UNMC researcher secures $2.25 million grant to fight antibiotic resistance

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OMAHA, Neb. (July 11, 2016)—A researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center recently secured a coveted R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to find a workable solution to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., a Research Associate Professor in UNMC’s Pharmaceutical Sciences department, will use the awarded $2.25 million over five years to further study, and possibly improve, a technology he’s already patented. The singular goal is to develop it into a commercially useful and effective weapon against bacteria such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus—better known as MRSA.

UNMC researcher Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., checks the results of a recent quality control test.

UNMC researcher Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., checks the results of a recent quality control test.

MRSA is a hardy and potentially deadly strain of bacteria that is notoriously difficult to treat. About 11,285 people die every year as result of MRSA or MRSA-related infections, according to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Sanderson’s research will be based on his previous work with EP67, a small protein, or peptide, he and his collaborators created. The synthetic peptide works by stimulating and enhancing a more robust natural immune response to normal and resistant infections, and potentially other ailments such as cancer.

For the NIH study, Dr. Sanderson and his team will focus specifically on tweaking the molecular structure of EP67 into an even more potent tool against MRSA. Once he has identified potentially effective alternate versions of EP67, they will be tested in animals before compiling larger studies to begin the FDA approval process.

“The whole objective of this grant is to lead to an [Investigation New Drug] filing with the FDA and product development,” Dr. Sanderson said. “This grant is a great example of genuine translational research that embodies the fusion of academic research and product development with the objective of generating a commercially-available new therapy.”

Dr. Sanderson’s startup company, Prommune, has already tested EP67’s potential against H1N1, and is also looking at its effectiveness against certain parasitic infections.

Joe Vetro, Ph.D.

Joe Vetro, Ph.D.

In its basic form, EP67 is a so-called “platform technology” because it can also be used for more effective or targeted treatments to a wide range of ailments, including the H1N1 and avian flu viruses.

Earlier this year, Dr. Sanderson teamed with fellow UNMC researcher Joe Vetro, Ph.D., for another R01 grant on a separate project. Funded for $1.75 million, that project will look at EP67-based vaccines against cytomegalovirus or CMV—a relatively harmless infection in healthy adults, but dangerous to those with a weakened immune system, particularly newborns, infants and the elderly.

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UNeMed inks collaborative deal with Streck, focus on diagnostics

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OMAHA, Neb. (July 7, 2016)—A new agreement between UNeMed and Streck creates a research and development collaboration between the two largest biotechnology firms in the state, officials announced today.

UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization arm of UNMC, entered into a master collaboration agreement with Streck, an Omaha-based company that develops and manufactures diagnostic products for clinical and research laboratories. The master agreement provides the framework for a myriad of new and continued collaborations that could lead to new healthcare products.

“I really love it that we could set something like this up with Streck,” said UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon. “Streck is a Nebraska company that employs Nebraskans, and they are completely invested in boosting the local economy as much as we are. What better partner is there to help develop more biotechnology products? I can’t wait to see all the things that might grow out of this.”


Catherine Gebhart, Ph.D.

For their first collaborative project, Streck will finance the work of UNMC researcher Catherine Gebhart, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the pathology and microbiology department. Dr. Gebhart also oversees the virology testing procedures for Nebraska Medicine’s organ transplant program.

“Streck has been following the work of Dr. Gebhart for years and she has always been a valued industry resource to us,” said Connie Ryan, Streck President and CEO. “We are honored to support her important work. Advances in testing–and ultimately, new developments in diagnostics and improvements in patient care–are in her most capable hands.”

In a two-year project, Dr. Gebhart will focus on developing a more powerful testing method for the human Herpes simplex virus.

Getting results from current Herpes testing methods can take more than three hours. Streck and Dr. Gebhart are looking to knock that down to less than 20 minutes using Streck’s patented technology. The Streck Zulu RT™ Thermal Cycler is a machine that dramatically improves efficiency by reducing the time-consuming process of amplifying small amounts of DNA into millions of copies.

Called a polymerase chain reaction, the process is a key step in the diagnostic process and can take hours using traditional means. Streck’s system can do it in less than 20 minutes.

The collaborative effort hopes to create a procedure that can make the Zulu RT system part of an efficient workflow for Herpes virus research applications; future use as a diagnostic tool in clinical settings, with FDA clearance, would likely follow.

