, they were intrigued by
cations in the combination, they have to Peyton’s work.
be used in very large doses. I wondered the chloroquine pulls the reversal agent
what would happen if they could be along with it all the way into the digestive “As a team,” Shotwell says, “we de-
chemically bonded to chloroquine.” He vacuole where it does its work. cided the next step in moving the tech-
and his graduate student, Steven Bur- nology forward was getting funding for
gess, decided to find out. An important aspect of the approach, focused drug development.” They felt
Peyton notes, is that as the parasite that by forming a company, they could
What happened in laboratory tests was evolves to resist the new drug, the hybrid pursue federal small business grants.
that a hybrid version of chloroquine and can be reengineered with new resistance DesignMedix was established in 2006.
resistance reversal agent proved remark- reversal agents. Stevenson serves as the chief executive
ably effective in remarkably lower doses — officer, Shotwell as the chief operations
much lower than either when used alone. In 2005, Peyton informed PSU’s technol- officer and Peyton — still full time at The Better World Report 2010

PSU — as chief scientific officer. mercialization of the technology, the uni- In the meantime, the company has li-
versity won’t receive royalties from sales censed additional technology from the
“We were lucky enough to get a Phase in specified developing nations — reflect- Portland VA Medical Center and the
I small-business grant on the first try,” ing a concern that, often, the people most Oregon Health & Science University for
Shotwell notes, “and the results of that in need of such medicines are the ones a different class of antimalaria molecules
work were exciting.” This helped Design- who can least afford them. and has begun research on applying
Medix get a larger Phase II grant, as well Peyton’s hybrid techniques to over-
as private equity funding from investors, coming resistance in bacteria such as
including the Oregon Angel Fund. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus au-
reus (MRSA), an increasingly common,
In 2009, DesignMedix won the top prize An important aspect of infection-causing bacterium that has
in the Angel Oregon competition, spon- the approach, Peyton been highly resistant to treatment.
sored by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Net- notes, is that as the
work. By 2010, they had six employees, How does David Peyton the chemistry
parasite evolves to
including Burgess (by now a doctorate), professor react to the prospect of being
resist the new drug,
an active laboratory and were moving David Peyton the entrepreneur — and
into formal preclinical studies. Support the hybrid can be creator of a significant drug?
from the university was essential to their reengineered with
progress. new resistance “This is the first time I’ve even been in-
reversal agents. volved in commercialization,” he says. “I
“Portland State is committed to fostering do spectroscopy. I study molecules. We’re
entrepreneurship,” says PSU’s Bostrom. all involved in academia because we
“We operate a 40,000-square-foot Busi- enjoy learning. This isn’t academic, but,
ness Accelerator to support startups. It boy, has there been a learning curve!”
houses 20 companies and will soon add Preclinical Studies and a Pipeline
more than 2,000 square feet of wet-lab As 2010 began, reversed chloroquine He adds: “The process is arduous, but
space, including a new laboratory for was in preclinical studies. The product the end result may be a solution to a
DesignMedix.” has been through laboratory and animal terrible disease that affects millions of
tests, with highly encouraging results. people. It’s worth it.”
DesignMedix/PSU ties are financial as DesignMedix hopes to go to the U.S. Food
well as logistical — in 2008, the universi- and Drug Administration to seek approval — Ralph N. Fuller
ty negotiated a license with DesignMedix. for clinical trials within two years.
One provision dictates that in any com-

The Better World Report 2010

Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Photodynamic Therapy:
A Light at the End of the Tunnel for Cancer Patients
Almost a decade ago, a woman in her cancer treatment,” says Richard R. Mat- there are no permanent or deleterious
60s was in extreme pain from a tongue ner, Ph.D., director of technology transfer effects like scarring with PDT.
tumor that was spreading along the floor and commercial development at Roswell
of her mouth. The cancer surgeon whom Park Cancer Institute. “It’s possible that If PDT doesn’t work, says Rigual, “you
she consulted removed the lining of her one application may be able to control a haven’t burned any bridges” to try other
mouth with a laser incision and cut out cancer, but multiple applications are pos- treatments, which is an important con-
the tumor. Two months later, the woman’s sible since the treatment is nontoxic.” cept in medicine.
pain level was the same as before surgery
and the tumor returned. The surgeon re- Where the light strikes the tumor cell, Mat- Rather than using toxic radiation to kill
peated the procedure, yet three months ner explains, it releases oxygen and, sim- cells, a surgeon shines a light at the
later there was no progress. ply put, “It’s killed.” Matner experienced tumor. This powerful beam of light, di-
the treatment himself when a basal cell rected by a tiny diode laser or endoscope
“This was a case of the cure being worse carcinoma on his shoulder “disappeared” via a particular wavelength that fits in a
than the disease,” says Nestor R. Rigual, with a single treatment of PDT. briefcase-size pack, creates energy that
M.D., a head and neck surgeon at Roswell destroys vessels by stopping blood sup-
Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., who As an alternative cancer therapy, PDT ply. The tumors then starve to death.
struggled with this woman’s case. dramatically reduces many of the side ef-
fects of standard treatments that include “PDT’s impact is akin to a combination
Recognizing that what he was doing surgery, radiation and chemo or hormone of chemotherapy and radiation,” says
wasn’t working, Rigual consulted Thomas therapies. Unlike radiation or surgery, Matner. “It takes the best of each and
J. Dougherty, Ph.D., at Roswell Park who
had invented a light-targeted cancer
therapy called photodynamic therapy or
PDT. Dougherty was then head of the
PDT Center. Rigual’s patient was a good
candidate because her lesion was acces-
sible. With the woman’s approval, Rigual
treated her with PDT.

“The initial result was quite dramatic,”

Rigual says. “The disease went away for Photodynamic therapy
more than a year.” reduces many side
effects of standard
Shining a Light on the Matter cancer treatments.
“PDT is an entirely unique concept in The Better World Report 2010

from the U.S. Food and Drug Adminis-
tration (FDA) to start clinical trials on a
few brave people with advanced cancers
(some who suffered a great deal of pain
from overtreatment until the researchers
got the dosages right), Dougherty, with
the help of many others including various
pharmaceutical companies, achieved the
Chemist Ravindra
one-chance-in-a-thousand odds for FDA
Pandey’s work reduced approval in 1995.
patient recovery time
significantly. Not everyone saw the light of PDT at first.
Some of the researchers from Roswell,
eliminates the worst of each.” His first experiments using fluorescein as including Dougherty, created a company
the PDT photosensitizer on mice “sort of” to commercialize the original compound
Bringing PDT Into the Light worked, says Dougherty. “It slowed the that Dougherty had identified and pat-
The first indication that light could dam- growth but didn’t kill the tumor. ented, called Photofrin. Funding was first
age living organisms was discovered by provided by the National Cancer Institute
a German scientist in 1900. He found “I soon realized two problems with us- in 1974 as a grant and renewed many
that a single-cell paramecium was killed ing fluorescein,” he continues. “First, it times over the course of their research.
when a fluorescein-type dye was added produces very little singlet oxygen when Financial support also came from The
and then exposed to light. Years later, activated by light, and, second, the light Oncologic Foundation of Buffalo. These
others recognized the role that the oxy- needed to activate it does not penetrate funders, along with money from Johnson
gen played — and this ultimately became very far into the tissue. I needed a drug & Johnson for the Photofrin rights, offi-
known as the photodynamic effect. — a photosensitizer — that could be cially launched and carried the program.
activated by red light (which penetrated
“My first exposure to this phenomenon tissue the deepest) and produced a large When the Photofrin was licensed to the
was accidental,” says Dougherty. “I was amount of the oxygen needed to kill the company, it, in conjunction with Lederle
testing a potential radiation sensitizer that cells. I chose a class of compounds called Laboratories, obtained approvals for ob-
I had made for its cellular toxicity using a porphyrins since they possess both of structive esophageal cancer in 1995 and
fluorescein derivative that produces fluo- these properties. When porphyrins were for lung cancer in 1998. When Axcan
rescence to remain in live cells but not in used, the tumors on the mice completely Pharma of Quebec obtained the license
dead ones. I was told to do this testing in disappeared.” from the company, the group earned
subdued light since light would kill all the approval for high-grade dysplasia in Bar-
cells in the presence of this stain.” The results stunned the researcher. “I rett’s esophagus in 2003.
couldn’t believe it,” says Dougherty, “I
Like a curious scientist, Dougherty found repeated the experiment at least a dozen At that time, Barbara Henderson, Ph.D.,
this intriguing, and so he tried it. “Sure times!” and current head of the PDT Center at
enough,” he says, “ all of the cells died.” Roswell Park, discovered that destruction
Many more experiments took place on of the tumor blood vessels, in addition to
And an area of cancer research was born. numerous mice. Then, with permission the tumor cells, was key to the complete

The Better World Report 2010

destruction of the tumor. Henderson How Brightly the Light Can Shine esophagus, lung, skin, cervix and blad-
helped change medical minds with this PDT has been used for essentially ev- der (bladder cancer is not yet approved
finding. “She translated the PDT technol- ery conceivable cancer as well as many in the United States).
ogy into patients,” says Matner. noncancer indications. Some of the most
promising are cancers of the head, neck Pandey’s new photosensitizer has been
But there was still a concern with one of and bile duct. The only approved noncan- licensed in China and in India where it will
the side effects of the drug, says Dough- cer uses are for vision loss and skin le- be used for treatment of head and neck
erty. “There was skin phototoxicity, which sions. It is approved in the United States, cancers that are prevalent in these coun-
meant that patients had to stay out of Canada, Europe and Japan for palliative tries. This will greatly expand the number
the sun for six to eights weeks after the use and cure for certain cancers of the of patients who can benefit from PDT.
As for the woman whose tongue cancer
Ultimately this problem was solved by was treated with PDT by Rigual over a
Ravindra Pandey, Ph.D., a chemist at decade ago — she is in her 70s now and
As an alternative
Roswell. He worked on a series of com- cancer free. At the rate it is being stud-
pounds that would be as effective as cancer therapy, PDT ied and applied, PDT is not only likely
Photofrin, but without the skin toxicity. dramatically reduces to extend the lives of many more people
The breakthrough came when Pandey many of the side effects with cancer, but will allow clinicians to
synthesized compounds that reduced of standard treatments make earlier and more precise diagnoses
skin phototoxicity from several weeks to that will prevent the growth of more life-
that include surgery,
three or four days. This dramatically im- threatening cancers.
radiation and chemo
pacted quality of life for patients following
the PDT cancer treatment. or hormone therapies. — Ellen Blum Barish
Unlike radiation or
surgery, there are
no permanent or
deleterious effects like
scarring with PDT. The Better World Report 2010

The University of Alabama
FreezePruf Offers Protection for Crops
Threatened by Falling Temperatures
When freezing temperatures hit Florida and other vulnerable crops growing past at least one it won’t work on. But I haven’t
with unexpected strength in early 2010, killing frosts and well into the fall. found it yet.” In fact, the list of applicable
they wiped out 30 percent of some grow- plants is growing not just from his research
ers’ citrus crops, killed 70 percent of to- “FreezePruf helps plants survive a but also from customer input.
matoes in southwest Florida and wreaked freeze,” says Francko, a professor of
havoc on crops ranging from sweet corn biological sciences at The University of “A real surprise was a call I got from the
to green beans. Losses were estimated in Alabama (UA). “Applied at least 12 hours owner of a small vineyard in Virginia,”
hundreds of millions of dollars, according ahead of a projected freeze, FreezePruf Francko says. “We hadn’t worked on
to the Wall Street Journal. can help crops avoid the blossom loss grapes, so they weren’t on our list of
and fruit rot normally associated with applicable plants, but the client said he
The impact was felt well beyond the freezing temperatures.” used it on his Chardonnay grapes be-
growers themselves. One northeastern fore an unexpected frost and they came
supermarket group reported a 40 percent So far, the FreezePruf spray appears to through just fine.”
increase in wholesale prices for tomatoes, be effective on nearly every kind of plant,
lettuce and other produce. from fruit trees to vegetable plants to orna- As Francko sees it, FreezePruf is valu-
mental flowers and shrubs. Francko and able for both commercial growers and
If the risk of a killing freeze is growers’ col- his team are working to extend the list. home gardeners. With it, flowering and
lective nightmare, biologist David Francko, setting of fruit can be extended by as
Ph.D., has a solution — an antifreeze for “With almost 300,000 species of plants in much as three weeks on either end of the
plants that can keep oranges, tomatoes the world,” he says, “there’s bound to be season. Cold tolerance of foliage can be
increased by as much as 9 degrees Fahr-
enheit, depending on the type of plant.
He compares it to moving a growing zone
200 miles south.
University Relations, The University of Alabama

He is quick to point out, however, that

FreezePruf, developed by
Professor David Francko
the product does not make plants in-
(right), will help gardeners vincible. “Expectations have to be rea-
and commercial grow- sonable. FreezePruf can protect tomato
ers alike to survive frosts plants at 31 to 32 degrees, but it won’t
and extend their seasons.
GroTech President Mark
protect them for extended periods at 25
degrees,” emphasizes Francko. “It likely
Laura Shill,

Russell (left) is working

with Francko to take the won’t save 100 percent of an orange
product to market. grower’s crop during a truly deep freeze,
but it may save 50 percent of the crop

The Better World Report 2010

rather than the 5 percent that might sur- him to Alabama so we worked out a plants more cold hardy. A big issue in
vive untreated.” compensation arrangement with Miami,” simulating drought stress was making
notes Richard Swatloski, Ph.D., a licens- sure that, as cells shrink in reaction to
Transition Zones ing associate in UA’s Office for Technol- water stress, they do so uniformly, re-
Francko began working on cold-hardi- ogy Transfer. “His UA work has been taining their integrity and their ability to
ness issues while on the faculty at Miami supported with university funds — and function.
University in Ohio in the late 1990s. He without any corporate support. Dave was
continued the research at UA, where he It took him six months to find the right
relocated in 2006. He also serves as dean combination of agents. The key was
of the UA Graduate School and associate polyethylene glycol (PEG), a common
provost for the university. polyether compound that has applications
“If things like
ranging from lubricants in eye drops to pol-
‘polyethylene glycol’ and
“Southern Ohio is something of a transi- lutant removal in power plants. Its ability to
tional growing zone, and we were won- ‘surfactants’ sound prevent warping or shrinking in wooden
dering whether some southern ornamen- unappealingly chemical,” objects by replacing the water in the wood
tal plants could succeed there,” Francko notes Swatloski, “they’re has been utilized to preserve sunken
says. His team at Miami included ge- all currently present in wooden ships when they are raised.
neticists Kenneth Wilson, Ph.D., Quinn
many consumer products
Li, Ph.D., and postdoctoral associate “PEG drives the whole process, but
and incorporated in many
and co-inventor Maria Alejandra Equiza. FreezePruf is a combination of agents
Focusing on plants like palms and crape edible products. All of that work together, each with a specific
myrtles, Wilson and Li found that they FreezePruf’s components role,” Francko says. One, a surfactant,
relied on the same genes and pathway are agents already widely helps the agents quickly pass through
systems as cold-hardy varieties. used in foods and to grow the surfaces of leaves, flowers and fruit.
Another, an antidessicant, reduces water
fruits. It’s absolutely
“That suggested that we might be able loss from plant structures once the sur-
green — safe to eat and
to genetically engineer plants,” Francko face is dry.
says, “but I also wondered if there was biodegradable.”
something we could do with existing Two cryoprotectants insulate against freez-
plants. I started looking for a mechanical ing temperatures. High-molecular-weight
approach.” PEG stays largely outside the cells, pulling
concerned that the technology not be tied water from within them to lower the freez-
At Miami, the work was supported by to a large manufacturer, where it might ing points in both cell interiors and extra-
university funds and a grant from the end up a minor side-product.” cellular spaces. A second, low-molecular-
Ohio Plant Biotechnology Consortium. weight compound partitions between the
A significant part of the work was done Simulating Drought Stress interior and exterior cell spaces, contribut-
at Miami, and he couldn’t have devel- At Miami, Francko’s search for a “me- ing to lower freezing points.
oped the technology without its support, chanical approach” led him to think
Francko notes. about “drought stress,” the phenomenon The high-weight PEG also interacts with
plants rely on to avoid damage from low cell membranes and walls to increase
“Dave wanted to bring the project with moisture levels and that can also make their resistance to ice crystal damage, The Better World Report 2010

increasing plants’ cold hardiness. And a focused on commercial agriculture, deal- rights to package and sell at the retail level
silicate compound binds to cell walls to ing with issues ranging from crop devel- nationally,” Russell notes, “but we hold
strengthen against ice crystal damage. opment to product promotion to market the trademark and the rights to produce
expansion. He founded GroTech-SM — for the commercial market separately. I’m
Going to Market SM stands for sales and marketing — as currently negotiating with several compa-
“If things like ‘polyethylene glycol’ and a potential venue for his work in 2007. nies for commercial-level production and
‘surfactants’ sound unappealingly chemi- distribution.”
cal,” notes Swatloski, “they’re all currently He saw a UA news release about
present in many consumer products and FreezePruf and called Francko to pursue It is, he notes, a relatively easy product to
incorporated in many edible products. All the possibility of representing it in the produce but an expensive one to ship. He
of FreezePruf’s components are agents Northwest. When he was told that the expects to have several regional manu-
already widely used in foods and to grow university was first looking for a company facturers producing FreezePruf PRO for
fruits. It’s absolutely green — safe to eat to help with commercialization, he ex- the 2011 season.
and biodegradable.” plained instead that he thought he could
take the new product to market. A Ripe Future
Using existing ingredients also meant the “FreezePruf can be a valuable tool for
product could bypass federal approval, “We thought we could make FreezePruf commercial growers, whether for fruit
although it still faced challenges. available at the retail level fairly quickly,” trees, vines or vegetable crops,” Russell
Russell says. “We contracted with Liquid says. “The challenge for the commercial
“With its makeup of existing, approved Fence to manufacture and distribute it, market is that growers will test a product
ingredients, FreezePruf didn’t require and it began appearing on shelves in the for two or three years before committing
federal review,” says Swatloski. “On the late summer of 2009.” to it on a large scale. But I’m confident
other hand, that meant we’ve had to that will happen.
get state-by-state approvals for it. We’ve Based in Brodheadsville, Penn., the
worked our way through most of them. Liquid Fence Co. specializes in garden- “This technology has the potential to
ing and farm materials such as deer and help home gardeners get more from their
“We applied for a patent on FreezePruf rabbit repellants, insect repellants for ani- plants, both vegetables and ornamentals.
in 2007 and licensed the technology to mals, and gardening accessories. It sells But in my mind it holds tremendous eco-
a small company called GroTech-SM in its products through retail distribution nomic benefits for commercial growers
2008.” and by mail order, bottling FreezePruf in in avoiding crop damage and financial
quart and gallon to multigallon quantities. losses due to freezes. And that will help
In fact, Oregon-based GroTech-SM has At present, the majority of FreezePruf all of us in terms of the prices we pay at
exactly one employee and one product sales are at the retail level through inde- the supermarket.”
— FreezePruf. Founder and President pendent garden centers, Russell says.
Mark Russell has worked for more than — Ralph N. Fuller
a decade as an independent consultant “Our agreement gives Liquid Fence the

The Better World Report 2010

The University of Tennessee
Advanced Plasma Technology Zaps Deadly Microbes
Though we rarely admit it, human beings stood about atmospheric plasmas. From ness development for Advanced Plasma
live in a kind of organic stew, surrounded their subsequent studies, a whole new Products, was asked to join the UT team
virtually everywhere by bacteria, viruses, field of scientific endeavor would emerge. to study the ability of the OAUGDP to
fungi, endospores and volatile organic kill microorganisms. As far back as the
compounds (VOCs). Most of the time, the During their investigations, they found 1930s, researchers had killed micro-
presence of our tiny companions is of no that atmospheric plasmas — plasmas organisms with plasma, but all of these
particular concern, but there are certain that occur in ordinary air at standard pres- techniques involved extreme heat, vacu-
settings — such as in hospitals, hotel sure and ambient temperatures — could ums or specialty gases. Wintenberg and
rooms and locker rooms — in which a indeed be created in the laboratory. After the team found that the highly oxidative
quick and effective means of air purifica- considerable research, they developed a gases in OAUGDP are extremely effective
tion is not only highly desired but a po- One Atmosphere Uniform Glow Discharge at killing microbes and oxidizing VOCs.
tential life-saver. Now, thanks to technol- Plasma (OAUGDP) technology that gener-
ogy that sprang from curiosity about ball ates atmospheric plasmas comprised of Further, the team discovered that
lightning at The University of Tennessee highly reactive chemical species. Funding OAUGDP had two key characteristics
(UT), people are able to enjoy healthier, from several government agencies, includ- that might lend themselves to using this
safer, more sanitary environments. ing the Department of Defense and NASA, technology against microorganisms that
was obtained to demonstrate the technol- are commonly found on surfaces. First
The Genesis of the Idea ogy for several practical applications. the glow discharge is relatively uniform,
In the early 1990s, John Reece Roth and unlike some other plasma technologies.
his colleagues Peter Tsai, Chaoya Liu, Yes, but What Is it Good For? Second, sensitive materials, such as tex-
Mounir Laroussi, Paul Spence and Larry In 1996, Kim Wintenberg, Ph.D., a mi- tiles, can be immersed in the plasma field
Wadsworth at UT became interested in a crobiologist and now director of new busi- without pitting or burning. This bodes
natural phenomenon: ball lightning. They
wondered: Would it be possible to recre-
ate it in a laboratory?

