UNeMed seeking intern candidates

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OMAHA, Nebraska (March 31, 2021)—UNeMed Corporation, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska Omaha, is now seeking qualified candidates for its paid internship program.

UNeMed’s interns gain hands-on training, mentorship and all the tools needed to launch a successful career in the technology transfer or biotechnology industry.

All interns work closely with experienced UNeMed staff to help biomedical inventions developed at UNMC and UNO move beyond the laboratory and into the marketplace. UNeMed interns will gain valuable, first-hand experience in a wide range of interdisciplinary, technology transfer-related activities, including:

  • Invention evaluations
  • Patent and copyright law
  • Contract negotiation
  • Startup business formation
  • Technology marketing

The ideal candidate will:

  • Be actively working towards or hold an advanced degree in a scientific field
  • Have the ability to comprehend complicated scientific and technical information
  • Have excellent research, analytical and writing skills
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Be an independent thinker who is self-motivated and can take initiative while still contributing to a dynamic, fast-paced team environment
  • Be able to work with the diverse range of personalities often found among elite academic researchers and biomedical industry executives
  • Have the ability work on several projects at one time

UNeMed interns will be expected to:

  • Help evaluate new invention submissions
  • Develop technical marketing summaries
  • Conduct market analysis research
  • Promote UNeMed and UNMC innovations to local, regional and national companies
  • Manage marketing campaigns
  • Identify potential licensees
  • Develop communication strategies to promote UNMC and UNO technologies

To apply, submit a résumé or CV with a letter expressing interest to UNeMed@unmc.edu, with “UNeMed Internship” in the subject line. UNeMed will accept applications until the position is filled.

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UNMC joins WIPO Re:Search consortium for tropical diseases

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March 29, 2021 (OMAHA, Nebraska)—The University of Nebraska Medical Center and its technology transfer and commercialization arm, UNeMed, are now one of 153 listed world-wide organizations that are sharing research and resources to fight tropical diseases in developing nations.

“We are excited to be part of this group,” said Jennifer Larsen, MD, Vice Chancellor for Research at UNMC,” as it provides new strategies and options for funding for our faculty’s work on therapeutics for diseases that have a significant global impact but are often off the radar for many pharmaceutical companies.”

The World Intellectual Property Organization and BIO Ventures for Global Health partnered in 2011 to create the WIPO Re:Search consortium. Their stated mission is “Accelerate the discovery and development of technologies for neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis by sharing intellectual property with the global health research community, catalyzing and fostering global health collaborations, and contributing to capacity-building in developing countries.”

Among the noteworthy member institutions are Emory University, the Pasteur Institute, MIT, NIH, Stanford, the US Patent and Trademark Office and dozens of other major American universities.

Jonathon Vennerstrom, PhD

Jonathon Vennerstrom, PhD

“University researchers like Jonathan Vennerstrom and his team create new knowledge and deeper understanding of complex diseases like this all the time,” UNeMed president and CEO Michael Dixon, PhD, said. “This consortium is just another example of how committed the University is to putting that knowledge to work, and getting these life-saving treatments into the hands of the people who need it most.”

Jonathan Vennerstrom, PhD, a medicinal chemist in UNMC’s College of Pharmacy, has already made significant contributions to the global fight against malaria. Through his work with Medicines for Malaria Venture, he and his team created a new malaria drug that was approved for use in India in 2012 and has shown potential as a one-dose cure for malaria. That work was recognized with the prestigious 2019 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention. In addition, a panel of world health experts selected it in 2015 as one of 30 high-impact innovations that can save lives and transform global health within 15 years.

The WIPO Re:Search consortium will give UNMC researchers access to resources that go beyond combined knowledge and discovery. It also includes access to potential industrial partners like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis and Pfizer, to name a few.

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1-Check COVID screener app will expand in new partnership

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OMAHA, Nebraska (March 8, 2021)—Amid a burgeoning pandemic more than a year ago, Apple, Inc. partnered with the University of Nebraska on a critical challenge.

“They asked if we had the capacity to co-develop an app to allow anyone to input symptoms, and then learn next steps,” said Harnoor Singh, the Director of Student Development for the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship Program at UNO. “And they said, ‘Respond by 4 p.m. today.'”

Challenge accepted.