UNMC and Streck are evaluating additional research projects for other collaborative opportunities.

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Dixon speaks at SBIR Road Tour

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UNeMed PResident and CEO Michael Dixon during the SBIR Road Show, held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Mammel Hall on June 29, 2016.

UNeMed PResident and CEO Michael Dixon during the SBIR Road Show, held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Mammel Hall on June 29, 2016.

OMAHA, Neb. (June 29, 2016)—UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon was on hand Wednesday for the SBIR Road Tour at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The Road Tour highlighted the $2.5 billion in federal grant money available through the SBIR/STTR program, and helped researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs learn how they might make use of the funding opportunities.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are managed through several federal agencies, and about a dozen were on hand at UNO’s College of Business Administration at Mammel Hall.

The event was free and open to all, and guests also had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with program managers, where they could share their ideas and gain insights into the award process.

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HealthChart to develop new lymphoma diagnostic

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licenseSTOCKrgbOMAHA, Neb. (June 16, 2016)—UNeMed announced today a recently struck licensing deal with a diagnostics and medical device company in Memphis, Tenn., HealthChart LLC, to further develop a new test that could significantly improve treatment strategies for certain types of rare blood cancers—peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

The most common form of peripheral T-cell lymphoma—referred to as “not otherwise specified,” or PTCL-NOS for short—is notoriously difficult to treat because it can’t be classified into any known category. Different types of peripheral T-cell lymphoma have different treatment strategies, but a type that essentially fits under “none of the above” requires some guesswork from physicians.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center developed a new method to classify “not otherwise specified” forms of peripheral T-cell lymphomas. The breakthrough method measures the genetic profiles of the peripheral T-cell lymphoma cells, and enables researchers to classify previously unknown lymphoma types.

The method will also aid in accurate diagnosis and prognosis of other peripheral T-cell lymphoma subtypes, including angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, anaplastic T-cell lymphoma  and  gamma-delta T-cell lymphoma.

HealthChart will work with and support UNMC researchers to help refine the method into a more robust test that could serve a critical role as a companion diagnostic as new treatment strategies enter clinical trials.

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What I learned as a tech transfer intern

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by Brooke Dillon, UNeMed | June 14, 2016

I had a wonderful experience as a legal intern at UNeMed. I aspire to be a patent attorney, and began working at UNeMed in the summer of my first year in law school. For the past two years, I have been able to work with great people to take inventions from an idea’s beginning in a researcher’s laboratory to a final product sold in the marketplace. The internship taught me to ask good questions, to embrace learning new things, and to create systems.

WEB_brooke_dillon_2014An invention begins with an idea. For example, say a researcher is studying the effects of second-hand smoke on the lungs of ferrets. The researcher needs a certain material to conduct the study. As a legal intern, I helped to draft and negotiate a Material Transfer Agreement, the contract that allows a researcher to use another institution’s materials.

After the researcher conducts the experiment, the researcher discovers something. In this hypothetical scenario, the discovery is a biomarker that predicts lung cancer in young adults. The researcher would then send UNeMed his idea to determine if the invention could receive a patent.

As an intern, I searched for prior art references, including other patents or publications that taught our researcher’s idea. If I found prior art references, it would be more difficult to get a patent on the idea. If a researcher is able to get a patent on the invention, then we would work at marketing and licensing the device to companies. I worked on a variety of interesting inventions, ranging from surgical tools to biomedical prosthetics to air conditioning systems. Along the way, I learned to:

  • Ask questions: Sometimes inventors send us their ideas with little explanation. Having a discussion with an inventor can change or expand the whole invention. Many people believe patents are for large, complicated inventions, such as time machines or cold fusion. However, patents often cover small improvements on existing items. In order to ascertain what the small improvement is, you have to be able to ask insightful questions. One of the attorneys I worked with told me the best question to ask an inventor is, “What else could it be?”
  • Embrace learning new things: As an intern, I often received projects that I had never worked on before. Sometimes it was a familiar patent search, but the technology was something I had not heard of. Or the project was a contract I had not drafted yet. I would sit at my desk and think, “no one taught me this in law school.” I learned over time that it was not the information I already knew but what I was willing to learn that made the biggest difference in a project’s outcome. Working in patent law means you get to work with new ideas every day. As I embraced learning, I found that I enjoyed my work immensely.
  • Create systems: Organization and repetition can make a tremendous difference in how quickly a task is completed. I eventually realized that you do not have to reinvent the wheel for each new assignment. Drafting most contracts comes down to four questions: 1. Who are the parties? 2. What are they negotiating? 3. What is most important to our side? 4. How do I communicate that in the contract?  Most inventions break down to a series of elements, and searching those elements requires thinking of all the words that could be used to describe them. As I learned to find the common thread that ran through my various projects, I could create a general system that I would repeat and tweak to new projects.