Ball lightning is atmospheric plasma.

Plasma is an energized gas, the fourth
state of matter (the first three are solid,
liquid and gas) and the most abundant
form of matter in the universe. For years
researchers had experimented with plas-
mas in the laboratory, but most of these
The ability to purify

experiments required the use of vacuum air by killing harmful

chambers and exotic gases. At the time microorganisms can
the UT researchers turned their eyes save lives.
toward ball lighting, very little was under- The Better World Report 2010

well for a system that could be used to familiarity,” says Wood, now president ogy developed at UT, Advanced Plasma
destroy microbes. and chief executive officer of Advanced Products has already brought to market
Plasma Products, “and I was comfortable its first offering, the TriClean Pro. The Tri-
Licensing the Technology with assessing the technology and un- Clean Pro is a standalone air purification
The long road to licensing began in 1993, derstanding the scope of the underlying system with capabilities of exchanging
when the OAUGDP team disclosed sever- intellectual property. and sanitizing the air at least 3.4 times
al inventions to The University of Tennes- per hour in a 4,000 cubic foot room.
see Research Foundation (UTRF). UTRF
spent some years looking for potential The TriClean Pro operates in two phases.
licensees. In time, Atmospheric Glow “As a land grant During the capture phase, ambient air
Technology licensed the technology but that contains microorganisms and VOCs
university, we have a
eventually Atmospheric Glow Technol- is drawn into the unit. Large particulates
responsibility to ordinary
ogy went bankrupt, and the technology are removed by a prefilter, while smaller
reverted to UTRF. people to impact their particles and microbes are removed by a
lives in a positive way,” very efficient particulate filter with a low-
At that time, four entities were interested he says. “We want to do pressure drop. VOCs are trapped by a car-
in the assets of Atmospheric Glow Tech- that by getting beneficial bon filter. During the destruction phase,
nology, and one of them was Ken Wood the fan operates at lower speed and the
technologies into
and his business partners. They had plasma grid is energized. The reactive
society, by providing
joined Applied Science Products, a pub- gases produced by the plasma oxidize
licly traded parent company, and saw the job opportunities for our VOCs and kill trapped microorganisms.
opportunity to create a new company. In students, by supporting Air is passed over a catalyst to neutralize
2008, he formed Advanced Plasma Prod- the tax base of the state reactive gases and returns to the air free
ucts, based in Knoxville, Tenn., bought and by the direct return from odors and harmful contaminants.
the physical assets of Atmospheric Glow The TriClean Pro, which requires about
of license revenues to
Technology, brought on some of the key 65 watts of power to operate, has met all
the university.”
personnel, licensed the technology and necessary UL safety tests for ionizing air
began working on a focused commercial- purifiers, including the tests for ozone.
ization effort.
Applications for the TriClean Pro include
“They have a robust diligence plan for “After that, it was a matter of stepping health care settings, such as surgical
commercializing product,” says John through the various processes,” Wood suites, intensive care units where im-
Hopkins, vice president for UTRF. “The says. “The UTRF people are pros, so munocompromised patients are more
Advanced Plasma Products team is build- we were able to work through the steps susceptible to infection, medical waiting
ing good future value for the company, relatively quickly and efficiently. If both rooms, general patient rooms, nursing
and they have done it in poor economic sides know what they are doing, it’s a bit homes and offsite surgical centers. Ad-
circumstances and in a short time.” like getting a mortgage for a house. The ditional applications outside of health
UTRF people facilitated the process.” care include veterinary offices, athletic
One reason for the team’s success is locker rooms and training facilities, and
simple experience. “I approached the The First OAUGDP Product the hospitality industry, where guests’ ex-
licensing process with some measure of Using and building upon the technol- pectations of clean facilities during their

The Better World Report 2010

stay are important. which are typically millimeters apart. and foster entrepreneurialism in the area.
By contrast, the new Advanced Plasma
Advanced Plasma Products has invested Products system can deliver the reac- “As a land grant university, we have a re-
heavily in developing the technology tive species onto a wrapped object like sponsibility to ordinary people to impact
it licensed from the UT. One of the key a surgical instrument, and those species their lives in a positive way,” he says.
developments has been to engineer sys- survive long enough to sterilize it. “We want to do that by getting beneficial
tems in which the plasma is generated at technologies into society, by providing job
one site and then the reactive species are In the end, Hopkins has high aspirations opportunities for our students, by sup-
delivered to a remote site. Without this for technology transfer through UTRF. porting the tax base of the state and by
capability, plasma systems are limited “We’d like to grow advanced technology the direct return of license revenues to
to treating materials that can fit between companies in our region that contribute the university.”
the two plasma-generating electrodes, to economic prosperity, hire our graduates ‑— Jock Elliott The Better World Report 2010

Tufts Medical Center
Promising Proteases Have Potential to
Reverse Incurable Kidney Disease
As diseases go, IgA nephropathy (IgAN) estimated that more than 1 percent of IgA Nephropathy
has a low profile among Americans. A the population in China is afflicted with it. IgAN develops when immunoglobulin A
disorder that can lead to total kidney fail- Singapore and South Korea have similar (IgA1) proteins in the blood accumulate
ure, it is present in the United States, but numbers, and it’s probably abundant in in an affected kidney’s million glomeruli
it is much more prevalent in Asia. Often, India. It’s a serious problem but there really — the tiny capillaries that filter wastes
it is not recognized until it is far along. are no effective treatments and no cures.” from the bloodstream. As these deposits
build up over time, the glomeruli become
“Several factors make this illness fly That, hopefully, will change as a result of inflamed and damaged, slowly losing
under the radar in the Western world,” work done by Plaut and Jiazhou Qiu, M.D., function and eventually closing down
says Andrew G. Plaut, M.D., a professor at Tufts Medical Center, where they’ve pio- altogether. Treatment has generally been
of medicine at Tufts University School of neered techniques of using proteases — focused on drugs that limit inflammation,
Medicine in Boston. “It’s not common enzymes whose many functions include but, at best, they only slow the loss of
in the West, it has a very slow progres- roles in immunity — to eliminate IgA1 kidney function.
sion and it requires a kidney biopsy for protein from kidneys and clear the dis-
diagnosis — a procedure many clinicians ease. Patented by Tufts Medical Center in IgA is one of five major types of antibod-
are reluctant to order because effective 2003, development of the technology is in ies — gamma globulin proteins found in
treatment is not available. the preclinical stage by IGAN Biosciences bodily fluids — that play important roles
Inc., a Boston-based company founded in fighting off pathogens. IgA1, present
“The illness is common in Japan, which by Plaut and Qiu, and by BioMarin Phar- in the blood of all healthy persons, is the
screens children for IgAN rigorously. It’s maceutical Inc. in Novato, Calif. version of IgA that causes IgAN.

“In patients with IgAN, the protein is

already a bit larger than normal as it
circulates in the plasma,” Plaut notes.
“It also has a tendency to aggregate into
small clumps. And it looks like an abnor-
mal protein to the immune system, which
binds antibodies to it — making it even
bigger. As it passes through the glom-
Andrew G. Plaut (left) eruli, it settles, building up and degrading
Tufts Medical Center

and Jiazhou Qiu have the kidney’s ability to function.”

developed techniques
to use IgA protease
to clear IgA1 protein Numbers of patients with IgAN are hard
from kidneys. to pin down, since the only definite num-
bers apply to the 40 percent of IgAN

The Better World Report 2010

sufferers who have progressed to end- in meat tenderizer, to the virus protease The answer turned out to be no. While
stage renal failure. An IGAN Biosciences targeted in HIV therapy. recurrences develop in IgAN patients
analysis suggests as many as 125,000 who receive transplants of non-IgAN kid-
cases of IgAN in the United States and, “We studied the unique IgA proteases for neys, in cases where non-IgAN patients
because of large Asian populations, as a long time,” Plaut notes. “In the 1980s (mistakenly) receive IgAN kidneys, the
many as 2 million worldwide. Regardless, we began to gain insight as to how these IgA proteins disappear from the kidneys
IgAN is considered to be the most com- enzymes could be used to cut the human within weeks.
mon cause of glomerulonephritis world- IgA1 molecule. It’s effective for bacteria
wide, and one of the leading causes of The next question was how much en-
kidney failure. zyme was needed. The answer was a lot.
Qiu, who began working with Plaut as a
It’s not even clear what causes the disease. member of the scientific staff in 1987,
An IGAN Biosciences
There appears to be a genetic factor that first focused on growing the bacteria and
groups it in families, and perhaps among
analysis suggests as identifying interactions between the en-
populations, but it isn’t understood. The many as 125,000 cases zyme and human IgA1.
incidence of IgAN is low among Africans of IgAN in the United
and high among members of the Zuni States and, because of “During the 1990s,” he notes, “I worked on
Indian tribe in the American Southwest. large Asian populations, purifying the enzyme. It was difficult to get
Asian countries like Japan and China may the high levels needed for animal studies.”
as many as 2 million
report higher levels because they are more
likely to screen for it.
worldwide. Regardless, Working with a Case Western Reserve
IgAN is considered to be University team headed by Michael E.
“It’s most likely underdiagnosed,” Plaut the most common cause Lamm, M.D., and Steven Emancipator,
says, “because biopsying someone’s kid- of glomerulonephritis M.D., Plaut and Qiu conducted animal
ney to prove a diagnosis is pretty invasive worldwide, and one of tests in 2004. They demonstrated that
— it requires a long needle, some pain the protease efficiently removed some 85
the leading causes of
and potential risk. And since there aren’t percent of human IgA1 they had depos-
any cures, diagnosing it may be a Pyrrhic
kidney failure. ited into the kidneys of mice. The group
victory.” published the results in the American
Journal of Pathology in January 2008.
The Protease Approach
Working with bacteria in the 1970s, Plaut because it cuts IgA antibody in half, mak- Seeking a Partner
realized that an IgA protease produced ing it useless. And the only thing that it While Plaut’s and Qiu’s initial research was
by a bacterium called Haemophilus influ- cuts is IgA1. This makes it very useful for supported by National Institutes of Health
enzae — already known to help bacteria our treatment plan.” grants, it became clear early on that devel-
avoid immune attack by IgA antibodies oping the protease concept further would
— could be used to clear IgA1 proteins. Understanding the concept of cutting a require additional, outside funding.
Proteases are proteolytic enzymes found protein is different from having a prote-
in living organisms — they have the abil- ase that can clear it from a kidney. One “Andrew and Jiazhou disclosed their in-
ity to cut proteins. Hundreds of types are question was whether IgA1 in the kidney vention to us in 2003,” notes Nina Green,
known, ranging from papain, the agent is permanently attached to the glomeruli. director of the Office for Technology The Better World Report 2010

Licensing and Industry Collaboration at IGAN began collaboration with BioMarin “Todd Holyoak, Ph.D., a colleague at the
Tufts Medical Center. “We filed a patent in California. University of Kansas, worked with us to
and immediately began seeking a corpo- develop an image — a crystal structure
rate partner to work with us. “Preclinical work is something BioMarin — of the protein so that we can under-
is good at,” Qiu says. “They’re doing the stand how it’s shaped,” Plaut notes. “If
“Andrew felt very passionate about this animal testing, developing techniques for we want to make changes, knowing the
work. Progress was slow. Some compa- producing the protease in large amounts, structure can tell us where the changes
nies said it was too early in the develop- everything needed to take the product would be tolerated. I’m prepared to see
ment process, and Andrew and Jiazhou to the Food and Drug Administration to obstacles rise up, but everything we’ve
decided to start their own company.” apply for clinical trials.” It’s a three-party seen in the animal studies is favorable.
They secured private funding from a agreement between Tufts Medical Center,
senior portfolio manager at Boston-based IGAN and BioMarin. “As many as 40 percent of IgAN patients
Ironwood Investment Management. go on to experience complete kidney fail-
While BioMarin is working with the origi- ure and the need for renal dialysis or a
IGAN Biosciences was founded in 2005, nal protease version, Plaut and Qiu have kidney transplant. This is a disease that
with Plaut serving as chief medical of- moved on to a second generation, filing severely impacts people’s lives. It can kill
ficer and Qiu as chief scientific officer. a patent in 2009 to modify the protein to them. We have a chance to eliminate it.”
Tufts executed an exclusive license with make it smaller.
the company in 2007. That same year, — Ralph N. Fuller

The Better World Report 2010

University of California, Los Angeles
Detachable Coils Defeat Brain Aneurysms
With Skill and Ingenuity
Brain aneurysms are usually symptom- aneurysms actually rupture. Usually, rysms were either surgery that involved
free while they are developing but are however, the aneurysms’ presence is dis- removing a section of skull or the use
devastating when they finally make their covered only by accident, during tests for of balloons we could inflate within the
presence known. Most of these bulges other problems. aneurysm to try to fill it,” says Fernando
in the arteries of the brain remain unde- Vinuela, M.D., director of interventional
tected until they’ve swollen to the point of Shape-Shifting Flexibility neuroradiology at the University of Cali-
bursting and begin smothering brain cells Somewhat resembling tiny slinky toys, fornia Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Ronald Rea-
with free-flowing blood. detachable coils are comprised of spi- gan Medical Center. He was a member
raling wires thinner than strands of hair. of the team that invented the Guglielmi
Only a small percentage of people with Platinum is used because it is visible to detachable coil (GDC), named for Guido
brain aneurysms experience ruptures, but a fluoroscope, is flexible and can assume Guglielmi, M.D., the Italian physician who
as many as 50 percent of those whose an- the shape of the aneurysm it fills. Deliv- led the project.
eurysms do burst die before reaching the ered through catheters inserted into the
hospital, according to figures compiled by arterial systems, the coils are detached “Balloons weren’t a satisfactory solution
the nonprofit Brain Aneurysm Foundation. by low-voltage electrical currents that dis- because they didn’t adjust to the shape
Half of those who get to the hospital go on solve the connection between them and of the sac. The Guglielmi detachable coil
to die within 30 days, while survivors often their delivery wires. proved to be a superb technology — soft
suffer from brain damage and lingering and flexible, forgiving, with a low compli-
disability, the foundation notes. “Before coiling was approved in 1995, cation rate. The Matrix detachable coil,
the best tools we had for treating aneu- approved a few years ago, accelerates
Conversely, some patients receive prompt
care with minimally invasive detachable
platinum coils. While surgery is some-
times appropriate, coils avoid the need
for physically opening patients’ skulls to
access aneurysm sites. Threaded with
extreme care through the arteries by
highly trained and skilled interventional
neuroradiologists, the soft, flexible coils Neuroradiologists
are packed inside the aneurysm pockets Fernando Vinuela (left)
and Yuichi Murayama
to close them off, ending the danger of
refined the Guglielmi
continued bleeding. detachable coil to give
doctors another option
The best possibility is for the procedures for treating aneurysms.
to be performed preventively, before the The Better World Report 2010

the clotting process with a biopolymer — giving us a window of opportunity for contact with the brain.
coating.” treatment,” Vinuela notes. “A burst site
needs to be treated as quickly as possible “We were elated with the results,” Vinuela
Since the GDC’s approval for commercial to prevent additional rupturing. When ad- says. “We presented our work to the Ameri-
sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Admin- ditional rupture occurs, the mortality rate can Society of Neuroradiology that year.”
istration (FDA) in 1995, coils have been is about 75 percent.
used on more than 500,000 patients Licensing, Variations, Limitations
worldwide, Vinuela notes. “It’s even more desirable to treat aneu- Approved for use by the FDA in 1995, the
rysms before they burst, if possible,” he Guglielmi detachable coil was licensed to
A Silent Stalker adds. “Most unruptured aneurysms are Target Therapeutics (which was acquired
One in every 15 people develop brain an- found in the course of brain MRI or CT by Boston Scientific Corp. in 1997),
eurysms during their lifetime, according scans for other concerns. The complica- notes Emily Loughran, director of licens-
to the American Society of Interventional tion rate for closing them off is very low, ing at UCLA. Guglielmi and Sepetka were
and Therapeutic Neuroradiology (ASITN). and treatment is well-justified in many determined to be the inventors and were
Aneurysm bulges grow at weak spots in patients.” named on the patent.
arterial walls, believed to be promoted by
risk factors as diverse as smoking, hyper- Guido Guglielmi’s Mission “Since then,” Loughran says, “numerous
tension, infection and traumatic injury. A The development of the detachable coil companies have developed coils — to-
tendency for the development of brain began with Guglielmi’s arrival in 1989. day, there are more than 140 versions in
aneurysms can be inherited, so family His father had died of a brain aneurysm varying sizes and characteristics. But the
history is also a risk factor. and he wanted to find a way to deal with GDC has been the gold standard.”
the disorder. Lacking the resources in
As many as 3 percent of those aneu- Italy, he came to UCLA. His original idea Published in 2002, the International Sub-
rysms rupture, resulting in a total of more was to use a powder to seal aneurysms arachnoid Aneurysm Trial, a large-scale
than 30,000 people who are affected in off by causing the blood inside them to study of ruptured aneurysms in patients
the United States each year, the ASITN coagulate. equally suited for coiling or surgery, found
organization says. a 22.6 percent lower relative risk of death
“I formed a research team involving or significant disability after one year for
The most common type of brain aneu- Guido, Ivan Sepetka and myself in order patients treated by coiling. A follow-up
rysm is a sac attached to the artery by a to develop the first prototypes to be used study published in 2005 found that the
neck, or stem. Often, this develops within in ruptured aneurysms,” Vinuela notes. benefit continues for at least seven years
a “vee” where one artery branches off Sepetka was an engineer with Target after the procedure. It also found that,
from a larger one. The danger is that a Therapeutics, a medical device company. while the risk of repeated bleeding is low
burst aneurysm lets blood flow into the with both techniques, it is slightly higher
subarachnoid space surrounding the Guglielmi ultimately dropped the idea of with coiling.
brain — a subarachnoid hemorrhage developing a powder, and, at Sepetka’s
that damages brain cells and, if severe suggestion, the group began working with In fact, recanalization, or reopening of the
enough, leads to death. the soft, platinum helical coils. Following aneurysm, was identified as a problem
animal tests, their first human case was early on. “By the end of the ‘90s,” Vinu-
“Sometimes, bleeding from a rupture a patient in 1990 with an aneurysm in- ela says, “we recognized that 18 to 21
stops fairly quickly — a warning leak volving the cavernous sinus — nothing in percent of aneurysms were recanalizing