Thank you to everyone at UNeMed who has helped me! I learned so much here. I do not think that would be possible without your patience, willingness to answer my questions, and your flexibility with my schedule. This has been a wonderful experience. UNeMed is a great place to work and I recommend it for other interns!

About: Brooke Dillon is the former legal intern for UNeMed. She holds law degree and an MBA from Creighton University and recently passed the U.S. Patent Bar in March 2015. Brooke intends to continue her education in the fall of 2016 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an advanced biology degree.

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UNeMed startup MotoMetrix joins Straight Shot class of ’16

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straighshotLOGOOMAHA, Neb. (June 6, 2016)—UNeMed expanded its approach to commercializing its portfolio of inventions and innovations, announcing today a deeper relationship with Straight Shot, an Omaha accelerator focused on helping technology startups.

For the first time, a UNeMed technologies will run through Straight Shot’s rigorous 90-day program, beginning with the kickoff event on June 9.

The technology is a concussion detection platform developed at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s world-class biomechanics lab. The inventor, Nick Stergiou, Ph.D., developed a remarkable device that can measure the almost imperceptible adjustments in a persons’ standing balance. Those adjustments look different when that same person then suffers a brain injury, such as a concussion.

UNeMed Business Development Manager Joe Runge used the technology to build a new startup, MotoMetrix.


Joe Runge

“What makes the technology exciting is that it can do more than detect a concussion,” Runge said. “It can also establish when someone is recovered from a concussion, which makes it safe for them to return to play.”

Straight Shot connected MotoMetrix with an entrepreneur, Preston Badeer, who will run the new company as its CEO while taking advantage of the intensive accelerator program this summer. Part of the program will involve developing the business model for the company, identifying its customers, how to reach them, and then how to market and sell concussion detection services to those customers.

If successful, the company could then expand to than just detecting concussions, but a much wider range of neurologic disorders, which could include early detection of Parkinson’s.

“One of the more impressive things about Dr. Stergiou’s work is that his approach to these big problems involves finding really big answers,” Runge said. “Motometrix is a compelling business because it can focus on sports medicine immediately, and then expand into traumatic brain injury and other neural disorders.”

MotoMetrix will get its first public airing when Straight Shot introduces the class of 2016—a collection of eight new startups rooted in the Midwest—during its kickoff event on June 9, 6-7:30 p.m., on the seventh floor of The Exchange building in downtown Omaha. Registration for free tickets to that event is available through EventBrite.

UNeMed hopes this is just the first of many University of Nebraska technologies and startups to enter the Straight Shots program, Runge said.

“I consider it a personal failure that we didn’t have something in the program every year,” he said of Straight Shot, which is entering its fourth year. “It’s a relationship that we have been seeking for a long time. We have the kind of new technologies that the marketplace needs, and they find and support the entrepreneurs that can partner with our faculty to take new technology to the marketplace.”

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Veins and arteries are just pipes, right?

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by Joe Runge, UNeMed | June 2, 2016

Your veins and arteries are not just pipes. They expand and contract. They grow and shrink. They repair themselves. Like every part of your body, they are made of living tissue that responds to what you do and the environment around you.

veinspipesFINPipes can’t do that.

Pipes aren’t lined with cells that sense rate, direction and flow. Pipes aren’t ringed with muscles that expand and contract in response to momentary needs. Pipes do not grow in order to increase flow to your shower. They do not shrink and wither away when you switch the water off.

The diseases that afflict your circulatory system are not a failure in plumbing. If blood vessels were mere pipes, then atherosclerosis would just be a clog. It isn’t. A doctor cannot simply snake out your coronary arteries like a plumber. The narrowing of your blood vessels is the result of a complex immunological reaction that occurs between your blood vessels and the chemicals in your blood. Doctors physically pry open your arteries in order to treat your coronary artery disease, but they almost immediately start narrowing again.

That narrowing is a reaction to what’s in your blood—the chemically destructive byproducts of fat and cholesterol, or free radicals. It is actually your body’s immune system’s reaction to the free radicals that drives atherosclerosis.

New research about atherosclerosis suggests that your immune system’s ability to clear free radicals from your arteries is a critical factor to assess your risk of heart attacks, it’s your immune state that helps predict if you die young from a heart attack. The way your immune system reacts to the fat and cholesterol in your blood may be as important as your diet in assessing your risk of a heart attack.

A new blood test invented by a team of scientists and doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center measures your immune response to how fat and cholesterol break down in your blood. The team was able to differentiate people who have stable atherosclerotic disease from those that had sudden heart attacks. For the first time, doctors can predict that sudden heart attack–well before it happens.

Such a ground-breaking concept requires a deep understanding of the cardiovascular system, and how it reacts to subtle changes. While artery disease can be a measure of the immune system response, blood vessels also react to subtle physical changes as well. Blood vessels do not just react to what’s in your blood, they also react to how your blood flows. Just as your blood vessels narrow due to atherosclerosis, they can also grow.

As a body builder pumps iron, his blood vessels grow. Cells inside his veins react to the increase in blood flow to feed his muscles. The same process that pops veins on bulging biceps will help some chronically ill people–patients in kidney failure.

Your kidneys filter the waste out of your blood. If they fail, you’ll have about a week or two before all that waste in your body rises to toxic levels high enough to kill you. You’ll need a new kidney or a machine to fill in until a suitable donor can be found. Filtering the blood through a machine, hemodialysis, saves countless lives every day. But it requires access to a large blood vessel.

FistualFINDoctors have to make that blood vessel by creating something called an arteriovenous fistula. The surgeon cuts a vein in the patient’s arm and sutures it to a nearby artery. The artery has much greater blood pressure and blood flow than the vein, so when the procedure is successful, the vein swells to accept the increased blood flow.

Most fistulas fail, usually when the vein clots after the surgery. Marius Florescu, M.D., believes the failure is due to the pattern of blood flow. He observed that most blood vessels connect at very gentle angles, like a highway off ramp. Blood vessels facilitate blood flow at highway speeds by making very gradual curves. Current research supports that blood vessels work best at highway speed. The body builder’s veins pop because the blood inside them is moving fast through the long, gently curving blood veins. His veins are growing in response to the blood’s laminar flow.

Fistulas are made at hard, right angles. Instead of a nice, long off-ramp it comes to a sudden stop at a T-intersection. That T-intersection is the opposite of laminar flow. Instead of highway speed it is stop-and-go traffic.

The cells lining the inside of the vein are able to detect that traffic, which makes the vein reluctant to grow.  The vein is looking for highway speed and when it finds heavy traffic, the vein will shrink to protect the rest of the vascular system from whatever is disrupting blood flow.

Dr. Florescu invented a new device that creates on-ramps instead of T-intersections. The device is a platform that the surgeon can place inside the vein during fistula surgery. It holds the fistula at a gentle angle so that blood flows through the fistula in a less turbulent way. The platform is inexpensive and actually makes the surgical procedure faster, safer and more likely to succeed. After the connection between the artery and vein is solid enough, the device will disappear being resorbed by the body.

What your blood vessels do is invisible. They dilate and constrict in an instant response to your environment. They grow and shrink in response to your body’s gradual changes. They are ground zero for chronic, immunological changes in your body.

The only time we notice them is when they fail–a lot like the pipes in your home.

The new blood test to predict risk of heart attack and the fistula maturation platform take results from brilliant research and apply them to improve patients’ lives. The scientists and doctors have so much more to learn about the complex wonder that is the human body.

Perhaps the first barrier to the next discovery is to look at a blood vessel and see more than a pipe.

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Federal grant program hits the road

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SBIRroadtourlogoOMAHA, Neb. (May 17, 2016)—There is $2.5 billion in federal grant money available through the SBIR/STTR program, and an upcoming “road show” will help researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs learn how they might make use of the funding opportunities.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are managed through several federal agencies, and about a dozen will be on hand when the SBIR/STTR Road Tour rolls into Omaha on June 29. The all-day event will be held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Business Administration, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is free and open to all, and attendees can expect to learn more about funding opportunities from specific federal agencies and how to win awards through those programs.