The Better World Report 2010

— that is, their stems were reopening — co-inventors and named on the patent, New techniques are being explored for
particularly large ones with wide necks.” the Matrix device was licensed to Boston large aneurysms. One innovation uses
Scientific in 2000. balloons to divert blood flow from the
Illustrations of coils in aneurysms usu- aneurysm while coils are placed within it.
ally depict them as completely filling the “With these changes in size, strength and Another technique utilizes combinations
sacs, but actually they generally occupy materials,” Vinuela says, “the recanaliza- of stents and coils. However, the newest
no more than 30 percent of the aneu- tion rate is down to 9 percent. At the pres- idea is to use stents by themselves as flow
rysms’ volume. The rest is filled with clot- ent time, endovascular technology has diverters for very large aneurysms so as
ted blood. When an artery’s blood flow is dealt very well with small aneurysms.” to stimulate clotting without the use of a
strong, the pressure can push a coil from coil at all.
the neck into the body of the aneurysm,
allowing blood to flow back into the sac “Coils are very successful,” Loughran
and presenting the risk of re-rupture. notes. “Studies of unruptured patients
“Most importantly,” have indicated that coiled patients re-
Solutions he says, “we can look quire much shorter hospital stays, experi-
Faced with these issues, the UCLA team back and see that these ence dramatically shorter recovery peri-
went back to the lab and changed the devices have helped ods and report far fewer new symptoms
size and radial force of the coil. afterwards than surgical patients.
half a million people,
“Beyond this,” Vinuela notes, “we started
all over the world, cope “These factors are good for both patients
looking at more sophisticated changes with problems that and our society. A study in California
we could make to the GDC.” By the otherwise would have found both adverse outcomes and hos-
mid-1990s, Guglielmi had retired and been fatal or disabling pital costs to be considerably lower with
returned to Italy, but Vinuela worked with to many of them. That’s coiling than with surgery.”
fellow UCLA neuroradiologist Yuichi Mu-
a good feeling.”
rayama, M.D., to refine the GDC. Vinuela adds: “We started working on
these devices 30 years ago and I don’t re-
“Drs. Vinuela and Murayama coated member stopping for a minute. It’s been
the GDC with a biopolymer material,” an extraordinary, unique experience.
Loughran says, “a polylactic acid that
accelerates inflammation within the an- Surgery is still necessary for many brain “Most importantly,” he says, “we can look
eurysm. It speeds up clotting, eventually aneurysm cases, but at medical centers back and see that these devices have
degrades and is absorbed by the body. By like UCLA, the majority are treated by helped half a million people, all over the
1998 they had perfected a new, coated coiling — in Europe, coiling accounts world, cope with problems that otherwise
version called the Matrix detachable coil.” for more than 90 percent of treatments, would have been fatal or disabling to
according to Vinuela. In large part the many of them. That’s a good feeling.”
While development of the Guglielmi coil choice of the approach depends on the
was supported by Target Therapeutics, type and location of the aneurysm, the — Ralph N. Fuller
the Matrix coil was developed with Na- patient’s general health and the patient’s
tional Institutes of Health funding. With preference.
Vinuela and Murayama designated as the The Better World Report 2010

University of Cambridge
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Industry and Academic Research in Regenerative Medicine Leads
to Biological Treatment for Damaged Joints
Professional athletes are well-aware of the Then there are the individuals with big One possible biological solution is Chon-
damage their sport may wreak on their cartilage lesions who no longer find pain dromimetic, a collagen scaffold devel-
bodies. So too are many of the millions of relief from traditional treatments but are oped by the British medical technology
weekend warriors, overweight and others too young for total joint replacement. company Orthomimetics. As a porous,
whose age, activities and medical condi- For this group of patients who are in the bioresorbable tissue regeneration scaf-
tions may one day lead to pain brought prime of their life, there are few available fold, it stimulates bone and cartilage
on by degradation of the cartilage in the options today. growth when implanted into the knees
linings of their joints. and other joints, which could offer a more
It is in this space, between symptom- effective, economical, easier and less
Many with the onset of degenerative joint relieving products and surgical treatment, painful means of treatment than current
disease and osteoarthritis will find respite where industry and academia are con- methods. A research group is conduct-
in a range of symptom-relieving products, ducting regenerative medicine research ing clinical trials in Europe to gather data
from physical therapy and orthotics to to develop a biological solution that might on its ability to help regenerate articular
anti-inflammatory and analgesic over-the- stem the projected six-fold increase for cartilage and provide durable solutions
counter medications. Seniors, who are in total knee replacements by 2030 cited in for degenerative joint disease and osteo-
a more advanced stage of this condition, Health, United States, 2009, by the Cen- arthritis.
may require surgery to replace the dam- ters for Disease Control and Prevention.
aged or diseased joint with a prosthesis. Groundbreaking Transatlantic
Orthomimetics, part of the Belgian bio-
tech company TiGenix since December
2009, is a relatively young academic
spinout with a list of accomplishments:

• Chondromimetic received CE Mark

approval ahead of schedule, which al-
lows the company to market its line of
bioresorbable implants for bone or soft
tissue repair in the European Union.
stimulates bone and
• Orthomimetics was featured in the
TiGenix Ltd

cartilage growth when

transplanted into knees “Killer 50” list of the most “disrup-
and other joints. tive technology” businesses in East-
ern England for 2009. Unveiled by

The Better World Report 2010

Business Weekly in association with Wilkinson, technology manager at Cam- • Artificial-bone pioneer William Bon-
Mathys & Squire Intellectual Property, bridge Enterprise Ltd, the commercializa- field, Ph.D., professor of medical ma-
the Killer 50 companies are chosen tion arm of the University of Cambridge terials in the Department of Materials
on raw technology that has either that helped Lynn spin out the company, Science and Metallurgy, University of
achieved commercial success or and, on behalf of CMI, negotiated the Cambridge
promises to do so. license. • Lorna Gibson, Ph.D., Matoula S. Sala-
• Andrew K. Lynn, Ph.D., Orthomimet- patas professor of materials science
ics’ founder and chief executive offi- and engineering, MIT
cer, who successfully made the tran- • Ioannis Yannas, Ph.D., professor
sition from academic to entrepreneur, As the first product to of mechanical engineering, biologi-
received the top European Award for cal engineering, and health sciences
come out of this collagen
University Entrepreneurs in Chemistry and technology, MIT, who developed
biomaterials platform,
and Materials in the inaugural Aca- a scaffold for the regeneration of skin
demic Enterprise Awards 2008. Chondromimetic is that is now in clinical use
designed to stimulate • Brendan Harley, Sc.D., a graduate of
Orthomimetics’ products are based on a regenerative repair in MIT and now an assistant professor in
proprietary technology platform, with pat- millions of young and the Department of Chemical and Bi-
ent-protected technology that was devel- molecular Engineering at the Univer-
aging patients who
oped during a groundbreaking collabora- sity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
suffer from damaged
tion between the University of Cambridge
in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and the joint surfaces and bony “This really ended up as a marriage of two
Massachusetts Institute of Technology defects caused by technologies: at MIT we had an expertise
(MIT), in Cambridge, Mass., under the degenerative diseases in the fields of tissue engineering and
Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) alliance. such as osteoarthritis, artificial skin, while Professor Bonfield at
CMI was an experimental transatlantic Cambridge and his team of international
trauma or surgery.
collaborative program between two of researchers had an expertise in bone
the world’s leading research universi- replacement and biomaterial innovation,”
ties. It was launched in 2000, funded by says Gibson, who knew of Bonfield and
the British government, in recognition of his work and had firsthand knowledge of
MIT’s commitment to share its successful A Marriage of Two Technologies the University of Cambridge system as
approach to connecting public research While working on the CMI project as a she did her doctoral degree there.
with innovation and economic growth. doctoral student at University of Cam-
bridge, and collaborating with a team at The CMI-enabled collaboration began
“Orthomimetics brings a new dimen- MIT, Lynn played a leading role in devel- when the team of academic researchers
sion to the treatment of joints thanks oping the technology platform on which and students decided to build a biological
to its heritage in this trans-Atlantic col- Orthomimetics’ products are based. scaffold based on an existing method to
laboration between our two world-leading produce a skin scaffold that could pro-
academic institutions and its researchers He co-founded Orthomimetics with a core vide support for tissue regeneration in
who have contributed more than 30 years group of CMI-funded researchers who are the areas of orthopedics and regenerative
of experience to the repair of bone and pioneers in the fields of artificial bone and medicine. The result was a technique to
soft tissues, respectively,” says Margaret artificial skin: mineralize the collagen scaffold by add- The Better World Report 2010

Estimates for Osteoarthritis* ing calcium and phosphate to mimic the
• Global data estimates the prevalence rate of 10.1 percent for osteoar- structure of bone, which then led to the
thritis and about 76 million patients worldwide (mainly in the United development of a two-layer scaffold to
States, Europe and Japan). regenerate both bone and cartilage.
• In the United States, 35 million persons suffer from osteoarthritis
Orthomimetics’ products are based
resulting in 11 million annual visits to doctors for consultations.
on this leading collagen biomaterials
• About 40 million Europeans suffer from osteoarthritis. platform they developed for the produc-
• The annual cost of joint replacements, hospitalizations, disability tion of scaffolds for cartilage, meniscus,
and joint devices to society is estimated at $30 billion. ligament and tendon repair. Orthomimet-
• The average annual cost of an osteoarthritis patient is $5,700, ics’ technological advantage lies in the
including $2,600 in direct costs. patent-protected ability to combine three
• About 1 in 5 of world’s population lives with chronic pain. natural biomaterials — collagen, glycos-
aminoglycans and calcium phosphate
* U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for
— into bioresorbable tissue regeneration
Health care Research and Quality
Joint Replacement Costs*
As the first product to come out of this
• In the United States, about 400,000 patients have one or more joints
collagen biomaterials platform, Chondro-
replaced each year.
mimetic is designed to stimulate regenera-
• Cost of a new hip or knee joint is $30,000 to $40,000. tive repair in millions of young and aging
• Out-of-pocket patient contribution is $3,000 to $4,000. patients who suffer from damaged joint
• Total cost of hip replacement is $19 billion. surfaces and bony defects caused by de-
• Total cost of knee replacement is $26 billion. generative diseases such as osteoarthritis,
trauma or surgery. It was shown in a head-
• 27 percent of hip replacements and 69 percent of knee replacements
to-head preclinical trial to outperform
are due to obesity.
leading synthetic products, and a simple
* National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and accurate delivery system has been
designed and tested by surgeons. TiGenix
expects Chondromimetic to join a growing
number of market-ready products in the
field of regenerative medicine, which the
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services in 2006 cited as a technology
that is “desperately needed to combat
rising health care costs.”

The Art of Reaching Consensus

As the first spinout from CMI, Orthomi-
metics licensed the exclusive rights to
four patents covering the revolutionary

The Better World Report 2010

technology that had resulted from the solid financial footing. (£600,000) Technology Strategy Board
team’s research and was funded by the grant to support a research and develop-
University of Cambridge and MIT. “They did a good job of pointing us in the ment project for improving joint tissue
right direction," Lynn says. "Our story was regeneration.
The negotiation on the licensing agree- good, and we had a great business case.
ment with CMI was a delicate process, But first and foremost, we had to learn Today, the onetime CMI spinout is part
due to opinions about the terms for an ex- how to talk to investors, which the tech- of TiGenix. The Belgian developer of re-
clusive license, especially on future rev- nology transfer offices facilitated." generative medical products that treat
enue streams. Traditionally, Cambridge damaged and diseased joints now has
had taken equity stakes in its startups, Building on this support, they established two complementary products to market
while MIT had rights not only to equity links with venture capitalists, business in the European Union — its own Chon-
but also to milestone fees, royalties and angels and potential company directors drocelect, a cell-based product that helps
license fees. Lynn and his co-founders in both Cambridge communities, suc- to regrow cartilage in the knee, and Or-
wanted to make sure the right balance thomimetics' Chondromimetic, a scaffold
was struck between early milestone pay- for the repair of damaged joint surfaces
ments and equity or other compensation and underlying bone defects.
linked to progress when the company
Lynn gives Cambridge
was more mature. "This is a really sensible and exciting way
Enterprise and the forward," says Lynn, who is now the chief
Eventually, the parties succeeded in Technology Licensing business officer at TiGenix. “I’m delighted
finding licensing terms that worked for Office at MIT a lot of with this development because it is the
everyone. And, despite the delicate credit for helping the culmination of the Orthomimetics story.”
process of the license negotiations, all startup gain a solid
involved credit CMI and the collaboration Orthomimetics is a successful technology
financial footing.
it fostered as the reason they "gathered transfer story that is taking the next step
in the same room, put all the technolo- in delivering innovative commercial prod-
gies together" and launched a spinout ucts in the field of regenerative medicine.
cessfully raising an initial funding round — Dave Perilstein
“I think our success is due in large part to of $8.5 million (£5.65 million) in 2007
CMI, which enabled an international team from the United Kingdom equity firms
of academics with a prior track record of Schroders Investment Management Ltd,
producing commercially successful in- Oxford Capital Partners Sloane Robinson
novations to come together and develop Private Equity and a group of private in-
our new technology platform," says Lynn. vestors of Eden Financial. In 2008, the
company received funding from United
Technology Transfer Offices Kingdom funding bodies; $1.5 million
Give an Assist (£747,000) from the Technology Strategy
Lynn gives Cambridge Enterprise and the Board for the commercial development
Technology Licensing Office at MIT a lot of the company’s second commercial
of credit for helping the startup gain a product, LigaMimetic; and a $953,440 The Better World Report 2010

National Center for Research Resources
Clinical and Translational Science Awards:
Accelerating Bench-to-Bedside Research to Improve Health
“You need to take your kid to a pediatric eries into better preventions, treatments percent of the children receiving a be-
neurologist.” Few words are more ter- and cures as quickly as possible,” says havioral intervention developed at Yale
rifying to a parent, yet thousands must Barbara Alving, M.D., NCRR director. showed improvement. Further, the de-
face, every day, diagnoses ranging from gree of improvement with the behavior
life-threatening brain tumors to the life- CTSAs Support Leading-Edge intervention — which taught the kids how
altering Tourette syndrome (TS). Research and Collaborations to recognize emotional triggers — was
For families coping with TS — a chronic similar to that found in recent anti-tic
Changing heart-stopping terror to heart- neurological disorder characterized by medication studies.
lifting hope for people of all ages fac- motor and vocal tics — there is now new
ing health issues lies at the core of the hope thanks to the work of CTSA-funded Until now, the only treatment available
Clinical and Translational Science Award researchers at the Yale Schools of Nurs- for TS, which is found in six children per
(CTSA) program. Administered by the ing and Medicine. In a study also funded 1,000 according to the Yale researchers,
National Center for Research Resources in part by the NIH’s National Institute of is antipsychotic medications, which often
(NCRR), part of the National Institutes Mental Health, researchers have devel- have side effects that limit usefulness in
of Health (NIH), the CTSA program is oped a behavioral intervention approach children.
designed to transform how biomedical to reduce chronic tics in children and
research is conducted and currently sup- adolescents with TS. Just as important, the study investiga-
ports a national consortium of 55 medical tors said, is that this treatment expands
research institutions. The study results, published in the May the range of clinicians who can treat TS
19 issue of the Journal of the American because medication is no longer the only
“Our aim is to transform laboratory discov- Medical Association, found that 52.5 option.

“Our study is just one example of how the

The foot of the common CTSAs are helping to advance research
mussel (Mytilus edulis)
in many disease areas and conditions,”
produces sticky proteins
that allow the organism says Larry Scahill, Ph.D., CTSA principal
to glue itself onto rocks, investigator. “By encouraging collabora-
keeping it from being tion across disciplines, CTSAs help spark
tossed around by waves.
innovative approaches to tackle research
Researchers at Northwest-
Northwestern University

ern University in Chicago challenges.”

are developing synthetic
materials with properties CTSAs Enhance Infrastructure and
similar to these mussel
Science Advances
proteins for a variety of
medical applications. At the Northwestern University in Chi-
cago, a 2008 CTSA recipient, faculty

The Better World Report 2010

and staff are using the CTSA support to Phillip Messersmith and his colleagues “Established industry-public alliances
improve collaboration in a variety of ways. to develop synthetic materials that mimic reduce the time it takes to move an idea
One of the most successful programs, proteins produced by sea mussels and forward,” Fadem says.
says Phillip Greenland, Ph.D., director can stick to different surfaces even in wet
of the Northwestern University Clinical environments. Messersmith has been “Because Penn physicians are already
and Translational Sciences Institute (NU- testing these mussel-based “glues” to familiar with Pfizer scientists, we talk
CATS), is the university’s recent invest- seal tears in amniotic sacs, a complica- to each other, making it easy to quickly
ment in biomedical informatics. As part tion of some pregnancies. evaluate a proposal,” he continues. “That
of this infrastructure, an Enterprise Data means we can remove some time delays
Warehouse (EDW) enables researchers to CTSAs Foster Public-Private from the process. For example, about a
mine all the data that is available about Partnerships to Accelerate New year ago, we evaluated a proposal about
patient outcomes from Northwestern Health Options a cancer drug and from there, we were
Memorial Hospital and other affiliated The theme of collaboration is also strong able to initiate trials in 21 different sites
networks. at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), within months. It was launched in Janu-
which received a CTSA in 2006. There, ary and fully enrolled in May.”
“Since we received the CTSA in 2008, the Office of Corporate Alliances (OCA)
we’ve invested a fair amount in biomedi- — the first of its kind for a medical school Based on the success of initiatives such
cal informatics,” Greenland says. “We — is forging industry partnerships as part as the public-private partnerships, Fa-
recognize that the future of clinical re- of its objective to help move medical ad- dem says, “The CTSA program has been
search is very heavily dependent on the vances more quickly to the marketplace. immensely positive.”
availability of electronic data and storage
and the ability to share that information According to Terry Fadem, OCA manag- Another example of a successful partner-
across the research community in a safe ing director, having the relationships in ship is The Scripps Translational Science
and highly secure environment.” place before an innovation needs sup- Institute, a CTSA consortium member near
port, financial or otherwise, means it can San Diego, which partnered with wireless
Giving scientists access to patient infor- move much more quickly through the telecommunications company Qualcomm
mation opens up whole new worlds of pipeline process. He cites Penn’s School to launch the world’s first physician-schol-
possibilities as researchers can use real- of Medicine’s long-standing relationship ar training program on wireless and mobile
world data for outcome and comparative with Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s largest health care research in 2009.
effectiveness research. research-based pharmaceutical compa-
nies, as an example of how public-private “Within the CTSA consortium, Scripps
Greenland cites as an example a North- partnerships can be a win-win. is positioned to become an invaluable
western neurologist who used the EDW to resource for this emerging, high-impact
question the protocol of prescribing anti- Since 1985, Pfizer has sponsored more field of research,” Alving says.
seizure medication to stroke survivors to than 130 clinical studies at Penn across
prevent seizures. He discovered, based 10 therapeutic areas, including oncol- CTSAs Engage Communities in
on the real-world data, that patients on ogy, psychiatry and infectious diseases. Clinical Research
the medications did not have better out- In addition to the financial support, the Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh
comes, and in fact, they did worse. relationship with Pfizer gives Penn re- (Pitt) is leveraging its CTSA, also received
searchers something even more valuable: in 2006, in a variety of collaborative ways
NUCATS also provided pilot funding for time, or rather, a decreased amount of it. as well. Margaret C. McDonald, Ph.D., The Better World Report 2010

About the Clinical and reviewed journals from 2007 through Yet another way the CTSI is reaching
Translational Science Awards April 2010,” McDonald says. “That’s a out to the community is by starting a
Led by the National Institutes significant contribution to the knowledge research registry — which has acquired
of Health’s National Center for base.” 14,000 members since its inception in
Research Resources, the Clinical 2008 — that matches volunteers with re-
and Translational Science Awards Other ways that Pitt’s CTSI is collaborat- searchers and educates the public about
(CTSA) program was launched in ing and making a difference is through the importance of participating in studies.
2006 to accelerate research from its community outreach efforts. Whether
laboratory discoveries to improved it is using a mobile lab to reach more than CTSAs Help Train a New
patient care. For more information, 5,000 middle and high school students Generation of Clinical and
visit or renting a booth at a local Race for the Translational Researchers
Cure event, McDonald says the CTSA has As mandated for all CTSA institutions,
supported the CTSI’s efforts to reach the the Pitt CTSI also fostered the growth of
community on a grass-roots level. The a new “academic home” in clinical and
assistant professor of epidemiology and results are paying off there too. translational science for the university,
associate vice chancellor for academic facilitating cross-pollination between dif-
affairs, health sciences, Pitt, reports that “Our community outreach efforts have ferent areas of study.
its Clinical and Translational Science In- produced more than 130 programs about
stitute (CTSI) has supported 1,500 inves- health-related issues that were attended “Pitt’s secondary appointment program
tigators from more than 75 disciplines in by 285,000 people,” she continues. “We has been approved for 162 faculty mem-
12 different schools. want to engage the communities as real bers from 46 disciplines in 10 different
partners and work with them in their own schools,” McDonald explains. “We’ve al-
“We’ve tracked that work and so far we’ve neighborhoods.” ways been a pretty interdisciplinary insti-
seen more than 46,000 citations in peer- tution, but the CTSA funding has enabled
us to bring in even more investigators.”