In addition to federal program overviews and presentations, some guests will also have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with program managers, where they can share their ideas and gain insights into the award process. Program managers from the USDA, NASA, NIH and the departments of the Navy and Air Force will all be on hand, to name a few.

The event is entirely free, but registration is required. Attendees will have the opportunity to schedule one-on-one meetings with specific program managers once they begin the registration process at http://nbdc.unomaha.edu/road-tour-tickets.

Registration will be open until June 28, but the deadline to sign up for one-on-one meetings is June 15.

The SBIR/STTR Road Show is a summer-long series planned for about 20 cities throughout the United States. Immediately prior to Omaha, the road show will be in Laramie, Wyo., on June 27 before swinging through Omaha and onto Wichita, Kan., and Oklahoma City. The road show will return to the Midwest on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 when it arrives in in Ames, Iowa, and St. Louis, respectively.

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UNeMed hosts Partnering Summit

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UNMC researcher Rongshi Li, Ph.D., meets with Niall O'Donnell, of the venture capital firm RiverVest, during UNeMed's 2016 Industry Partnering Summit held at UNMC's Michael F. Sorrell Center on May 10.

UNMC researcher Rongshi Li, Ph.D., (left) meets with Niall O’Donnell, of the venture capital firm RiverVest, during UNeMed’s 2016 Industry Partnering Summit held at UNMC’s Michael F. Sorrell Center on May 10.

OMAHA, Neb. (May 10, 2016)—UNeMed’s first-ever Industry Partnering Summit Tuesday had all the appearances of success, leading officials toward making the event a regular offering in future years.

Pfizer representative Naglaa Mohamed meets with UNMC researcher Tammy Kielian (obscured) during UNeMed’s 2016 Industry Partnering Summit held at UNMC’s Michael F. Sorrell Center on May 10.

“We had 10 UNMC technologies on display, and several of the companies have expressed interest in learning more about them,” said UNeMed president and CEO Michael Dixon. “That’s a great day for us. These are new relationships that could move a UNMC innovation closer toward improving healthcare for everyone. ”

Sponsored by UNMC’s technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed, the Partnering Summit brought to campus several venture capital and pharmaceutical industry representatives from local, regional and international firms. The representatives were treated to an all-day event that featured departmental overviews and short presentations about the latest innovative therapies invented and developed by UNMC researchers. An additional nine UNMC technologies were made accessible to industrial and investment groups through a poster session at the end of the day.

UNMC researcher Joyce Solheim, Ph.D., breaks down her nantechnology approach for using immunotherapy for treating cancer during UNeMed's 2016 Industry Partnering Summit held at UNMC's Michael F. Sorrell Center on May 10.

UNMC researcher Joyce Solheim, Ph.D., breaks down her nantechnology approach for using immunotherapy to treat cancer during UNeMed’s 2016 Industry Partnering Summit held at UNMC’s Michael F. Sorrell Center on May 10.

“We received a lot of positive feedback from both the UNMC participants and the industry participants,” said UNeMed licensing manager, Matt Boehm, who conceived and organized the event. “We’ll see what comes out of it, but I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was get people in the same room and have meaningful conversations.”

UNMC innovation presentations were a vaccine strategy for treating Parkinson’s; new antibacterial compounds; a gene therapy treatment for diabetic complications; a new formulation for treating biofilm infections; a nanoparticle immunotherapy for cancer; IKK-beta inhibitors; a new prodrug for the treatment of lupus; a new peptide for stimulating  the immune system; targeted radiopharmaceuticals for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer; and a nanoparticle to treat spinal cord injury.

Learn more about the technologies and find the full list of presentations in the event program here:

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Anyone can be an inventor. Period.

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by Amanda Hawley, UNeMed | May 6, 2016

anyone_inventorYes. Anyone can be an inventor.

All you need is: 1. a brain, and 2. a medium to harness your ideas. You can excavate your brain nuggets using a computer, a pen and paper, or like children, a rock and the side of a car.

Fruitful thinkers recognize gaps in knowledge, problems needing a solution, or the potential to make something better. We call them “inventors” and “innovators” because they create something not yet seen nor known.

Innovative thinking is best exemplified by so-called “life hacks“. A “hack” demonstrates an alternative use or design modification that enhances the functionality of an existing technology. Who knew that binder clips and toilet-paper tubes had so many unconventional applications? This form of innovative thinking is an early step toward uncovering a novel concept or imagining a new invention. The difficult task is knowing what to do next. Anyone can have a eureka moment, but for some, that is as far as the innovation goes.