Pitt, like many of the others in the CTSA

consortium, also has established a doc-
toral program in clinical and translational
University of Pittsburgh

science, for which it encourages health

care research diversity aimed at building
the cadre of underrepresented popula-
tions in that field.

In all, the aim is to accelerate bench-to-

In 2009, the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute
unveiled a new mobile science lab that includes 26 workstations and sits inside a 70- bedside research across many disease
foot tractor-trailer. The result of collaboration between two NCRR-funded programs — a areas and conditions, in unprecedented
Clinical and Translational Science Award and a Science Education Partnership Award ways, to improve health.
— the new lab will provide precollege students in western Pennsylvania with hands-on
opportunities to learn about the latest science research while using state-of-the-art lab
technology. — Lisa Richter

The Better World Report 2010

University of Chicago
Minichromosomes Carry the Key to Improved Crops,
Better Yields
The projections are dire. “World Popula- Laboratory Research tromere ourselves and use it to work with
tion in 2300,” a report released by the Minichromosome (or gene-stacking) tech- other plants.”
United Nations’ Expert Meeting on World nology grew from a discovery by Preuss
Population in 2004, predicted that the while working with a small mustard plant Building Chromatin Inc.
planet’s population will grow nearly 50 called Arabidopsis thaliana in her labora- The question was what to do with those
percent — to more than 9 billion people tory at the University of Chicago, where discoveries. During the course of the
— by the year 2075. she served as a professor of molecular 1990s, the University of Chicago secured
genetics and cell biology. the rights to them with a series of patents.
“Reaping the Benefits,” a study released “To take it beyond that,” notes Heather
by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society in “Daphne found a mutation with char- Walsh, Ph.D., project manager in the uni-
2009, concluded that current food pro- acteristics that let us develop a genetic versity’s Office of Technology and Intellec-
duction systems will be unsustainable for mapping technique for plants,” notes tual Property, “Daphne and Greg believed
future needs, with few opportunities for Gregory Copenhaver, Ph.D., who began they needed to commercialize it. But
increasing crop-producing lands without working on the project with Preuss as they felt that if gene-stacking was simply
inflicting environmental damage. a postdoctoral student in 1996. “We licensed to a single big organization, their
devised a technique for identifying the work would be relegated to a limited set
“In the future, the ability to grow more — centromere, the spot on chromosomes of plant products. They thought a smaller
and better — crops on existing farmland that a cell grabs onto when it needs to operation would be able to make the
will be essential to meet expanded popu- move them during division. We were able technology more broadly available for use
lation demands,” says Daphne Preuss, to figure out how to catch hold of the cen- with a multitude of crops.”
Ph.D., chief executive officer (CEO) of
Chicago-based Chromatin Inc. By alter-
ing plants’ genomes, today’s researchers
can improve production on limited acre-
age with crops that can be planted closer
together and are more resistant to pests
and diseases.

“But these plants have been developed

by adding genes incrementally — a very
slow process,” she says. “The technology By altering plant’s
genomes, researchers

we have developed — minichromosomes can improve produc-

— lets us add a larger number of genes si- tion on limited acre-
multaneously and breed varieties contain- age with crops.
ing those changes much more quickly.” The Better World Report 2010

Preuss and Copenhaver founded Chro- place a new gene within a cell’s nucleus wanted and insert it into the cell.
matin Inc. in 2001, with the university you can’t be sure where it’s going to land.
licensing the technology to the new com- First, the gene must insert itself into an ex- “We were able to identify the centromere
pany. The name draws on the DNA and isting chromosome. The position it lands region in corn and work from there,”
protein material that make up a cell’s in may affect its functioning. Or, it might Copenhaver says. “We tested a lot, us-
chromosomes. disrupt other genes during insertion.” ing marker genes that fluoresce under
ultraviolet light. We could see if the genes
Copenhaver put his pursuit of an aca- were being expressed and make sure
demic career temporarily on hold to serve they were autonomous — that they didn’t
as president, eventually going back to insert themselves into existing chromo-
Preuss, who has now
academia as an associate professor with somes.”
joint appointments in the Department of left the University of
Biology and the Carolina Center for Ge- Chicago, has been “Being autonomous solves a lot of prob-
nome Sciences at the University of North leading Chromatin for lems,” Preuss adds. “It makes it easier
Carolina. He continues to serve Chromatin the past three years, to pass on traits. It makes breeding new
as a consultant, working through telecon- serving as president plants faster, better, cheaper and more
ferencing and monthly trips to Chicago. predictable.”
and CEO of a company
Preuss, who has now left the University of that has grown to more It’s still an empirical process. As the
Chicago, has been leading Chromatin for than 30 employees and Chromatin researchers build up a catalog
the past three years, serving as president facilities at several of minichromosomes, they can compare
and CEO of a company that has grown sites. In its primary DNA traits and make better predictions as to
to more than 30 employees and facilities workshop in Chicago, what a combination of genes is going to
at several sites. In its primary DNA work- do. Testing is still necessary but the ability
the company builds and
shop in Chicago, the company builds and to predict results shortens the process.
analyzes chromosomes. At labs in Urba- analyzes chromosomes.
na, Ill., researchers focus on plant growth They reported their results in corn in the
and manipulating plant tissues and DNA. journal PLoS Genetics in the fall of 2007;
the company has also had ongoing pro-
Additionally, Chromatin operates field As a consequence, researchers often grams in a number of other crops, includ-
stations in other locations where higher- have to work with thousands of plants ing soybean.
yielding crops are bred. Among a series in order to find a few that achieve the
of additional patents secured by the com- sought-after alteration. And since the Corporate Licensing
pany is one in 2007 granting it exclusive point is that new traits have to be suc- Initial research was supported by funding
minichromosome rights in all plants. cessfully passed on to succeeding gener- from the university; private foundations;
ations, it’s a long, labor-intensive — and the National Science Foundation; and
Autonomous Chromosomes expensive — process. the Consortium for Plant Technology Re-
“People have been able to alter plants by search, a Department of Energy/industry-
putting genes in chromosomes for several Preuss and Copenhaver thought a better funding collaboration. As a company,
decades,” Copenhaver says, “but that’s approach would be to create their own Chromatin was launched with venture
essentially a random approach. When you chromosome, stack it with the genes they capital and federal Small Business In-

The Better World Report 2010

novation Research (SBIR) financing. It “Our first mission has been developing “In the future, minichromosomes can
subsequently has gone through addi- crops that leading agricultural compa- bring about improved types of crops —
tional rounds of venture capital and SBIR nies are pursuing today — crops like foods high in Omega 3 oils, cottons with
funding. And, it receives revenues from soybeans that farmers can plant more different types of fibers, new medicines
its licensing contracts with agricultural closely together to increase yields, allow and biofuels,” Preuss continues. “Manu-
companies. more efficient use of pesticides or are facturers have been seeking to derive in-
resistant to drought,” Preuss says. sulin from safflower plants and antibodies
These include a 2007 collaborative agree- from aquatic plants. Crops like sugarcane
ment with agricultural giant Monsanto and sawgrass offer the prospect of be-
Co. allowing that organization to adapt coming very productive, efficient biofuel
Chromatin technology for its research sources.”
crops. Also in 2007, Chromatin granted Preuss, who has now
Syngenta Biology Inc. a nonexclusive li- left the University of That’s why the importance of minichro-
cense to use the technology for corn and Chicago, has been mosomes’ capacity for stacking unlimited
soybeans. leading Chromatin for numbers of genes can’t be understated,
the past three years, Copenhaver says.
Other agreements have followed — with
serving as president
Dow AgroSciences for research on com- “Science’s ability to discover new genes
bining Chromatin minichromosomes with and CEO of a company and be sure what they’re doing has
Dow technology and with Bayer Crop- that has grown to more outstripped our ability to use them,” he
Science for its use in cotton plants. An than 30 employees says. “Most companies have a lot more
exclusive agreement with Syngenta lets and facilities at genes than they’ve been able to imple-
that company pursue minichromosome several sites. ment. This opens new doors for making
technology in sugarcane. important advances available to people.”

— Ralph N. Fuller The Better World Report 2010

University of Colorado
Shingles Vaccine Outwits the Suffering of a Painful Disease
Nobody who has shingles forgets the ex- had chicken pox — most of them over A Migrating Virus
perience — an outbreak of often-painful 60,” says infectious disease specialist Once the embedded varicella-zoster virus
blisters in a belt-like band on the torso or Myron Levin, M.D., a professor of pedi- becomes active and moves back along
face. Worse, while the shingles itself may atrics and medicine at the University of the nerves to the skin to cause blisters,
clear up in a matter of weeks, for 1 in Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the issue is not so much itching as it is
10 victims, the pain can linger for many the Children’s Hospital in Denver who led pain, burning, numbness or tingling
weeks, even months, the consequence of development of a vaccine for shingles. caused by inflamed nerves.
inflamed nerves. That vaccine, Zostavax, was licensed for
sales by the U.S. Food and Drug Admin- “More importantly,” notes John Gra-
For some people, the effect can be in- istration in 2006. benstein, Ph.D., senior medical director
capacitating, making actions as simple of adult vaccines at Merck & Co. Inc.,
as walking utterly painful and dictating “Most people who’ve had chicken pox won’t “while a shingles attack — the rash and
lengthy confinement in bed. Some vic- get shingles, but those who do amount to its accompanying pain — typically lasts
tims find their bodies so sensitive to pain about 1 million sufferers each year,” Levin three to five weeks, about 10 percent of
that they can’t stand to be touched or says. “And for many of them, the misery patients experience postherpetic neural-
even to wear clothes. far exceeds the suffering associated with gia, the intense, chronic pain that can
‘breezing through’ chicken pox.” continue long after the blisters have dis-
The irony is that shingles is directly linked appeared.” The definition of postherpetic
to a childhood disease most people re- neuralgia is pain of significant intensity
member as having coasted through — that continues at least 90 days after the
chicken pox. In childhood, an attack of rash began.
the varicella-zoster virus usually meant
a couple of weeks with spots all over “The pain is the worst part,” Levin adds.
the body, itching and perhaps a period “It’s the main reason you want to get the
of “feeling poorly.” And, probably, ice shingles vaccine. The vaccine reduces the
cream. prospect of intense pain tremendously.”
University of Colorado, Denver

But even though the chicken pox clears There are other potential consequences.
up, the varicella-zoster virus doesn’t go Unlike chicken pox, in which the rash is
away. It migrates from the skin up the scattered all over the victim’s body, the
nerves to nestle in nerve roots, hiding in shingles rash is limited to the area of skin
the body for decades before coming back that one nerve is responsible for, usually
with a vengeance. in a belt-like band on one side of the face
Infectious Disease Specialist
or torso (the term shingles comes from
Myron Levin led development of the
“Even for people who breezed through shingles vaccine. the Latin word for belt).
chicken pox as children, shingles sur-
faces in as many as 1 in 3 adults who’ve Shingles anywhere presents a danger of

The Better World Report 2010

bacterial skin infection and a risk of per- varicella-zoster virus — as to many other exactly the same as in the vaccine for
manent nerve damage that can make the infections — wanes. The likelihood is chicken pox but it’s more potent,” Levin
pain resistant to treatment. But shingles that the virus is kept quiet by the body’s notes. “Our initial study involved 240
on the face compounds this with risks immune system, and, once the immune adults, focusing, in large part, on testing
of infections that can cause blindness, protection drops to a certain level, the different amounts of virus in the vaccine.
hearing and balance problems, and facial virus is able to break out as shingles.
paralysis. And, the older you are when you develop “This wasn’t easy on the volunteers in
shingles, the greater your chance of get- the study,” he adds, “since the vaccine
Like Disease, Like Vaccine ting postherpetic neuralgia.” we had at the time required as many as
Just as shingles the disease grows out four shots at once to give the largest dose
of chicken pox, the Zostavax vaccine is tested.” In the end, the dosage for suc-
a legacy of the chicken pox vaccine — cessful shingles vaccine was set at 14
the Varivax vaccine — developed by a times that of the chicken pox vaccine —
Japanese physician in the 1970s. Levin in one small shot.
But even though the
was involved in work at Colorado to test
the earlier vaccine for its safety before it chicken pox clears up, To that point, Levin’s research was sup-
was approved for use in the United States the varicella-zoster ported by National Institutes of Health
in 1995. virus doesn’t go away. It funding, but he then approached Merck,
migrates from the skin the only company licensed to produce
“He was familiar with the varicella-zoster up the nerves to nestle the chicken pox vaccine for use in the
virus,” notes Rick Silva, Ph.D., director of United States.
in nerve roots, hiding
the Technology Transfer Office at the Uni-
versity of Colorado. “He reasoned that a in the body for decades The next step was a large-scale trial, and
version of the childhood vaccine could be before coming back with Levin proposed partnering with the Veter-
used in older people to prevent shingles.” a vengeance. ans Administration’s Cooperative Studies
Program in a study that would involve
While there are antiviral treatments for some 38,000 men and women aged 60
shingles, these are imperfect and it’s far or older. The Shingles Prevention Study
preferable to prevent the disease with was also supported by the National Insti-
Zostavax. The duration of a bout of shin- Similarly, shingles can be a problem for tute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
gles can sometimes be shortened with younger patients whose immune systems and by Merck, which provided the vac-
early antiviral therapy, but such therapy are compromised by other diseases or cine. The tests began in 1999, but the
is often delayed, and shingles is difficult treatments. results weren’t clear until 2005.
to treat once it is established. Painkillers
like oxycodone may become necessary. Same Vaccine, Higher Dosage “The bottom-line answer was that the vac-
The concept for developing the new vac- cine would prevent shingles in about 50
“For a long time,” Levin says, “it wasn’t cine was that the chicken pox vaccine percent of the people who received it,”
clear why the virus resurfaces after so could prevent shingles in adults — but that Levin says. “More importantly, it would
much time, and so often in people over much larger dosages would be necessary. prevent or reduce chronic pain by some
age 60. But we pretty much know that 67 percent among people who did get
as we age, our cellular immunity to the “The virus in the shingles vaccine is shingles. The Better World Report 2010

“That’s a very significant reason to get Because it’s estimated that there are “It’s a general phenomenon,” Graben-
the shot.” some 50 million people over 60 in the stein says, “that other than flu shots,
United States, and Merck has shipped adults don’t give the attention to vaccines
Larger Benefits more than 6.5 million doses, there’s still for themselves that they do for their kids
Once approved, the new vaccine was a long way to go in protecting the popu- or grandkids. They should. Shingles is a
licensed exclusively to Merck. The patent lation. miserable illness that can be minimized,
is held jointly by Merck and the university. possibly prevented.

“On the individual level, this is an impor- “People who’ve had chicken pox are
tant vaccine,” says the University of Colo- vulnerable to shingles and should get the
rado’s Silva. “In broader terms, it holds
Because it’s estimated Zostavax vaccine when they reach the
the potential of reducing shingles-related that there are some 50 appropriate age of 60 years. It can make
doctor visits in the United States each year million people over 60 life better for a lot of them.”
by perhaps 300,000 and hospitalizations in the United States, and
by 10,000. That would be a savings of as Merck has shipped more — Ralph N. Fuller
much as $100 million spent on shingles-
than 6.5 million doses,
related care in the United States annually.”
there’s still a long way
to go in protecting the

The Better World Report 2010

University of Delaware
Shear Thickening Fluid Fabric Technology Promises
to Save Lives, Protect Bodies and Much More
The improvised knife was a blur in the stress. So in some ways, a shear thick- “Our group was one of the first to dis-
convict’s hand. It struck the prison guard ening fluid behaves a bit like the clutch cover the science behind how and why
squarely in the back, but the blade never on your automobile seat belt. If you pull shear thickening happens and then to be
penetrated, thanks to the light, flexible the belt slowly, you can slide it out to the able to use that knowledge for engineer-
vest the guard wore. length you need. But if you yank the belt ing,” Wagner says. “We’ve looked at the
quickly, it locks in place and won’t move. problem from both sides. Sometimes —
The 76-year-old woman slipped on the like when you’re pumping a fluid that is
ice and slammed to the sidewalk, but no “These liquids have been around forev- loaded with particles — you don’t want
bones were broken. A special garment er,” he adds. “The best-known example shear thickening to happen, and you look
helped absorb the energy of the fall and is corn starch. Drop some in warm water, for ways to prevent it. Other times, you
protect her fragile hip. stir it and — bingo! — it thickens.” want shear thickening, and you want to
tailor the way in which it happens.”
A football quarterback cuts through the While Wagner and his students didn’t
line and avoids tacklers with astounding invent shear thickening fluids, since the Body armor, for example, is an applica-
dexterity. His new lighter, closer-fitting early 1990s they have been doing basic tion in which shear thickening would be
helmet provides better protection than research into them. Funded by the National an advantage. The problem with con-
the old one but saves precious weight for Science Foundation, they have been inves- ventional body armor is that, to provide
greater agility on the field. tigating colloidal suspensions — fluids with protection against higher energy bullets,
particles in them — trying to understand additional layers of ballistic fabric must
What do all these incidents have in com- their basic physics and chemistry. be used. As the energy of the bullets
mon? All three show the potential of shear
thickening fluid (STF) fabric technology,
which was developed at the Center for
Composite Materials at the University of
Delaware (UD) and is now moving into
commercial application for ballistic, im-
pact and puncture protection.