Despite encouragement, many hesitate to cultivate an idea into reality.

As a UNeMed Licensing Associate, I’ve sat face-to-face with UNMC staff who limited themselves with disclaimers: “I’m not in a highly esteemed position…I don’t wear a white coat…I’ve never written a grant before.”

Some have admitted to feeling foolish when submitting an invention. Or, they deem their invention doomed before the ink has dried on the disclosure form.

Truth is, an idea cannot be considered bad if it never sees the light of day.

UNeMed provides inventors a New Invention Notification (NIN) form to describe their invention and the timeline of its creation. Using these details, UNeMed performs extensive research to determine whether your invention is distinct or has a doppelganger. UNeMed frees UNMC inventors to ponder breakthroughs while we evaluate the invention’s potential to strive over barriers.

Submitting eureka moments is now easier than ever with the UNMC mobile app “ideas” button.  The app is free and available for both Apple and Android platforms. Determining the future of your idea all starts with one click.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome when bringing an idea to fruition may be yourself. A popular Chinese proverb states “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If you never take the first step, you will never know where the journey could lead you.

An invention that could impact the world is instead thrown into the bowels of the junk closet. A novel concept that may surpass all imagination and revolutionize its field of use, will instead forever remain a “what-if.”

Anyone with an innovative idea can be an inventor.

The question is, what will you do with it?

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Dan Hoffman named CEO at Invest Nebraska Corporation

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Dan Hoffman

Dan Hoffman

LINCOLN, Neb. (April 27, 2016)—After serving less than a month as the interim Chief Executive Officer, Dan Hoffman was permanently promoted to the position by Invest Nebraska Corporation’s board of directors on April 12.

Hoffman was Invest Nebraska’s Chief Operating Officer until March when then-CEO Mark Crawford resigned to take a position with Intel Capital in California.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have someone like Dan Hoffman take the reins of Invest Nebraska,” said Michael Dixon, Invest Nebraska’s chairman of the board. “His knowledge and skills are a natural fit as Invest Nebraska continues to grow and expand its suite of services to help develop high-growth, high-impact companies across Nebraska.”

Invest Nebraska is the state’s nonprofit venture development organization, using public and private funds to support and invest in Nebraska-based businesses. Created in 2002, Invest Nebraska has made an impact across the entire state, making 41 seed investments in businesses from Scottsbluff to Omaha.

“We’re agnostic when it comes to industries,” Hoffman said. “Our main objectives are to grow and diversify Nebraska’s economic engine by accelerating the development of new technology-based companies today. Invest Nebraska has made seed investments in a variety of early-stage businesses across the state in biotech, food/ag tech, manufacturing, and IT.”

Funded in part by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Invest Nebraska also plays a large role in developing the state’s entrepreneurial infrastructure needed to grow technology based companies. Last year, Invest Nebraska announced efforts to expand the state’s IT workforce through the TechHire Nebraska collaboration program in Kearney and Grand Island. TechHire is a nationwide initiative aimed at training and mentoring non-traditional candidates for entry-level positions in the IT industry.

Hoffman and Invest Nebraska also played a key role in building the entrepreneurial infrastructure for early-stage biotechnology companies. Funded by a $750,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration-U.S. Department of Commerce and $750,000 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Biotech Connector is a collaborative effort that includes Nebraska Innovation Campus, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Bio Nebraska. This 10,000 square foot wet-lab space located at Nebraska Innovation Campus will incubate biotech startups spun out of the university as well as early stage companies from the community.

Prior to joining Invest Nebraska in 2008, Hoffman served Governors Mike Johanns and Dave Heinemann as a senior policy adviser in the areas of economic development, labor and taxation.. Hoffman holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in economics, both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a 2012 graduate of the Venture Capital Institute.

“Dan has been a consistent driver of Invest Nebraska’s growth and maturation over the past eight years,” said Dixon, who is also the president and CEO of UNeMed, the technology transfer office at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “He’s the heart and soul of the company, and there couldn’t be a better person for the job.”