The Origin of STF Technology University of Delaware

“Shear thickening fluids have a peculiar researchers discovered a
shear thickening fluid that
property,” says Norman J. Wagner, Ph.D.,
can be applied to ballistic
and chair of the Chemical Engineering fabric allowing it to with-
Department at UD. “They act like a liquid stand bullets, knives and
at rest but thicken quickly or behave like other weapons.
a solid when subjected to mechanical The Better World Report 2010

rises, so does the number of layers of bal- improve their performance,” says Bruce ter, are used in the real world.”
listic fabric needed to provide protection. Morrissey, director of technical develop-
Eventually, the ballistic vest becomes ex- ment in the Intellectual Property Center at Ultimately, licensing will benefit not just
tremely thick, stiff and bulky, and people UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and end users, but the university and its
stop wearing them because they are so Partnerships (OEIP). researchers as well. “We have several
uncomfortable. Further, the body armor motives behind our desire to license,”
that can stop a bullet from a handgun Because STF fabric technology offers so Morrissey says. “First, the university and
won’t necessarily be able to stop a pen- many potential uses, identifying the full researchers like Norm Wagner really want
etrating object like an ice pick that can scope of potential products is challeng- to get their technology, their ideas, into
work its way between the threads of the the public arena for public benefit. The
ballistic fabric. second is to generate a revenue stream.
One-third goes to the inventors, a third to
The Invention of STF Fabric It’s Butler’s view that the College of Engineering and Center for
What Wagner and his team discovered Composite Materials, and a third to UD’s
the marketplace is
was that you could take extremely finely tech transfer office to fund proof-of-con-
divided silica (submicron-sized particles, barely at the tip of the cept work for other licensable technology.
with a surface area of hundreds of square iceberg in terms of
meters per gram), suspend it in water or potential applications for “In due course,” Morrissey says, “we set-
polyethylene glycol and apply it to ballistic STF fabric technology. tled on a preferred supplier — Barrday Inc.
fabric made from Kevlar or other high- — a textile supplier based in Cambridge,
Beyond protection for
performance fibers, and now you have an Ontario, Canada, that invested in basic re-
police, soldiers, prison
STF fabric that instantly stiffens, by lock- search related to this technology and that
ing the fiber network, on impact. When guards and the like, could supply STF-treated fabrics to just
you apply the STF treatment to the ballis- there are applications in about any company that wants to produce
tic fabric, it becomes more effective. That heavy industry, sporting a product based on STF technology.”
means you can reduce the number of goods, energy absorbing
layers needed to provide a particular level Responsibility for the economic develop-
pads and even blast
of protection, which reduces the weight, ment of the STF technologies lies with
increases the flexibility and makes the the university’s OEIP. “The office func-
body armor more wearable. tions as a communication gateway that
provides the outside world with access to
Further, the shear force causes the sus- the university’s knowledge-based assets,
pension to lock the threads in place, so ing. “One of the most prominent features and UD personnel and students with a
that a penetrating object, like an ice pick, of this technology is that it can be tailored window to opportunities outside the uni-
can no longer get through. for various applications,” says Brad Yops, versity,” says OEIP Director David S. Weir.
assistant director of UD’s Intellectual
Licensing the Technology Property Center. “So we’ve taken a team Moving the Technology Forward
“The key UD STF-related technology approach to characterize the various “Originally, we were partnered with the
that we have already licensed is an STF business opportunities where Kevlar or university and a third party that had
treatment that can be applied to many ballistic-type fabrics, as well as traditional licensed STF technology for ballistic de-
fabrics — Kevlar, nylon, polyester — to woven fabrics such as nylon and polyes- fense,” says Keith Butler, vice president

The Better World Report 2010

of sales and marketing for Barrday Inc. facture, for example, thousands of ballistic even blast containment.
“But when the ballistic license ended, we vests. Our business model is to be part-
had already invested heavily in moving nered with the university to supply treated “Fortunately, we’re in a position to tailor
this technology from the beaker to the rolled goods to companies that want to materials for specific applications and to
production line, so we decided to pursue make innovative products that incorporate provide advice on how to use them,” But-
a more broad license directly from UD.” STF fabric.” ler says. “It will be very interesting to see
what the impact of STF technology will be
Barrday faced and overcame significant It’s Butler’s view that the marketplace is in the next few years, whether it is pro-
challenges. “Three years ago, we could barely at the tip of the iceberg in terms tecting people and equipment or making
only make a 10-inch by 10-inch square of potential applications for STF fabric sports safer and more pleasurable.”
of STF-treated material. We had to figure technology. Beyond protection for police,
out how to produce it in a continuous soldiers, prison guards and the like, there — Jock Elliott
process,” he adds. “Now we can deliver are applications in heavy industry, sport-
the industrial quantities needed to manu- ing goods, energy absorbing pads and The Better World Report 2010

University of Florida
Alcohol Sniffer Gives Hospitals a Hand
Tackling Super Bug Infections
According to the Centers for Disease health care settings have a new tool to “Virtually all hand-hygiene products —
Control and Prevention (CDC), health help enforce hand-washing adherence. both soap and waterless — contain an
care-associated infections (HAIs) are They recognized that their work on a alcohol,” explains Richard Melker, Ph.D.,
the fourth leading cause of death in the project to detect alcohol and other vola- M.D., the primary inventor and professor at
United States. This despite the fact that tile compounds could easily be adapted University of Florida’s College of Medicine,
something as simple as hand washing to aid hand-hygiene practices in health Anesthesiology. “A hand-wash station is
could drastically reduce the death rate. care environments. Since proper hand- positioned wherever these products are
hygiene practices are the first line of de- dispensed and detects the presence of
HAIs can be fatal and are often highly re- fense in the prevention of HAIs, it made the alcohol on the health care workers’
sistant to antibiotics. Prevention, primar- sense to develop a system that ensures hands immediately after they practice hand
ily through stringent hygiene practices this simple hygiene protocol is always fol- hygiene. The health care worker wears a
to avoid transferring infections between lowed. badge that broadcasts a unique identifier
patients, is the only known means of cur- so the database knows who washed their
tailing these deadly unintended effects of Enter HyGreen — a transparent system hands and where they were washed.”
health care. that ensures health care workers wash their
hands before delivering care and, thus, This is just the first step of the system’s
HyGreen Sniffs out Poor prevents the spread of infection from one process. The following step is designed
Hand Hygiene patient to another. The system consists of a to protect the next patient the health care
Now, thanks to researchers at the badge, an alcohol sniffer, a bedside monitor provider approaches.
University of Florida hospitals and other and a wireless reporting system.
“The invention provides a safety net
around the patient, so that a health care
worker can only enter a safe area around
the patient if his or her hands are clean,”
says Melker. “If not, the “unclean” badge
status is communicated to a bed monitor,
which, in turn, activates the badge to pro-
vide a series of vibrations reminding the
health care worker to wash before enter-
ing the safe area around the patient,” he
Richard Melker (left) and continues.
Elena Casson

Donn Dennis were part of

the team that developed The system also wirelessly records all
HyGreen. interactions in a central database so that
the hospital, clinic or health care facility

The Better World Report 2010

is notified in real-time which health care not be paid for delivering treatment for
workers are complying with hand-hygiene these infections.
recommendations and which are not.
This allows the health care institution to This is a significant change in insurer
intervene quickly if necessary and keep reimbursements, but it’s a move that
accurate incident records. It also pro- is likely to be popular with health care
vides a means to report to entities such consumers concerned with the conse-
as the CDC for accurate national incident quences of HAIs.
trend tracking.
“Health care-associated infections ac-

Elena Casson
Change Saves Lives and Money count for over 250 deaths every day in
While saving lives has always been of high the United States,” exclaims Melker.
importance to health care workers and “Imagine what the public outcry would
institutions, recent developments have be if a commercial jetliner crashed every Health care workers wear badges
that allow HyGreen to document
heightened concerns over HAI rates. day in the U.S.!”
who washed their hands and when.

“The change in reimbursements by Med- HHS considers the change in Medicare

icaid and Medicare really was a signifi- and Medicaid reimbursements as an
cant influence on the market acceptance important part of its mission to make Dennis, M.D., did not start out to tackle
of this invention,” explains Bruce Clary, American health care safer and more af- the problem of HAIs. They heard the cry
assistant director of the Office of Technol- fordable. It is largely accepted that private for a solution while they were working on
ogy Licensing at the University of Florida. insurers will soon follow suit and refuse another project.
payment for the treatment of HAIs. This
As part of the Deficit Reduction Act of is no surprise considering the impact of “A colleague commented that hand hy-
2005, Congress required the Secretary these unintended diseases on both the giene was a problem in hospitals and was
of Health and Human Services (HHS) to health care system and health care con- a major cause of health care-associated
identify a number of circumstances that sumers. infections and asked if we might come
are preventable, avoidable or contain- up with a solution,” explains Melker.
able and that adversely affect health care “Health care-associated infections are “There was an immediate Eureka! mo-
delivery or outcomes — so-called never the fourth leading cause of death in the ment, since we were already working on
events, since they should not occur and United States and cost the U.S. health the detection of ‘taggants’ and ethanol
are not the reason the patient was admit- care system between $30 and $40 billion for other products.
ted to the hospital. HAIs are counted per year,” says Clary.
among those circumstances. “Our experience with sensors for ethanol
A Chance Remark Leads to a Handy and other compounds made it very easy
Thus Medicare and Medicaid will not Discovery for us to develop a prototype/proof-of-
pay hospitals for treating infections the Despite the obvious need for better hand- concept system,” he adds.
patient did not arrive with (nor allow hygiene systems, however, the inventors
them to charge the patient directly). In of HyGreen, who, in addition to Melker, Good Chemistry Facilitates Clean
other words, health care institutions are included Nikolaus Gravenstein, M.D., Deal-Making Process
required to provide care for HAIs but will Christopher Batich, Ph.D., and Donn Also relatively easy, says Melker, was get- The Better World Report 2010

ting the product to market. “It took a very Xhale invested $5 million to speed Hy- Clary says the most important thing in
short time to prepare a patent disclosure Green’s development. this story was the close and collabora-
to the University of Florida and to begin tive working relationship the University
development of the technology at Xhale “The process was very serendipitous of Florida had with the licensee, Xhale.
Inc.,” says Melker. “In this instance, the right from the start,” agrees Clary. “The “We tried to place as few hurdles in front
university licensed the technology to a chemistry between the primary inventor, of them as possible and to be a positive
company in which the inventors were Richard J. Melker, M.D., and Xhale’s CEO influence,” he says. “They responded by
actively involved, so commercial interest Mr. Richard Allen was terrific. So our role really creating value and moving through
dramatically helped in the very rapid de- the product development cycle amaz-
velopment of the technology.” ingly fast.”

Indeed, two of the inventors — Melker Allen says HyGreen has enjoyed a huge
“Health care-associated
who serves as Xhale’s chief technology amount of market interest since the
officer, and Dennis, who is Xhale’s chief infections account change in hospital reimbursement by
science officer — were co-founders of the for over 250 deaths Medicaid and Medicare. “So no, the
company, which is also located in Gaines- every day in the United economy hasn’t dampened interest at all
ville. “We had licensed other technology States,” exclaims in HyGreen. It seems to be the right time
from these inventors two years earlier, for this,” says Allen.
Melker. “Imagine what
while we were creating the company,”
the public outcry would
says Richard Allen, chief executive officer He expects interest to climb with the
of Xhale. be if a commercial passing of the health care reform bill.
jetliner crashed every “When the government is striving to save
“We had started the company to work day in the U.S.!” money and lives in health care, this is a
on the other suite of patents, so we were good fit,” he says.
already working with this group of inven-
tors when they conceived of HyGreen,” The highest cost tied to HAIs, however, is
explains Allen. ”In this case the first idea calculated in terms of human lives.
came from a team of University of Florida as the Office of Technology Licensing was
researchers who were already tied into very easy, simply protect the intellectual “It feels good to save lives, to prevent
Xhale, and, therefore, the licensing effort property, quickly get a license agreement disease and to make a difference,” says
and ‘commercial finish’ were a bit easier in place and allow the Xhale team to run Melker.
than normal,” he concludes. with it.” — Pam Baker

The Better World Report 2010

University of Georgia
MuniRem Makes Contaminated Land and Water Safe for Use
Long after they have served their explo- water unsafe to drink and streams unable to facilitate munitions remediation. This
sive purpose, the munitions of war con- to support healthy aquatic life. They place compound converts explosives contami-
tinue to damage lives and the environ- people at risk for ills like convulsions, nants into “nature-usable” components
ment. Their detonating capacities may central nervous problems, leukemias and that are safe when humans are exposed
be expended in battle or training, but the other cancers.” to them. MuniRem is applied much like
substances that made them volatile per- new seed is sown on cropland — it is
sist, contaminating the soil and ground Typically, these problems have been dealt broadcast, tilled in and watered.
water with carcinogens and other highly with by hauling away the contaminated
toxic substances. soil and treating it as hazardous waste, “Once the chemical action starts,”
or, sometimes, by incinerating the soil. Nzengung says, “nitrates are degraded
It is a more complex problem than simple and heavy metals are converted into
pollution. Many of these materials may However, Nzengung has developed a nontoxic metal-sulfides, reducing soil
also cause hard-to-extinguish fires or different approach involving the use of contamination by more than 98 percent
leach dangerous chemicals into lakes, MuniRem, an environmentally friendly within 24 hours. These byproducts are
streams and aquifers where they are compound that uses chemical processes easily metabolized by plants and bacteria
subsequently incorporated into the food and other organisms in the soil. Once
chain. Discarded and corroded muni- treated, land has been planted with
tions are found when foundations for new grasses and trees for several years, it’s
buildings are laid in certain areas. More- safe for habitation.”
over, munitions dumped at sea are now
washing up on the shores of the Great Remediation Missions
Lakes and the Eastern Seaboard. With a doctorate in environmental geo-
chemistry, Nzengung has long had a
“When we hear ‘bombs and ammuni- strong focus on contaminant reme-
tion,’ we think of their destructive power diation. Nzengung founded Planteco in
in combat,” notes Valentine Nzengung, 2000 and now, with a dozen employees,
Ph.D., professor of geology at the Uni- the company has developed remediation
Andrew Tucker/UGA

versity of Georgia (UGA) and president of approaches ranging from bacterial treat-
Planteco Environmental Consultants LLC, ments that deal with oil sludge to bacte-
based in Athens, Ga. rial mats and manmade wetlands that
treat contaminated surface water.
“Their explosive effect is gone quickly,”
Valentine Nzengung developed
he says, “but their residues of nitrates, MuniRem, an environmentally Nzengung was studying perchlorate — a
ammonia, perchlorates, mercury, chro- friendly compound that uses chemi- compound used in explosives and solid
mium and other substances linger in- cal processes to facilitate munitions rocket propellants — with funding from
definitely. Munitions residues make soil remediation the U.S. Air Force when the Department
sterile and unable to support vegetation, of Defense established the Military Mu- The Better World Report 2010

nitions Response Program in the early Foundation in early 2007, Gama notes. tions. Some of these are present in land
2000s to clean up former military sites The group filed the first of two patents in that is now privately owned, while some
with contamination problems. Contami- May 2007, licensing the technology ex- is public land used for recreation or other
nation was a long-standing issue for mili- clusively to Planteco. purposes.
tary bases, but once the armed services
began closing bases — often for conver- Confronting Contamination At rifle ranges, the primary issue is lead
sion to civilian use — the need to deal Residue contamination occurs at every contamination from bullets. But at artil-
with this contamination became more developmental stage and site of a bomb lery ranges the powder charge bags used
urgent. or artillery round’s existence including the in cannons to propel rounds exude mixed
land surrounding munitions manufactur- residues along the firing lines, and the
Nzengung expanded his focus to general ing plants, artillery firing ranges and target areas become residue-contami-
munitions. After initial work with soil sam- nated where the rounds detonate during
ples in his UGA laboratory, he obtained impact. Many sites involve contaminated
funding from the Georgia Research Alli- bodies of water — like artillery ranges on
ance through the Georgia BioBusiness Other metals normally the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, for
Center (the university’s incubator) and, found as environmental example — complicating cleanup.
subsequently, the U.S. Army, to further
contaminants in military
develop and test the technology. “Beyond the inevitable contamination as-
areas include mercury, sociated with training,” notes Catherine
“Valentine holds a number of patents on cadmium, arsenic and Knudsen, Planteco’s vice president of
environmental remediation techniques,” depleted uranium, all of federal programs, “the military commonly
says Gennaro Gama, senior technology which can be passivated dealt with excess munitions for years by
manager at the University of Georgia Re- by MuniRem and, if burying them in the ground or disposing
search Foundation Inc. “He began work- of them in the sea. As these materials
needed, extracted from
ing on munitions remediation — the tech- corrode, leakage from the stocks into
nology that became MuniRem — with the the soil in subsequent groundwater is a major problem. And
belief that contaminated soils could be processing steps. once they are there, these pollutants stay
reclaimed rather than just hauled away. in the environment.”

“For one thing, it’s much less expensive. The most common types of highly ex-
It opens the door to similar treatment of aerial-bombing practice ranges. Although plosive materials are the familiar TNT
exhausted farmland — the remediation of some contamination occurs in actual war (trinitrotoluene), the more recent RDX
nitrates in soil that has been overfertilized. zones, the residue levels are most concen- (royal demolition explosive) and varia-
And, most importantly, it makes our world trated at plants and practice ranges where tions like HMX (high melting explosive).
safer for people to live in. It will address the materials are used continuously. RDX is among the most frequently used
environmental contamination caused by type of ordnance today, but any munition
wars past, present and future.” The three main forms of munitions are is likely to consist of a formula combining
unexploded ordnance; discarded military different substances for desired charac-
Nzengung worked on the project for munitions; and munitions constituents teristics. Their manufacture is a complex
several years before bringing a com- from stockpiled munitions, former mili- process of combining, altering, refining
pleted prototype to the UGA Research tary facilities and manufacturing installa- and synthesizing a myriad of often-vola-

The Better World Report 2010

tile chemicals for desired characteristics “You can see the reaction,” Knudsen and Wisconsin — the Department of
— perchlorates, sulfuric and nitric acids, says. “If you have a high concentration, Defense prefers that specific sites not be
many variations of nitramine compounds, you can see the soil change color, be- identified — demonstrated MuniRem’s
and toluene (the second T in TNT). coming a dark brown. It becomes warm. effectiveness. At a former plant in Ohio,
If it reacts to certain explosives, it may just under an acre of contaminated land
“MuniRem utilizes a sulfur-based com- turn pink. was treated successfully — basically
pound to address explosives and met- overnight. In Wisconsin, the Planteco
als,” Nzengung says. “By attacking the team quickly neutralized the explosive
nitro groups, our formula reduces them material from 10 artillery rounds, dem-
to nitrogen gas or to a low-oxidation state The U.S. Army Corps onstrating the procedure for dealing with
— nitrogen oxide. And it causes sulfide live munitions recovered intact, whether
of Engineers has
from the reaction of MuniRem to bond to from in-ground burial or from underwater
awarded Planteco disposal. The recovered munition is split
heavy metals that may be present, like
chromium and lead, to form a nonsoluble multiple contracts open with a water jet cutter (no sparks)
metal sulfide — the way iron sulfide can for demonstrating the by explosive ordnance specialists and
be turned into pyrite, or fool’s gold.” MuniRem technology, the volatile materials inside placed in a
and the company is chemical reactor to neutralize them.
Other metals normally found as environ-
poised to receive a
mental contaminants in military areas The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has
series of remediation awarded Planteco multiple contracts for
include mercury, cadmium, arsenic and
depleted uranium, all of which can be contracts from the demonstrating the MuniRem technology,
passivated by MuniRem and, if needed, Department of Defense and the company is poised to receive a
extracted from the soil in subsequent and military munitions series of remediation contracts from the
processing steps. manufacturers. Department of Defense and military mu-
nitions manufacturers.
On the Ground
Before any treatment is undertaken, “It’s very difficult to get a new product like
the Planteco team takes soil samples this adopted by large, established con-
for analysis to determine the types and “We return a day later and take more tractors,” notes UGA’s Gama. “Progress
concentrations of contaminations and samples. Our experience is that almost is being made in demonstrating its capa-
soil characteristics such as the pH value all the chemical action is complete within bilities and fostering its implementation.
— necessary information for creating the 24 hours. But we take more samples two
right mixture of MuniRem chemicals. weeks later to confirm permanency.” “As it should be. MuniRem can play a
great role in resolving threats to our envi-
For soil remediation, MuniRem is usually MuniRem, Knudsen notes, may also be ronment and our health. It’s not just that
applied in granular form, broadcast on sprayed in liquid form to treat the walls it makes land safe for habitation by local
the soil and tilled in. If the soil column of a contaminated building or injected residents. It’s a key for making ground-
is deep, an auger with a large-diameter down a borehole to reach a contaminated water aquifers safe for populations as a
tip may be used to embed it. Then the groundwater aquifer. whole and for reclaiming the ecosystem.”
area is saturated with water to activate
the compound. Pilot tests at munitions plant sites in Ohio — Ralph N. Fuller The Better World Report 2010

University of Maryland
Plastics Manufacturing Process Reduces Need for Crude Oil,
Conserves Resources
When Professor Lawrence Sita, Ph.D., very naïve and pretty ignorant viewpoint.” products made from crude oil require so
joined the chemistry and biochemistry much more refining and shipping — not
department at the University of Maryland But by that point, in 2004, Sita had al- to mention the geopolitical issues involved
in 1999, he was determined to figure ready made important discoveries in — than more readily available natural gas.
out the most effective way to make the plastics manufacturing. He was working
kinds of plastics used in shopping bags on a new, more efficient way to make Creating a Catalyst
and automobile dashboards, known as polyolefin plastic out of the simple raw Sita’s research has focused on the agent,
polyolefin plastics. materials obtained from natural gas as called a catalyst, that causes the long
opposed to crude oil, which is used in molecular chains of plastics to form out of
Then he took a “world-view-changing the manufacture of many plastics. So he the raw materials. In much the same way
trip” to India in 2004, where he saw switched his focus from making plastics that enzymes in our body create new ma-
discarded plastic everywhere across the to making pure, synthetic oils and waxes terials by controlling chemical reactions
countryside. Trees were laden with plastic through the same process. between molecules, an artificial catalyst
bags — so much so that they looked like in plastics manufacturing controls how
they were growing plastic. In 2008 he finalized his invention and the molecules join up in a specific way to
founded a company, Precision Poly- form long chains from which the plastics
“What I saw just staggered me,” Sita says. olefins, which he hopes will soon start are derived.
He realized that wanting his contribution selling his products. His technology is a
to science to be a way to simply make more environmental solution than current Plastics manufacturers have used various
more of the same type of plastic “was a manufacturing processes because similar catalysts made from different metals to
achieve this goal. But each catalyst can
only make one type of plastic, meaning
that if companies want plastics of differ-
ent strengths they have to stop the manu-
facturing process and substitute in a new
catalyst they designed to specifically pro-
duce a different type of plastic. Polyolefin
Lawrence Sita has cre-
ated a system that takes
synthetic oils and waxes are made using
natural gas and turns the same process, but by creating shorter
it into pure synthetic chains of molecules than plastics require.
oil that can be used as (A polyolefin is a chain of repeating hy-
lubricants or hydraulic
fluid. It is more environ-
drocarbon molecules, petroleum being a
mentally friendly than mixture of different hydrocarbons.)
refining crude oil.
Sita discovered a sort of universal catalyst

The Better World Report 2010

that can take the raw materials obtained The university had been obtaining patents From Competition to Company
from natural gas and turn it into any de- for his work along the way and was eager After striking out with existing companies,
sired type of polyolefin plastic, oil or wax. to recoup on its investment. With the help the OTC invited Sita in 2007 to participate
The final product depends on the amount of the school’s Office of Technology Com- in an annual competition it holds for fac-
of time the catalyst and building blocks mercialization (OTC), he started looking ulty members to present their business
spend in the reactor creating shorter or for companies interested in licensing the ideas to local entrepreneurs and venture
longer chains. Additionally, the process technology. capital investors. Sita won the “Best In-
uses special chemical additives that in- ventor Pitch.”
stantaneously reprogram the exact way in
which the catalyst stitches the molecular “He stood out right away,” says Gayatri
building blocks together to form the mo- Varma, OTC’s executive director. The key
“Through generous
lecular chains. was that Sita stuck to explaining his busi-
support by the National ness plan and didn’t veer into the heavy
Sita and his graduate student coworkers Science Foundation science, as researchers are prone to do.
achieved this by spending 10 years in his over the past 10 years,
lab, picking apart the mechanisms that I had the luxury of “I got my plaque and good feedback,”
make catalysts function. They studied saying, ‘How do these Sita says of the competition. He also
them until he could reassemble a new, realized that he needed to do the heavy
catalysts work?’ instead
more versatile catalyst, as opposed to the lifting to bring his catalyst to market. “If
traditional industry approach of simply of needing to make something was going to happen, I should
screening thousands of different catalysts something commercially take a leading role in trying to get it out
by trial and error until a new product is successful,” he says. the door.”
“discovered.” “The traditional approach
is much more empirically In 2008 he founded Precision Polyole-
“Through generous support by the Na- fins, and the university licensed the cata-
driven. We want to have
tional Science Foundation over the past lyst technology to him. Sita is about to
10 years, I had the luxury of saying, ‘How absolute knowledge and move the operation into incubator space
do these catalysts work?’ instead of need- control over the structure on campus.
ing to make something commercially of both the catalyst and
successful,” he says. “The traditional ap- the material.” The company is currently a one-man
proach is much more empirically driven. show, but hopefully not for much longer.
We want to have absolute knowledge
and control over the structure of both the In addition to feeling better about his con-
catalyst and the material.” tribution to the environment, Sita realized
“My preference would have been for that it would be much harder to enter the
By 2008 he had developed his universal some company to come in and license plastics market against giants like The
catalyst and the manufacturing technology everything,” he says. “That would have Dow Chemical Co. than it would be to
that utilizes the new catalyst. The catalyst left me peacefully doing my lab work.” introduce new synthetic oils and waxes.
is made with a tiny amount of an expen-
sive metal called hafnium and a much It didn’t work out that way. “The plastics market is very competitive,”
larger amount of inexpensive aluminum. says Varma, who applauds Sita’s business The Better World Report 2010

decision. “The price point is very low.” melt at a specific temperature. The United
States currently imports a billion pounds of
Sita is working hard to find the right in- wax per year — and this will soon increase
vestors in this sour economic climate. to 2 billion pounds, he says.
Varma has helped negotiate a loan from
the university to keep the company mov- In addition to easing the manufacturing
ing forward. process, Sita says his catalyst is better for
the earth. As crude oil becomes scarcer,
“We’re trying to be a little creative be- companies are looking to import cruder
cause we want to see this company be and cruder sources that require more
successful,” she says. and more refining, which is an energy-
intensive process.
Producing Oils and Waxes
Professor Lawrence Sita thought Sita’s plan is to focus on synthetic oils at “In the U.S. we have an abundance of
his career would focus on creating first, and he hopes to have a product out natural gas, so it’s a highly desirable
better ways to make more and
more plastic. Instead, he now uses by next spring. These oils could be used starting material for petrochemicals,” Sita
his knowledge to figure out ways as lubricants in places where clean oil says. “The energy required for manufac-
to make plastics, oils and waxes is required, such as food processing or ture is a fraction of what is currently re-
in more environmentally friendly medical equipment, or as hydraulic fluid. quired by crude oil refining. And it would
ways than current manufacturing
methods allow. limit the amount of energy that goes
The advantage to his universal catalyst into transportation of crude oil, which is
in producing synthetic oils is that he can not insignificant when you have tankers
change the desired viscosity of the oil chugging around the world.”
without having to change the catalyst. So
he could easily switch between oils and And, as the country continues to recuper-
lubricants needed for cars in the Arctic to ate from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, people
your run-of-the-mill city car needs. are eager to find ways to reduce the need
to find more and more sources of oil.
Eventually he hopes to add waxes to the
mix, focusing on high-tech products such — Emily Stone
as those used in thermostats that have to

The Better World Report 2010

University of Nevada, Reno
New Protein Therapy Shows Promise for
Treating Muscular Dystrophy
Prothelia Inc. may be a new company, but that alpha7beta1 integrin, a laminin and protect the muscle from damage,”
the research and relationships support- receptor in muscle, prevents muscle Burkin says, describing mouse-model
ing it have been decades in the making. disease,” explains Burkin. Using this experiments that began in 2007 at the
Devoted to researching new treatments knowledge, Burkin established a drug university.
for muscular diseases, the people at Pro- discovery program, developed a novel
thelia are motivated not only by scientific muscle-cell-based test and identified sev- Muscular dystrophy patients experience
inquiry and business opportunity, but also eral molecules that increase alpha7beta1 tears in muscles, usually starting in child-
have motivations that are heartfelt and integrin in muscle. Burkin discovered hood, that weaken the muscles and limit
deeply personal. A laboratory’s “What if?” that these compounds can help repair their use. As the disease progresses, the
experiment years ago has grown into a and prevent muscle damage. heart, diaphragm and other organs can
new company that is working to validate atrophy. More than 40 genetic diseases
and market new therapies for muscular “It was really surprising to us that such a are categorized as muscular dystrophy
dystrophies. large protein could be delivered to muscle — some marked by an absence of criti-
cal muscle proteins, causing progressive
Prothelia has licensed rights to a protein muscle weakening and degeneration.
known as Laminin-111 from the Univer-
sity of Nevada, Reno, (UNR), along with According to the National Institutes of
several other potential promising treat- Health (NIH), the most common variants
ments. Laminin-111, which is naturally — Duchenne and Becker muscular dys-
produced by the body, assembles into trophy — effect approximately 1 in every
a matrix around muscle cells and helps 3,500 to 5,000 boys, or as many as 600
promote muscle-cell health and survival. boys born every year in the United States.
Most cases are a result of new mutations
Prothelia’s technology originated from Dean or a family history of the disease.
Burkin, Ph.D.,’s exploration into whether
Laminin-111 could restore muscle func- Reconnecting at the Right Time
tion after the onset of a disease. Burkin is A biochemist and pharmacologist origi-
an associate professor at the university’s nally from New Zealand, Burkin was
School of Medicine. He directs a biomedi- pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at the
cal research program focused on studying University of Illinois in the mid-1990s and
Dean Burkin directs a biomedical
the molecular basis of muscular dystro- research program focused on study- collaborated with Bradley Hodges, Ph.D.,
phies to develop potential treatments. ing the molecular basis of muscular then a doctoral student in neuromuscular
dystrophies to develop potential biology. Both scientists worked on the
“In Duchenne and other forms of mus- treatments. alpha7beta1 integrin, a molecule located
cular dystrophy, we’ve been able to show on the surface of muscle tissue that The Better World Report 2010

holds the tissue together. Over the next “In academia, you can only get research of a much larger company made sense
decade, Burkin continued his research at so far before you have to get industry to because of the early stage of laminin re-
the UNR Center for Biomedical Research come in,” explains Burkin. “Brad’s back- search.
Excellence. ground, interest and enthusiasm were
key to the development of this discovery. “One barrier we see to commercializing
Hodges worked for seven years in the The Technology Transfer Office here at our faculty’s research is that it can be
laboratories of Genzyme Corp., a Cam- the university eased the process toward difficult to find someone who grasps the
bridge, Mass., biotechnology company. development by licensing the intellectual science well enough to understand and
In 2007, he was ready for a new chal- property.” overcome the challenges posed by an
lenge and contacted several university early-stage technology,” adds Heck, who
technology transfer offices to ask about has a doctorate in chemistry and, as an
research on treating muscular dystrophy. outside attorney for the university, wrote
Then he reconnected with Burkin to ask the initial patent applications. “Brad
about his research, and both men started Bjur and current comes from a scientific background and
down the path to collaboration. Burkin Technology Transfer understands what he’s getting into.”
needed a corporate partner to continue Office Director Ryan
development of laminin compounds and Heck say the choice of Devoting a Company to Muscle
had filed a patent. a licensing deal with Disease Treatment
Armed with the license agreement, Hodg-
a startup instead of a
Longstanding relationships appear to es began writing grant applications to the
be a major strength for Prothelia. As a much larger company NIH and the Small Business Innovation
graduate student, Jachinta Rooney did made sense because Research program and was awarded on
the original laminin-111 experiments of the early stage of the third try. He also recruited Richard
in Burkin’s lab. She is now continuing laminin research. Cloud to serve as the company’s chief ex-
the work as a postdoctorate researcher ecutive. They met at a conference Cloud
studying the effects of protein therapy in helped organize in Atlanta for parents
mouse models. seeking a cure for congenital muscular
dystrophy. Cloud’s oldest daughter has
“Muscular dystrophy is one of the most As it turns out, the technology office also MDC1A — one of the variants of muscular
common ‘rare’ diseases, so there is a saw a unique opportunity. dystrophy Prothelia expects to address.
good market opportunity for a drug that
can help some of the 20,000 patients out “Protein therapeutics was the area Brad “The research community for muscular
there,” Hodges says. “When I decided to wanted to pursue and I was convinced diseases including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s dis-
start a company I knew it would address very quickly that there was a good rela- ease) and muscular dystrophy is a tight-
muscular dystrophy because I knew the tionship here,” says Richard Bjur, former knit group,” Hodges notes, “with a lot of
issues.” Hodges also knew that large director of the UNR Technology Transfer cooperation between the NIH and the
companies are hesitant about emerging Office. “There was a lot of serendipity here many patient advocacy groups devoted to
treatments, so he incorporated Prothe- since Brad and Dean know each other.” muscular dystrophy.” The diseases have
lia and made his case to UNR officials. Bjur and current Technology Transfer Of- been recognized since the mid-1800s yet
Hodges approached the university at the fice Director Ryan Heck say the choice have eluded treatment despite a relatively
right time. of a licensing deal with a startup instead high public profile. The genetic mutation

The Better World Report 2010

causing Duchenne muscular dystrophy partnerships, and the university technol- versity and community, and one way is to
was identified in 1986. ogy transfer program is pursuing goals of create economic opportunities.” He cau-
expanding that local impact, Heck says. tions that in technology transfer, “What
The Challenges and Possibilities of a you don’t want is a situation where there
Young Technology Transfer Office “Our office started small, with just me, are unrealistic expectations.”
The state of Nevada’s only public medi- and expanded back in 2003 and grew
cal school is fairly new, founded in 1969, into a full-time office,” Bjur adds. “We’re Thus far, the UNR Technology Transfer
and officials there recognize the need trying to bridge the gap between the uni- Office has been able to capitalize on such
for impact that will draw corporate opportunities. As one example, Prothelia,
partners. The laminin technology has which appears to be well-positioned for
great potential, and its partners share a success, is pursuing both venture capital
passion needed to reach that potential. funding and strategic relationships.
The university’s Center for Economic The university’s
Development estimated that $74 million Center for Economic But for the people who suffer with muscu-
in research expenditures in 2009 meant Development estimated lar dystrophy, these opportunities provide
a regional impact of nearly $300 million that $74 million in something even more valuable: hope.
for Nevada. The university has more research expenditures in
than 30 active business and industry — David Wallace
2009 meant a regional
impact of nearly $300
million for Nevada. The
university has more than
30 active business and
industry partnerships,
and the university
technology transfer
program is pursuing
goals of expanding that
local impact, Heck says. The Better World Report 2010

University of Pittsburgh
Artificial Lung Helps Patients Breathe Easier
A 76-year-old woman with chronic em- a catheter. It pumps blood out of the molung. ALung is hoping to finish its first
physema was admitted to a hospital in In- patient, runs it across a bundle of fibers clinical trial on patients in Europe and
dia earlier this year. She was complaining that pull out carbon dioxide and infuse India early next year and then apply for
of shortness of breath and was diagnosed oxygen, then sends the blood back into approval in the United States. The goal is
as being in respiratory failure, meaning the patient, thus doing about 50 percent to be able to help the 450,000 people in
she had a buildup of carbon dioxide in of the work of the person’s failing lungs. this country and millions more worldwide
her lungs and couldn’t take deep enough avoid temporary hookup to a ventilator,
breaths to push it out and suck in oxygen The woman was hooked up to the Hemo- thus granting them a shorter and more
instead. lung and quickly began breathing more comfortable stay in the hospital.
easily. By the time it was removed three
Normally doctors would put such a pa- days later, her carbon dioxide levels were Carbon Dioxide out and Oxygen in
tient on a mechanical ventilator, which down, and she could breathe on her own. The innovation grew out of work in
would mean sedating her so they could Equally importantly, she had avoided the Medical Devices Laboratory at the
insert a breathing tube down her throat. needing to be put on a mechanical venti- University of Pittsburgh. The external
Instead, her doctors decided she was the lator and, therefore, spent her time in the device now known as the Hemolung has
ideal person to be enrolled as the first hospital alert and able to eat and talk with changed shape considerably, having
patient in a study of a new artificial lung her family. started as an internal device. Professors
initially developed by researchers at the Brack Hattler, M.D., Ph.D., and William
University of Pittsburgh, called the He- “It was very rewarding to see that hap- Federspiel, Ph.D., designed what they
molung. pen,” says Nick Kuhn, chief operating called the Hattler catheter in the mid-
officer (COO) of ALung Technologies, the 1990s. The catheter held a series of tiny
The device is connected to a patient by Pittsburgh company developing the He- hollow fiber tubes that were bundled to-
gether and was inserted into a patient’s
large vein during respiratory failure. The
tubes had oxygen running through them,
so when the patient’s blood ran across
ALung is focusing initially them, it picked up oxygen and left behind
on patients with chronic ob- carbon dioxide.
structive pulmonary disease,
who often have emphysema.
When these patients come to ALung is focusing on two types of poten-
the hospital because they’re tial patients, those with chronic obstruc-
ALung Technologies Inc.

having difficulty breathing tive pulmonary disease (COPD) and those

due to a respiratory illness,
they would be put on a
with acute respiratory distress syndrome
Hemolung to pull out excess (ARDS). COPD patients, who often have
carbon dioxide in their blood emphysema, have trouble breathing
and send in oxygen. deeply because the airways in their lungs
are restricted, having grown stiff or swol-

The Better World Report 2010

len over the years. ARDS patients’ lungs They couldn’t find an established compa- pany fully licensed the technology.
have been damaged as a result of an- ny interested in licensing the technology,
other disease or accident, and they tend so they decided to set out on their own. In 2005, they found that the miniaturiza-
to develop ARDS while in the hospital. tion of the catheter device topped out at
But first they needed to negotiate a one- about 1 centimeter in diameter. While
In its first trial, ALung is looking at the year licensing option with the university, it worked well in animal studies, the
Hemolung’s effect on people with COPD explains Maria Vanegas, OTM technology scientific advisory board assembled by
who have a sudden drop in respiratory licensing associate. The office generally Kuhn opined that such a large a catheter
function. would be unappealing to many medical
“They could get a cold or a flu or anything
that puts these patients over the edge,” “It became obvious that we needed to
Federspiel explains. “If you or I get a For patients like the make a change,” Kuhn says.
bad cold in the winter, we don’t have to woman in India, the
go to the intensive care unit because we device’s long evolution After much deliberation, they decided to
breathe fine. If they get a bad cold, they was definitely worth it, scrap the Hattler catheter and turned to a
can’t breath.” related innovation — the one that eventu-
both for the medical
ally became the Hemolung.
The artificial lung is a temporary device care it provides and the
needed to get them through that period ability to avoid being Breathing New Life Into the Project
of acute need, usually three to four days. hooked to a ventilator. Federspiel had been working on another
“Eventually the cold or flu resolves itself iteration of the technology that used the
and they get better,” he says. same fiber bundle but positioned it outside
the body. Because the bundle didn’t have
Starting a Company to get inside the person’s vein, the catheter
Hattler, who died in 2008, and Federspiel grants options to startups because this size dropped to 5 millimeters in diameter,
patented the catheter-based artificial lung strategy is a simpler and less expensive the same size used in kidney dialysis.
with the help of the University of Pitts- way to investigate whether there really is
burgh’s Office of Technology Management a market for the product. Startups can There was a precedent for an external ar-
(OTM) and founded ALung in 1997. They use that year to perform due diligence on tificial lung. A technology called extracor-
didn’t have any plans to commercialize the technology and to start fundraising, poreal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
the device at the time, but needed to work she says. is used at a small number of hospitals in
with a company to apply for grants. The the country. It removes a patient’s blood,
research has been funded by the National They also brought in an outside chief ex- adjusts the gas levels and then pumps it
Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department ecutive officer for the first time, choosing back into the body. But, because it re-
of Defense and the U.S. Army. Kuhn (who switched to COO in 2009), a moves two to three liters of blood a min-
veteran of other medical device compa- ute, the patient has to be very carefully
By 2001, they were presenting their idea nies. Kuhn worked at raising money, while monitored.
at scientific conferences and had started Hattler and Federspiel toiled in the lab to
generating enthusiasm for an actual make the catheter as small as possible. “If there’s a complication in the line, they
catheter-based device, Federspiel says. After the one-year option was up, the com- could bleed out,” Federspiel says. “The The Better World Report 2010

technology is considered very invasive ALung is now focusing exclusively on the
and complex.” Hemolung. While this switch has slowed
down the company’s plans for generating
Federspiel figured that if he could come a product, everyone agrees that it has
up with a way to remove sufficient carbon made the device much more marketable.
dioxide using a much smaller amount of Vanegas applauds Hattler and Feder-
blood per minute, the technology would spiel’s determination to see the project
be a far more attractive. But removing succeed, despite the initial setback.
less blood meant that the artificial lung
had to be more efficient in restoring the “It’s unique when you find dedicated in-
correct carbon dioxide and oxygen levels ventors who don’t get frustrated with the
ALung Technologies Inc.

to have the same desired effect. process, especially when they had one
device and then had to switch,” she says.
That’s when he had the idea of rotating
the fibers. Spinning the fibers allows For patients like the woman in India, the
them to come into contact with more device’s long evolution was definitely
blood as it’s pumped out and so it works worth it, both for the medical care it
ALung’s Hemolung device runs
more efficiently, Federspiel explains. The provides and the ability to avoid being
a patients’ blood along hollow
fibers filled with oxygen to pull Hemolung removes about 400 milliliters hooked to a ventilator.
carbon dioxide out of their blood of blood a minute, or between a 5th and
and infuse it with oxygen. It could a 10th as much as the ECMO machine. “They’re able to move around, get out of
replace mechanical ventilators for
ALung changed the design while retain- bed,” Federspiel says. “They have the
many patients, reducing the length
of their hospital stay and improving ing the concept so that the blood now ability to eat normally, talk normally and
their comfort while there. rotates around stationary fibers rather express how they’re feeling. It’s a signifi-
than the opposite. cant quality-of-life improvement.”