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Nominate UNMC alumni for Excellence in Innovation Award

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In recognition of its 25th anniversary later this year, UNeMed Corporation will present a new annual award during the 2016 Innovation Awards Ceremony and Reception on October 6. For the first time, UNeMed will recognize the innovative contributions made by University of Nebraska Medical Center alumni with the “Alumni Excellence in Innovation” award.

The award will be presented to the UNMC alumnus who best personifies the innovative spirit and has made a significant innovative contribution to society. UNeMed is currently seeking nominations of qualified individuals. Self-nominations are acceptable, and all nominations are confidential.

All nominations will be retained and considered for future awards, if not selected in 2016.

A qualified nominee will:
• be a UNMC alumnus
• have invented or helped invent a new technology that has made a positive impact on society
• have developed or helped develop a new product/procedure that people use

Downloadable PDF is here. Submit complete nominations to unemed@unmc.edu, or use the embedded form below.

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Millard South duo wins first 3D Invent-a-Thon

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In the foreground is the 2016 Invent-a-Thon trophy, a 3D-printed model of a light bulb that is lit with LEDs. In the background, an officer of UNMC's 3D Maker's Club, Will Payne, prepares one of the competitors’ presentations on the iEXCEL center’s MultiTaction Wall.

In the foreground is the 2016 Invent-a-Thon trophy, a 3D-printed model of a light bulb that is lit with LEDs. In the background, Will Payne, an officer of UNMC’s 3D Maker’s Club, prepares one of the competitors’ presentations on the iEXCEL center’s MultiTaction Wall.

OMAHA, Neb. (April 22, 2016)—A team of juniors from Millard South High School took top honors at the inaugural 3D Printing Invent-a-Thon held Friday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Michael F. Sorrell Center.

The first-place design was for a device developed and 3D-printed in less than a day. All three participating teams were from local high schools, and were tasked to deliver a solution that would help people who suffer from multiple sclerosis. All teams were given two days to research the problem, develop a concept, and then design and print a prototype.

Harrison Pruitt, 17, and Ryan Hendrickson, 17, won first place for an exoskeleton that would help MS patients walk more easily. Pruitt’s and Hendrickson’s prototype resembled a jointed leg brace with a solid support strapped to the outside of the leg, from the heel to just above the knee.  Their device would include servomotors that would provide the wearer powered-assistance when walking.

Millard South junior Harrison Pruitt demonstrates the winning design of the 2016 3D Invent-a-Thon to a panel of judges and about 28 onlookers Friday evening at UNMC's Sorrell Center.

Millard South junior Harrison Pruitt demonstrates the winning design of the 2016 3D Invent-a-Thon to a panel of judges and about 28 onlookers Friday evening at UNMC’s Sorrell Center.

The runner-up designs also focused on helping MS patients’ difficultly with walking. One team proposed a counter-balancing device that would help offset the wearer losing balance. The other device was a self-contained seating system that strapped to the legs so the wearer could sit and rest virtually anywhere.

The 3D Invent-A-Thon was a part of the Nebraska Science Festival, week-long series of science-related events and activities held every year across the state. The Invent-A-Thon was one of several events held and hosted by UNMC. It was sponsored by the UNMC Makers club, the McGoogan Library of Medicine and UNMC’s technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed.

Tyler Scherr, one of the event’s organizers and an officer in the one-year-old 3D Maker’s Club, said the competition “exceeded expectations,” despite it being the first year of the event. But he was more impressed with the contestants, all juniors from Millard South and Brownell-Talbot High Schools.

“One team had their design and was ready to print in four hours. It made me feel old,” said Scherr, a 30-year-old UNMC grad student who complete his Ph.D. this spring. “I can almost guarantee that they would have beaten us (3D Makers Club) or at least printed faster.”

The winning team was awarded free tickets to the Nebraska Science Festival’s headline event, “An Evening with LeVar Burton.” Burton is best known for his work in television, particularly his portrayal of the popular character Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The winners were also presented with a 3D-printed trophy that looked like a large light bulb mounted to a thick base. LED lights inside the based gave the bulb a soft glow.

Hendrickson said his teammate, Pruitt, should be the one to take the trophy home.

“He needs a lamp,” Hendrickson said.

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Technology Transfer Boot Camp accepting applications

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technology transfer bootcamp16OMAHA, Neb. (April 18, 2016)—Back by popular demand, UNeMed’s boot camp training program will be offered in June for those interested in technology transfer and related fields away from the research bench and other scientific pursuits.

UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, will host the program as a way to help anyone wanting to gain a wider range of skills and experience to match their scientific knowledge and training.

The four-week program will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning June 7 and concluding June 30.

Grad students Richard Nelson and Simarjeet Negi look on during a session of UNeMed's first Technology Transfer Boot Camp, a week of imersive training sessions that dove into the commercialization of biomedical science.

Grad students Richard Nelson and Simarjeet Negi look on during a session at UNeMed’s first Technology Transfer Boot Camp last year.

The program is designed to provide information across a range of technology transfer relevant areas, including:
• Evaluating new inventions
• Intellectual property law
• Marketing and commercialization
• Contract negotiation

Rather than provide a series of lectures, UNeMed’s tech transfer boot camp will dive into more hands-on activities that will highlight real-word situations and help illustrate key aspects of the technology commercialization process.

Anyone at UNMC is encouraged to apply and participate free of charge. Those not affiliated with UNMC are also welcome, but will be charged $200 upon acceptance.

Applications to participate will be accepted until May 6 and will be reviewed in the order they are received until all spaces are filled. If the embedded form does not properly display below, the application may be accessed here.

More information about the program and the application process can be found at http://www.unemed.com/about-us/join-our-team.

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Biomed startup readies compounds to treat, diagnose cancers

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calidum_logoOMAHA, Nebraska (April 14, 2016)—A new startup company, Calidum Inc, was formed around an innovative approach for simultaneously treating and diagnosing some of the deadliest cancers, UNeMed announced today.

Calidum exclusively licensed the technology from UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Calidum will commercialize the patented, innovative work of Janina Baranowska-Kortylewicz, Ph.D., a professor and radiochemist at UNMC. Along with her co-inventor, Zbigniew P. Kortylewicz, Ph.D., she developed novel compounds that target cancer cells with remarkable accuracy and efficiency.

Calidum’s compounds are considered “theranostic” because they can be used as a diagnostic tool and a therapeutic treatment at the same time. The compounds are tagged with a radioactive isotope that will help clinicians better diagnose, track and treat various cancers that include prostate, ovarian, and triple negative breast cancer—an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that is notoriously difficult to treat.

Calidum’s compounds could also be used on two rare forms of brain tumors, neuroblastoma and glioblastoma.

Due to the strong safety and activity data of Calidum’s lead compound, CDM-P123I, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a Phase-1 clinical trial in prostate cancer patients.

CDM-P123I specifically targets proteins on prostate cancer cells, thus it can both identify and effectively destroy those cells with dramatically reduced side-effects and higher specificity than current techniques. Calidum will begin its Phase 1 trial for prostate cancer within the next 12 months, while completing the necessary preclinical studies to initiate human trials for the additional targets in the next three years.

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NE SciFest Invent-a-Thon will coach 3D design, printing

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OMAHA, Neb. (April 12, 2016)—Modern innovation and prototype development will play center-stage during a series of public events at the University of Nebraska Medical Center when it hosts the 3D Printing Invent-a-Thon as part of the Nebraska Science Festival.

The Invent-a-Thon is weeklong series of public seminars and events centered on an invention competition among teams of high school students. The student teams are challenged to design and 3D print a solution to a real-world healthcare problem.

The Invent-a-Thon opens Monday, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the Michael F. Sorrell Center’s simulation center with educational seminars about 3D design, printing and product development, followed by a tour of the UNMC Maker space and 3D printers. The following day, a pair of lectures will explore a current medical problem in need of a solution and tutor guests on the use of essential software, including use of the iEXCEL center’s state-of-the-art MultiTaction Wall.


The teams will spend the next two days designing, refining and printing their solutions before the public is invited to observe the final presentations on Friday, April 22. Final presentations are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in room 1012 of the Sorrell Center. Awards will be presented at approximately 5:30 p.m., followed by a short reception.

All Invent-a-Thon events are free, hosted and sponsored by the UNMC Makers club, the McGoogan Library of Medicine and UNMC’s technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed.

The first-place team will win tickets to the Nebraska Science Festival’s headline event, “An Evening with LeVar Burton.” Burton is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and as host of the popular PBS children’s series “Reading Rainbow.” He will present “Technology & Storytelling: Making a Difference in the Digital Age” at 7:30 p.m. at the Joslyn Art Museum.



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