— Emily Stone

The Better World Report 2010

University of South Florida
MobiliT Rover Converts Wheelchairs to All-Terrain Vehicles
Sometimes the best inventions are in- “I thought about how now he couldn’t go John Hopkins to form a research team.
spired by the closest pain. In a senior anywhere that wasn’t paved and smooth Burn and Hopkins left Watkins to design
projects class at the University of South due to the poor capabilities of his top-of- his dream machine while they worked on
Florida (USF) in 2005, Travis Watkins the-line wheelchair,” explains Watkins. “I the research documentation and verifica-
listened to his professor suggest potential thought how difficult this must be for him, tions. Soon, they had a working prototype.
devices for individuals struggling with dis- to be confined to a road that someone
abilities. Watkins was one of many me- else paved going somewhere where noth- The resulting rover device is an attach-
chanical engineering students required ing exciting or really interesting is likely to ment for an electric wheelchair. A disabled
to design a device that showcased their take place.” person simply drives his or her electric
education. The professor’s menu of proj- wheelchair on top of the rover via an in-
ects was intended to guide them to build Watkins says images of machines, power tegrated ramp. Once positioned on top of
devices with direct and immediate real- transmission methods, capabilities and the rover, the electric wheelchair automati-
life applications. limitations started flashing through his cally and securely locks into place.
head. “I instantly analyzed and either ac-
“I had someone else in mind,” says Wat- cepted or rejected each idea,” he says. Once secured, each of the wheelchair’s
kins. “If I was going to build something “I thought of hundreds of different ways drive wheels is positioned on top of and
for a disabled person, it wasn’t going to of giving my father his freedom back but in between two rollers. When the electric
be for some stranger. It was going to be only one that could feasibly work.” wheelchair’s wheel rotates, it turns the
for my father.” rollers. These rollers turn a shaft with a
Designing a Destination Vehicle sprocket attached at the end. In addi-
Inventing for the Individual With that one idea in his head, Watkins tion, the rover has huge extreme off-road
Watkins’ father had once been very joined fellow students Robert Burn and capable wheels on axles with sprockets.
physically active. He enjoyed tennis,
boating, rock climbing, skiing and explor-
ing among other highly physical activities.
“He wasn’t one to sit around and go down
the common path or follow the person in
front of him,” says Watkins. “He was a
trailblazer and flaunted his freedom and
independence in the face of those who
forgot that anything is possible.”

That came to an end when Lou Gehrig’s The MobiliT Rover

disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) turns electronic wheel-
weakened and then destroyed the mo- chairs into all-terrain
tor neurons that operated his father’s
muscles. The Better World Report 2010

A chain links the roller sprocket to the world problems,” says Stephen Sundar- cause of the rover design, but because
wheel sprocket so that when the wheel- rao, associate director of USF’s Center for there was a considerable pipeline of good
chair operator activates the wheelchair, Rehab Engineering and an instructor in ideas coming from this group.”
the wheelchair wheels turn the rollers. its Department of Mechanical Engineer-
Those turn the sprocket, which rotates ing. “We thought this particular project Using cash provided by angel investors,
the chain, which turns the extreme off- would appeal to commercial companies, the faculty started Rehab Ideas in late
road wheels. but they were oddly noncommittal.” 2007. “We selected five of the senior
projects initially, and one of them was the
“Basically, when the wheelchair is locked rover,” explains Sundarrao.
in place on the rover, the wheelchair’s con-
trols now control the entire rover,” explains By 2008, Rehab Ideas was selling prod-
“I had someone else in
Watkins. “One of my main requirements ucts. “We worked with Dixie Chopper in
was to use the wheelchair controls to
mind,” says Watkins. Indiana on distribution and manufactur-
control everything. The rover is so easy to “If I was going to build ing,” says Sundarrao. “And we have the
use. Just drive your wheelchair up on it, something for a disabled backing of GE Capital to finance floor
it automatically locks into place, and you person, it wasn’t going plans with dealers.”
drive the rover away ready to take on any to be for some stranger.
obstacle in your way and go wherever you Watkins’ father was the first to own a Mo-
It was going to be for
please, even places you can’t get by foot!” biliT Rover, but he isn’t the first to feel the
my father.” freedom it brings.
He called it the ATEWA — All Terrain
Electric Wheelchair Attachment. It was “It was the most amazing thing to witness
later nicknamed the “Tank” for its ability the first person who bought it,” beams
to overcome numerous terrain obstacles. Determined to see this invention get to the McDevitt. “It was a young person who
It is now known as the MobiliT Rover. people who needed it, Valerie McDevitt, promptly drove all over the lawn laugh-
assistant vice president of patents and ing. His caregiver and best friend even
Carrying the Idea to Market licensing at USF, urged faculty to create jumped up and rode on the back.
By any name, the device thrilled disabled a company to commercialize the product.
users but fell short in attracting commer- “It was a touching and exhilarating mo-
cial interest. “It took a fair bit of instigating on our ment to witness, and it brought home
part,” says McDevitt. “But this was one why these projects matter.”
“We require our students to focus their instance where we saw a real benefit to
senior design projects on solving real- starting a spin-up company, not only be- — Pam Baker

The Better World Report 2010

University of Wisconsin
Researchers Realize a Vision to Help the Blind
Sometimes the path technology takes to on how black, white or gray an object Transferring to Tongues
the marketplace is dotted with people who appeared on a computer screen. The Bach-y-Rita started talking to Kaczmarek
raise a quizzical eyebrow and say, You device worked well, but it was bulky and and another research colleague, Mitch-
want to do what? In the case of the Brain- cumbersome. Still, it gave people with no ell Tyler, about using people’s tongues
port vision device, some of the first people sight a way to visually perceive objects for instead of fingertips. His reasoning was
to do so were two of the co-inventors. the first time. that the tongue is super sensitive, a large
part of the brain is devoted to processing
The innovation started with Paul Bach- “These are truly visual tasks and they information from the tongue, and except
y-Rita, M.D., who was an early pioneer did them without their eyes,” says Kac- for when we’re eating and talking, the
in the field of neuroplasticity — the idea zmarek, now a senior scientist in the tongue doesn’t do a whole lot.
that the brain can be trained to process university’s Tactile Communication and
information in a new way. In the 1960s, he Neurorehabilitation Lab. “We looked at him kind of funny,” Kacz-
became interested in using that concept marek says. “Mitch and I thought he was
to design a device that would transfer the That rudimentary device eventually being a little crazy.”
sense of sight into touch, a process known turned into the Brainport vision device,
as sensory substitution. He did this by which gives blind people a way to “see” Bach-y-Rita, it turned out, was onto
creating a machine out of an old dentist their surroundings through electrical something. He spent a couple years
chair with a camera attached. Four hun- pulses. But first the device had to get mulling over ways to use the tongue for
dred little rods popped in and out against much smaller, which led to a switch away sensory substitution. Kaczmarek and Ty-
a person’s back mimicking the patterns of from fingertip stimulators and the first ler finally acquiesced and agreed to give
the objects the camera was seeing. round of skepticism. it a try. They took the fingertip device, and
stuck it on their tongues. The pulses it
Though Bach-y-Rita proved that the
system worked, not much happened
with that invention. When he came to the
University of Wisconsin in the 1980s he
picked up the idea of sensory substitution
again. He was particularly interested in
using electrical pulses instead of manual
stimulation to represent shapes.

Bach-y-Rita, along with Kurt Kaczmarek,

Blind adventurer Erik
Ph.D., then a staff scientist at the univer-
Weihenmayer demon-
sity, designed a system that translated strates how he can rock
black-and-white images into electrical climb while wearing the

pulses against a blind person’s finger- Brainport.

tip. The strength of the pulse depended The Better World Report 2010

delivered were comfortable and effective. as those crazy people in Madison who “Sometimes, technologies developed at
People have described it as feeling like were doing things with the tongue.” universities need further development
champagne bubbles are painting a pic- prior to attracting interest from exist-
ture in their mouth. The researchers did So Bach-y-Rita, who passed away in ing companies,” she continues. “This
some preliminary studies and proved that 2006, decided to found a company called development is often outside the scope
people could recognize basic geometric Wicab, after his wife’s maiden name. of traditional university funding mecha-
shapes while wearing it, and it performed nisms and no longer feasible within the
as well as the fingertip version. “It’s a good example of the passion of an university setting. The Brainport technol-
inventor who wanted to see his technol- ogy is an example of a device that could
One of the key “aha moments” Kac- ogy commercialized,” Burmania says. have languished in the lab from lack of
zmarek recalls was realizing that the exposure, but was able to make it out of
tongue required much less circuitry than the university because of Wicab.”
fingertip devices. The surface of our skin
changes depending on whether we’re For the first several years, Wicab operat-
hot, cold or sweating. Tongues stay uni- In a video on Wicab’s ed mostly as a research and development
formly wet and warm. So the electrical Web site, blind adventurer company, and the personnel overlapped
circuitry needed to generate and control Erik Weihenmayer entirely with the university staff.
the pulses is much simpler, meaning the demonstrates how he can
device can be much smaller. Kaczmarek, rock climb while wearing A couple years into their work with Wicab,
who designed the first tactile tongue dis- the team discovered a new way to use the
the device. Weihenmayer,
play, got the hardware down to the size tactile tongue display. Tyler had a bad
of a shoebox. It would eventually become who lost his vision as a inner-ear infection, which caused him to
the size of a cell phone. teenager, has climbed have balance problems. The group de-
Mount Everest and cided to try putting a sensor on a helmet
Road to Commercialization scaled El Capitan since that monitored tilt and then translated that
The group published its results in 1998 losing his sight. He also information to people’s tongue via electri-
and approached the school’s private, non- cal pulses that let them know if they were
performs some less daring
profit technology transfer organization, the off balance. After seeing that it worked,
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation feats in the video, such they started developing a balance device
(WARF), about patenting the invention. as playing tic-tac-toe in addition to the vision device.
WARF eagerly proceeded. Then it started with his daughter while
looking for companies interested in licens- wearing the Brainport. In 2005, Robert Beckman took over as
ing the technology. It found none. chief executive officer of Wicab. A vet-
eran of other medical device companies,
“It was a little off the wall — thinking about Bach-y-Rita invited him to helm the still
seeing with your tongue,” says Jeanine fledgling company. Beckman realized
Burmania, a licensing manager with WARF exclusively licensed the technology that the commercial viability of the Brain-
WARF. She says the market didn’t fully ap- to Wicab in 1999. WARF received equity port balance device was much higher
preciate the device’s potential at the time. from Wicab in lieu of an upfront licens- than the vision device because there are
ing fee, an arrangement WARF frequently many more people with balance prob-
Or, as Kaczmarek says: “We were viewed makes with startups, Burmania says. lems than those who are totally blind. So

The Better World Report 2010

they pushed ahead aggressively with the than 100 people who have had great suc- “They talk about the independence that
balance device, using much of the $10 cess with it. the devices can give them,” Arnoldussen
million he raised from angel investors dur- says. Unlike many devices for the blind
ing his first year on the job. The vision de- While there are 300,000 people with no that read aloud the information people
vice was still being developed, mostly with sight in the United States, the company can’t see, the Brainport allows people to
the help of funding from the National Insti- is focusing only on the 100,000 who are dictate what they want to pay attention to.
tutes of Health, the National Eye Institute, not elderly and, therefore, probably more
the Defense Advanced Research Projects receptive to new technology. He’s also “The user gets to control this technology
Agency and the State of Pennsylvania. interested in the potential market in China and what information they’d like to un-
and India. derstand,” she says. “They get to decide
Then Wicab got some bad news. The where their attention is drawn.”
company had received approval in Eu- The device has shrunk considerably since
rope and Canada to sell the device, but its days in the University of Wisconsin lab. In a video on Wicab’s Web site, blind ad-
that process is based only on proving the Users now wear a pair of sunglasses with venturer Erik Weihenmayer demonstrates
safety of the device not its efficacy. Dur- a camera mounted on the nose bridge. how he can rock climb while wearing the
ing U. S. Food and Drug Administration A lollipop-sized square, which has 400 device. Weihenmayer, who lost his vision as
(FDA) trials earlier this year, the company electrodes in it, sits on their tongue. The a teenager, has climbed Mount Everest and
discovered that its balance device, while stimulation pattern of those electrodes scaled El Capitan since losing his sight. He
effective 60 percent of the time, was not mimic whatever the camera is picking also performs some less daring feats in the
more effective than the “sham device” up, essentially acting as the camera’s video, such as playing tic-tac-toe with his
that half of the people in the study used. pixels. So if the camera is seeing white, daughter while wearing the Brainport.
Beckman believes the benefit came from the user gets a stronger pulse, gray gets
the training and exercises that both groups a medium pulse and black gets no pulse. Some of the most emotional users, Arnol-
of users went through in conjunction with A cell phone-sized control box is attached dussen says, are military personnel who
their participation in the clinical study. by a wire to the camera and allows the lost their sight in explosions in Iraq and
Kaczmarek isn’t convinced that it was the user to zoom in and out on specific ob- Afghanistan. “In many ways they’ve given
training and exercises alone that helped jects. Beckman says the next step is to up having visual perception, and we can
60 percent of the people in the study and make the device wireless. provide that for them,” she says.
is trying to puzzle this out in his lab.
Users get trained for 10 hours on the The Rotary Foundation has bought early
Either way, Beckman says of the results: device, and almost all are very comfort- versions of the vision device to help blind
“It’s good for science. It’s bad for com- able with it at the end and eager to take children in Central and South America.
mercialization.” it outside or use it at home, says Aimee “Can you imagine the experience of a
Arnoldussen, Ph.D., a neuroscientist with child who hasn’t had sight before be-
Independence Through Wicab. They’ve listed the many tasks ing able to comprehend objects around
Improved Sight and activities they would love to use the them?” Arnoldussen says.
Wicab’s full attention has now turned to device for, from simply reaching directly
the vision device, which could get FDA for a cup of coffee on the table instead of Who would raise a quizzical eyebrow to that?
approval as early as the end of the year, having to feel around for it to being able
Beckman says. They have proved that to run a marathon by following a guide — Emily Stone
the device works by testing it on more instead of having to be tethered to him. The Better World Report 2010

Vanderbilt University
Turning the Page on Middle and High School Illiteracy
At age 12, Julio Ruiz of Midland, Texas, Ruiz was one of the thousands of middle Without the ability to read, students’
avoided participating in class. When he and high school students in the United grades can go down, they may withdraw,
was pushed to contribute, or was not able States who slide by year after year with read- act out or lose confidence or interest in
to answer a question, he would misbe- ing skills that are far below their grade level. what is going on around them.
Most children learn to read by the time they Ruiz is a good example. While he could
“When [my teachers] called on me,” Ruiz have reached third or fourth grade unless actually read words, Ruiz did not com-
says about his sixth-grade experience, ”I they have the added challenge of learning a prehend what he was reading. He was
would get in trouble so I could go to the second language, have a learning disability not understanding and putting things
office.” or a difficult home life. together.

Now at 14, and in the eighth grade, Ruiz But what happens when a child has moved Until his teacher started him on Read 180.
has made a remarkable transformation. through middle school and into high school
He is eager to join in class discussions, and still cannot read? Interactive Reading Intervention
no longer gets scared or nervous in class Back in the early 1980s, before “reading
and, most importantly, his schoolwork According to the National Center for Edu- intervention” and “no child left behind”
has shown improvement. cation Statistics, more than 7,000 high became programs, Ted Hasselbring, Ph.D.,
school students drop out every day. That a research professor of special education
What happened? is equivalent to one-third of the entire at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College,
U.S. high school population. Two-thirds bridged the gap between computer tech-
He learned how to read. of students in eighth grade read below nology and teaching children to read.
grade level.
Hasselbring first applied his new technol-
ogy for use in diagnosing spelling errors
for special education and special needs
children. From there, he and his graduate
student team took this interactive program,
which utilized video, audio and digitized
speech, and applied it to adult learners.

But it was a Department of Education

As a student moves call for grants — and computers donated
through the Read 180
by Apple — that set Hasselbring’s read-
program, his or her
reading level is as- ing intervention tool on the path to help
sessed and the material middle and high school age students.
is customized. His team applied for, and twice received,
grant money to further develop the pro-

The Better World Report 2010

gram. By 1992, the Learning Technology What made the program so powerful is it into a comprehensive reading project
Center had a prototype program that was that children were working at their own available for adoption by schools.
making a difference with students in the speed, selecting their own subject matter
Nashville area. and receiving immediate feedback, says “This program enables students to turn
Elsner. their lives around; they take a 180-degree
Word traveled quickly in educational turn,” Elsner says.
circles and led Hasselbring’s team to
a five-year literacy project in Orange Which is how the program got its name.
County, Fla.
Hasselbring says he Breaking it Down Into Parts
“For every year of intervention, we were has received letters Once a teacher chooses Read 180 for the
seeing two to three years of growth,” says from students saying classroom, rescheduling and classroom
Hasselbring. that before they were rearrangement is strongly encouraged for
exposed to the Read best results. Desks are set up in a conver-
A Program — and a Partnership — sation layout, not in rows. Beanbag chairs
180 program, they
Is Born and comfortable couches are often used
News of the Florida program’s success
either never read a for the independent reading rotation. In
made it to Boston, where Hasselbring book or they wanted addition, the teachers — and students —
met Margery Mayer, president of Scholas- to quit school. But need to commit to 90 minutes every day.
tic. They were attending a meeting at the after experiencing
Center for Special Technology and were the program, these Students begin by listening to an intro-
introduced by a colleague. Mayer saw the duction session given by the teacher. The
behaviors and feelings
potential right away and scheduled a site students then rotate through small group
visit to Vanderbilt.
disappeared. “When instruction with the teacher, individual
I’m having a bad day,” computer tutorial and independent read-
Hasselbring subsequently visited Scho- Hasselbring says, “I can ing sessions. As a student moves through
lastic headquarters in New York. In less pick up those letters the program, his or her reading level is
than two years, with the help of Janis and remember why I do assessed and the material is custom-
Elsner, associate director at the Office ized. Many of the topics are taken from
what I do.”
of Technology Transfer and Enterprise headline news (an incident where whales
Development at Vanderbilt, Scholastic were trapped in Alaskan ice), from real-
licensed the intellectual property rights in life situations (how to get your first job)
Read 180 from Vanderbilt. or from history (such as the story of Hiro-
“There really wasn’t that much out there shima). After students rotate through the
“Ted is the connective tissue between at the time for middle to high school age sessions, they meet in a large group to
Vanderbilt and Scholastic,” says Mayer. students struggling with reading,” says conclude the class.
“The roots of this program fit perfectly Elsner. “Ted had the data, Scholastic
with Scholastic’s credo that all children was a great partner — they really know Technology Meets the Page
can learn, deserve to learn and can suc- publishing and distributing educational Read 180 is not only turning literacy
ceed at high levels. It’s even woven in our technology.” Scholastic took the basic around for students who are two or more
office carpeting.” program, added components, and turned years below their reading proficiency, the The Better World Report 2010

program also created a successful new encing the program, these behaviors and of us,” says Mayer. ”Through hard work
business arena for Scholastic. feelings disappeared. “When I’m having and the help of their amazing teachers,
a bad day,” Hasselbring says, “I can pick these All-Stars have proven that there is
Read 180 makes up the majority of Scho- up those letters and remember why I do no goal that they cannot reach.”
lastic’s educational technology sales, what I do.”
which reached more than $200 million in Some of the past few years’ recipients
the first three quarters of 2010. There is a good bit of teacher enthusiasm of the All-Star Award have reported that
too, Hasselbring says. “I also hear from they are getting As and Bs rather than Ds
And there is still plenty of room to grow. teachers saying that they were ready to and Fs. They are reading at home after
According to Scholastic, there are retire but once this program was put in school, running for student council and
100,000 middle and high schools in the their classroom, their job satisfaction writing skits for classmates to perform.
United States. About 18,000 classrooms went up.” They have overcome shyness and are let-
incorporate the reading program into the ting go of self-destructive behavior issues.
curriculum; some schools have more Readers Are Leaders Most importantly, they are graduating
than one classroom using it. Vanderbilt and Scholastic may have co- from high school and are college-bound.
created a highly effective new reading
But it is not just the financial benefits that intervention program, but the real stars “If you can’t read, school is not a great
Hasselbring and others find rewarding. are the students. Every year since 2005, place. No wonder kids drop out of
It’s making a difference in children’s lives. Scholastic honors 12 students who stand school,” says Mayer. “We’d like to see
out from among the many who turn their Read 180 in every single school.”
Hasselbring says he has received letters reading around with Read 180. Ruiz was
from students saying that before they one such student, however, there are It is very possible that every school would
were exposed to the Read 180 program, many others. like to see that, too.
they either never read a book or they
wanted to quit school. But after experi- “These students are an inspiration to all — Ellen Blum Barish

The Better World Report 2010

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Tiny Sentinels Could Keep World Water Supplies Safe
Just as coal miners once carried canaries The Beginning: Ocean Research Gallager developed a technique for visual-
to alert them to toxic gases, Woods Hole Gallager, an associate scientist at Woods izing their swimming patterns with a digital
Oceanographic Institution biologist Scott Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), camera and created a system for defining
Gallager, Ph.D., envisions living sentinels was concerned with understanding how their swimming behaviors under differing
watching over the world’s water supplies. global climate change might affect mi- conditions — temperatures, nutrients in
croscopic plankton in the ocean when he the water, pH levels and other factors.
But rather than the warbling of canaries, began to look for ways to characterize their
Gallager and colleagues at Petrel Biosen- behaviors. “Sometime after the 9/11 attacks,” he
sors Inc., based near the Woods Hole in- notes, “a friend told me the Defense De-
stitution on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, are Specifically, amidst the plankton’s soup partment was looking for ways to monitor
targeting the swimming talents of protozoa of bacteria, larvae and other microscopic water supplies. We submitted a proposal
in the genus Tetrahymena, each organism organisms, he was focused on protozoa, a in 2002 — and never heard back. I literally
smaller than the width of a human hair. myriad of one-celled creatures that swim forgot about it.”
using tail-like flagella or short, hair-like cil-
Petrel’s prototype monitoring system, the ia. There are tens of thousands of protozoa But he did hear the next year. With a De-
Swimming Behavior Spectrometer (SBS), species, typically ranging in size from 20 fense Department grant, Gallager devel-
is designed to provide virtually instant warn- to 60 microns. Collecting water samples, oped a model for predicting how different
ing for a broad range of toxins that might be protozoa react to varying water conditions.
introduced to water supplies as diverse as After narrowing it down to 15 species of
municipal reservoirs, industrial water caches protozoa that worked well, he selected a
and military water sources in the field. handful of species that were ideal for spe-
Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

cific uses — two or three for fresh water, a

“Current testing techniques are somewhat few for brackish water.
cumbersome,” says Bob Curtis, Pharm.D.,
Petrel’s interim chief executive officer (CEO). Swimming Behaviors Key
“Generally, they require manual sampling, It’s protozoas’ cilia that make Gallager’s sys-
laboratory analysis, testing for specific agents tem of assessing water quality possible. An
and waits as long as 72 hours for results. individual protozoan can have hundreds of
thousands of cilia covering its body.
“By introducing protozoa into water
samples in small test chambers, and “Protozoas achieve propulsion by beating
comparing them to control samples, SBS their cilia like paddles in water,” he says.
continuously monitors for toxic agents or “The shorter the cilia, the faster they can
Biologist Scott Gallager demon-
contaminates,” he says. “It’s sensitive to beat. Some normally swim with a rotational
strates the prototype monitoring
a full spectrum of chemical and biologi- system that uses tiny organisms to torque — sort of a corkscrew motion. Ex-
cal contaminants — pesticides, industrial detect changes in water quality. cept that when water conditions change,
chemicals and biological warfare agents.” behavior changes. The Better World Report 2010

“The key is calcium. It’s always present in an surrounding SBS technology. valuable. And portability will be important
ionized form, and its presence fundamentally for industrial operations and military units
controls how the cilia work. Toxins like heavy Curtis, the development group’s CEO, in the field.
metals inhibit calcium transport and affect also presently functions as Petrel’s interim
cilia motion. Sometimes the cells just stop, CEO. The company started in 2010 with “Ideally, a water system would have a dis-
sometimes they begin spinning around. two employees — Chief Technical Officer tributed network of these sensor systems
Kevin McManus and Vice President of to provide ongoing real-time local, regional
“It depends on whatever is inhibiting the Engineering Lamar Bullock, Ph.D. Gallag- and, ultimately, global assessments of wa-
cell, whether it’s changing uniformly or just er, who remains a full-time member of ter supply quality.”
in a part,” Gallager explains. “If the front the WHOI staff, serves as chief scientific
cilia move into a toxin and slow down while officer. SBS’s current prototype, Version 1.4, is
the back cilia don’t, the cell is likely to start designed to provide continuous monitoring,
tumbling.” A Strong Outlook simultaneously filling its dual test-sample
Curtis notes that the company is in dis- and control-sample flow chambers at regu-
Biological products like anthrax produce cussions with several large corporations lar intervals, introducing the testing protozoa
toxins that don’t affect the cilia but do about partnership arrangements and that from a culture, assessing them, emptying
inhibit the protozoa’s metabolism at the it hopes to achieve significant funding by the chambers and preparing them for the
cellular level. Because so many variables the end of 2010. next sample. Each sample involves about a
are possible, it’s important that any moni- milliliter (or one-fifth of a teaspoon) of water
toring system also be able to assess control As chief technical officer, McManus says his containing several hundred protozoa. It can
samples — water with known characteris- role “is to take this very elegant technology, be programmed to test as often as the user
tics — for comparison. make it into a commercial product that can wants, from every 10 seconds to once a
be put in the back of a pickup truck and day, or any time period in between.
Enter Petrel Biosensors taken to a water supply, where it can pro-
Gallager and a team of engineers con- vide continuous sampling and transmit the “The longer the sampling time, the more
structed the first sampling prototype on a results to those in charge. sensitive the results,” Curtis notes. “It seems
workbench in his laboratory — a device to work well with 30 seconds. That means
measuring 2 feet by 3 feet. A nonprofit At present, an emphasis is on updating the a user can be alerted almost instantly if a
virtual incubator affiliated with WHOI, the software, optics and other aspects of the problem exists. You may not know what the
Regional Technology Development Corp. technology first developed in 2004-2005. exact toxin is, but you’ll know you’ve got a
(RTDC) stepped in to assist Gallagher and Future efforts will focus on miniaturization, problem and be able to take action.”
his team in forming a new company to with the goal of developing units that can
commercialize their invention. be hand-carried — perhaps the size of a He adds: “This system has gone through
laptop computer. extensive validation trials by outside testers,
With that assistance, Petrel Biosensors — with very strong results. It offers real-time,
named for a sea bird that flies in circles as “Municipal water supplies aren’t generally broad-spectrum capabilities not available in
a sentinel to an approaching storm — was space-limited,” McManus notes, “but it the market now. I envision commercial op-
incorporated in 2009 as RTDC’s first en- probably won’t be sufficient to just place portunities domestically and internationally
deavor. Under the arrangement, Petrel was one at a reservoir and ignore the upstream — the quality of water is a worldwide issue.”
granted an option for an exclusive world- source waters and downstream flow chan-
wide license for the intellectual property nels. This is where smaller units will be — Ralph N. Fuller

The Better World Report 2010

Other Promising Technologies
Promising Mayo Clinic Technology ogy from Mayo Clinic, coupled with the infection. Each of these techniques can
Joins the Fight Against Breast Cancer detector technology at Gamma Medica lead to deformity of the skull curvature.
Most of us know someone who has been Ideas, creates a method of diagnosis and
affected by breast cancer. monitoring that can overcome the detec- A team of doctors and engineers from the
tion problem involved with dense breast National University of Singapore (NUS)
In fact, the American Cancer Society tissue. Molecular breast imaging is also and the National University Hospital, col-
estimates that roughly 1 in 8 woman less expensive than alternative techniques laborating with Temasek Polytechnic, saw
will have invasive breast cancer at some like contrast enhanced breast MR. the need for something better. Inventors
point in her life, and that approximately 1 Swee Hin Teoh, Dietmar Hutmacher, Kim
in 35 women will die from breast cancer. This technology has the potential to im- Cheng Tan, Kock Fye Tam and Iwan Ziein
However, the number of deaths resulting prove the quality of life of large numbers developed a biocompatible polycapolac-
from breast cancer is on the decline, and of women, provides a less expensive tone polymer-based implant for the burr
many people believe this decline is due alternative method for detecting breast holes that provides a base for the bone of
to earlier detection and better treatment. cancer and offers a more robust detection the skull to regenerate after repair at half
system. Most importantly, earlier detection the cost of a titanium mesh or plate. The
A team of researchers at the Mayo and lower doses of radiation make it very invention is currently licensed to Osteo-
Clinic, including Deborah Rhodes, M.D., appealing to patients and practitioners. pore International Pte Ltd., a NUS spinoff.
Michael O’Connor, Ph.D., and Carrie
Hruska, Ph.D., has spent the last seven National University of Singapore and The technology works by rapid prototyp-
years developing and evaluating ways to Others Develop 3D Bone Implants to ing and design of a 3D patient-specific
improve the detection and monitoring of Improve Skull Repair burr plug. It uses fused deposition mod-
breast cancer. This research, supported “Brain injury occurs more frequently than eling and enables the fabrication of the
by Mayo Clinic, Gamma Medica Ideas breast cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis exact shape needed for the patient with-
Inc. and the National Institutes of Health, and spinal cord injury,” remarks Allan I. out a mold. This approach is not only
has resulted in technologies exclusively Bergman, president and chief executive economical but minimizes infection. This
licensed to Gamma Medica Ideas for use officer of the Brain Injury Association in invention has received support from vari-
in their molecular imaging systems. This a recent article (http://www.medscape. ous organizations, including the Ministry
set of intricate algorithms and hardware com/viewarticle/412192). of Education, the National Medical Re-
embedded into the imaging device allows search Council and the Tote Board.
for efficient detection of breast cancer Standard treatment to prevent brain in-
and a drastic reduction in the radiation jury caused by pressure on the brain fol- One of the first patients treated was a
dosage administered to women during lowing stroke or trauma involves drilling 23-year-old man who suffered an injury
screening procedures. burr holes into the skull to relieve pres- on the job. The engineering team fash-
sure. Typically the holes are closed with ioned a precise scaffold infusing some
At times, current mammography tech- a titanium plate or bone grafts. These ap- of his living bone cells into the scaffold to
nology is unable to detect breast cancer, proaches each have drawbacks. The use “seed” the growth process. The bone plug
especially in women with dense breast of a titanium in either mesh or plate form has achieved wonderful results, and two
tissue. The molecular breast imaging can be expensive, and bone grafts are years later the scaffold has fused with the
algorithms and device hardware technol- difficult to perform, painful and prone to surrounding tissue, with no trace of the The Better World Report 2010

original hole. His hair has even grown back. U.S. Department of Education and sup- greatly benefit by using First Crush.
ported by the Rehabilitation Engineering
Teoh indicated in the Far Eastern Eco- Research Center of Technology Transfer So whether it is people with disabilities who
nomic Review (Oct. 21, 2004) that this and the University at Buffalo. The result rely on assistive-technology devices, health
new technology might be used in devel- is a machine that generates medication in care providers who crush thousands of pills
oping countries, where medical imaging the form of a powder that can be mixed in a year or patients of any age who have
equipment is scarce, causing doctors to with food or liquid for easy ingestion. difficulty swallowing their medication, there
drill multiple holes in a patient’s skull be- is a significant segment of the population
fore they may find the correct entry point. The primary beneficiaries of this technol- that would benefit from a reliable and du-
Other anticipated applications for this ogy are the elderly and people with dis- rable device such as First Crush.
technology include treatment of patients abilities. Interestingly, statistics from the
with facial injuries and uses in cardiovas- U.S. Census Bureau indicate that adults University of Colorado Software
cular, orthopedic and dental treatment. age 65 or older consume more than 30 Makes Kids Game for Learning
percent of all prescription medication and If you are a parent who is always tell-
University of Buffalo Pill Crusher purchase more than 40 percent of all ing your children to stop playing video
Makes Medicine Easier to Swallow nonprescription medication. This elderly games, wait until you hear this.
Have you ever had to manually crush a pill population continues to grow due to im-
for a child, an elderly person or one of the provements in health care and the aging My Virtual Tutor is an interactive video
millions of Americans with documented of the baby boomer generation, with the game available for the handheld Nin-
swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)? Per- number of elderly expected to increase tendo DS system that makes the process
haps you have had to crush medication for from 39.4 million in 2010 to 53.2 mil- of learning to read fun, affordable and
yourself because the large pill size would lion in 2020. In addition, as the elderly portable. The Foundations to Literacy
lead to discomfort during swallowing. Now, population increases there is an inherent project, nationally recognized for its in-
imagine having to perform this tedious task increase in the number of people who de- novative and engaging educational ap-
several times a day while suffering from velop various disabilities, who could benefit proaches, started at the University of
arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, from assistive-technology devices such as Colorado at Boulder after receiving a five-
carpal tunnel syndrome or poststroke dif- First Crush. year National Science Foundation grant
ficulties that severely limit your ability to in 2000 and additional funding from the
crush the medication. Sounds incredibly But the elderly and those with disabilities National Institutes of Health, the Coleman
challenging, doesn’t it? are not the only ones to significantly ben- Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and the
efit from this new technology. A survey of University of Colorado Technology Trans-
To address this challenge, James Peron, 540 nurses indicated that more than 80 fer Office.
James Leahy, Jonathan Leahy and Robyn percent of nursing homes either crush
Washousky of the University of Buffalo pills or open medication at least once a According to the National Institute for
have created First Crush, a battery-oper- week. The same survey indicated that 58 Literacy (NIL), the period in a child’s life
ated and easy-to-use machine that quietly percent of these nurses reported receiving between birth and age 5 is crucial for
and automatically crushes pills. First Wave instructions from the prescriber to crush or the development of literacy skills that
Products Group has commercialized the open the medication. Notably, some health will influence how the child will perform
technology whose initial development was care professionals in nursing homes and academically. Young children can be
funded by the National Institute on Dis- hospitals, for example, are known to crush taught to read long before they start kin-
ability and Rehabilitation Research of the hundreds of pills a day and would thus dergarten. The NIL suggests that children

The Better World Report 2010

be exposed to environments that support a result, the World Health Organization steel production, an important consider-
literacy skills in a manner that engages estimates that 3.4 million people, mostly ation in both the developed and develop-
them, like songs, games, activities and children, die every year from water-relat- ing world. The zero-valent technology has
puzzles. ed diseases. been licensed to the Center for Affordable
Water and Sanitation Technology (http://
The foundation of the proprietary software In a paradigm shift researchers Pei Chiu, a nongovernment or-
for My Virtual Tutor was developed by a and Yan Jin of the University of Delaware ganization, licensed for humanitarian
team of 18 researchers at UCB’s Center have developed a new nonchlorine-based purposes to provide pure water to impov-
for Computational Language and Educa- technology (funded by a National Science erished areas of the world. The center is
tion Research before being licensed to Foundation Small Business Innovation Re- investigating its use in a portable water
Mentor InterActive Inc. in 2006. Mentor search grant and a University of Delaware treatment unit.
InterActive Inc. added features to the subaward, Corporate Environmental Solu-
child-friendly product capable of im- tions) that is able to purify water to remove The research team envisions use of this
proving the reading comprehension and 99.999 percent of bacteria and viruses. technology to safeguard the water supply
language skills of young children making Viruses have been extremely difficult to in other applications such as agriculture
it available on the extremely popular Nin- eliminate in drinking water since they are where, for example, it could be integrated
tendo DS platform. smaller than bacteria, highly mobile and into the wash system of a produce pro-
resistant to chlorination and filtration. Chiu duction facility. In such a setting it could
So before you tell your children to put and Jin discovered that by using elemental make an important contribution to safe-
down the video games and pick up a iron in the filtration process, they could ef- guarding fresh vegetable production. In
book, make sure they are not already en- fectively remove viral agents from source addition it could help avoid water- and
riching their academic future by playing water. The process causes the viruses to food-borne illness outbreaks such as that
My Virtual Tutor on their Nintendo DS. be chemically inactivated or irreversibly experienced in the United States in Sep-
adsorbed to the iron. tember of 2006. That outbreak, accord-
University of Delaware Technology ing to the Centers for Disease Control,
Provides Safer Drinking Water The use of elemental or “zero-valent” iron was responsible for sickening 276 people
Worldwide, about 1.2 billion people lack in this technology is also much cheaper and killing three.
access to safe drinking water, and twice than current techniques because this
that many lack adequate sanitation. As material is a normal byproduct of iron and The Better World Report 2010

Production Notes
The paper used for the Better World Report contains a minimum of 10% postconsumer waste
and carries the FSC environmental certification.
The 2010 Better World Report, published by the Association of University Technology Managers, celebrates
real-world examples of technologies that directly impact the health, well-being and overall quality of life of
people around the world.
Here are a few examples of the innovations showcased in this book:
• A mechanical engineering student designs a device that transforms electronic wheelchairs into all-terrain
vehicles giving disabled people -– including his father – the freedom to roam a whole new world
• An international team of scientists, organizations and laboratories collaborate to produce the world’s first
vaccine developed to prevent cancer
• An interactive software program allows children to work at their own speed, select their own subject
matter and receive immediate feedback giving thousands of students a precious gift: the ability to read
• Chromosome research leads to specialized gene-stacking technology for crop research that may one day
allow farmers to increase yields, grow more nutritious plants and help meet the demands of an exponen-
tially increasing worldwide population
• A biologist envisions tiny living sentinels watching over the world’s water supplies with a system that
monitors the swimming habits of protozoa that can provide an instant warning for a broad range of toxins

Read more about the diversity of academic innovation and

the world of technology transfer at

2010 Edition
ISBN 0-97778444-7-1

Special Edition
30th Anniversary of Bayh-Dole