There was a problem, however: Apple’s deadline to submit a finished app was less than two weeks.

At the time, there was only one other such app on the market: The one produced by software engineers at Apple, no less.

The 1-Check COVID app would become the second…and in record time.

Under normal circumstances, it might take the better part of a year to develop an app. Add another two months for Apple to vet and approve the app.

But a Nebraska team of students, faculty and clinicians developed 1-Check in just 12 days. Then Apple turned around its approval for inclusion in the App Store in a neck-breaking four hours. (The app is also available for Android devices and as a web application that should work with any browser.)

Now, just a few months and more than 30 versions later, the app continues to guide decisions for the state’s largest employer, and will expand its range and reach in a new partnership with an east coast developer, Civilience.

“It was very much a whirlwind from the start,” said Michael Wadman, MD, chairman of UNMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

Wadman and his team—Department of Emergency Medicine Executive Vice Chair, Wesley Zeger, DO, and Thang Nguyen, a nurse practitioner in Emergency Medicine with no less than 50 inventions to his credit—cobbled together the algorithms in a flurry of marathon sessions that spanned two days. They continue to update the algorithms at frequent intervals.

Spurred by Chancellor Jeffrey Gold, MD, the plan was to build an app that could help people track symptoms and other circumstances. That information could then offer clues about the likelihood that the user might be sick. More importantly, the app would help provide our public health leaders with community syndromic surveillance and provide the user with the next appropriate steps regarding testing, vaccination, quarantine, etc.

“The app isn’t making a determination that you’re COVID-positive,” said Rod Markin, MD, UNMC’s Vice Chancellor for Business Development and Director of UNeTech. “It’s making a determination if you need to seek input from your healthcare provider.”

Making that determination is the series of algorithms the Wadman team helped create, which are based on their large body of clinical experience with infectious diseases. To the user, the algorithms look like a set of simple questions that ask about symptoms and potential exposures to the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2.

Inside the app, however, it is a little more complex. The app weighs all those answers to score the user’s risk of infection as either high, moderate or low.

The actual coding of the app itself—the design, interface and function—was built by Singh’s Scott Scholar undergraduate students, Grayson Stanton, who majors in Computer Engineering and Mathematics, and two Computer Science majors in Keegan Brown and Carly Cameron.

“We had brand new developers, 18-, 19-, 20-years-old,” said Singh. “One day they’re developing an app, the next day their delivering a report to the governor or executives at Apple.”

He added later: “It’s awesome what you can accomplish when given high-achieving students and real-world problems to solve using a human-centered approach.”

Nebraska’s ability to produce one potential solution to the problem of the day helped the University’s technology transfer and commercialization office in Omaha, UNeMed, attract Civilience as a commercial partner. A virtual company with employees throughout the East Coast, Civilience is a situational awareness-signaling platform providing health security as a lifestyle. The initial focus is on identifying “transmissibility” or infectiousness as a way to help people safely integrate the business of life in a new post-pandemic reality.

“Our partnership with Civilience will allow us to expand the reach and impact of the 1-Check Covid technology and add value to a health security platform that already has users scattered across the globe,” said UNeMed President and CEO, Michael Dixon.

Civilience will roll the app into its portfolio while updating accuracy and expanding functions. The app will enable users to understand at a glance the regional risk of infection in their local area and the risk of infection at a venue such as at an event or store. The app will also help people understand on a personal level their risks both of catching or passing infection to others.

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will continue to collaborate with Civilience as clinicians learn more about the virus; the disease and conditions it creates; how the infection progresses; and what impacts might be created from additional factors, such as vaccinations or previous COVID-19 infections. To help with that collaboration, Civilience plans to headquarter in Omaha once the pandemic improves.

“Our name combines ‘civil defense’ and ‘resilience,'” said Civilience CEO and founder Rina Singh. “We empower people and their communities by helping them to take informed and incentivized action in the face of challenges, natural or manmade.”

Civilience also expects to build the app into a screener that goes beyond COVID-19. Future plans include screeners for seasonal flu and other emergency-level infections.

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MidWest Drug Development Conference sets initial slate of participants, more to come

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OMAHA, Nebraska (February 22, 2021)—With a little more than eight months before the MidWest Drug Development Conference returns from its one-year hiatus, nine universities have already announced their intention to participate in the two-day event.

The preliminary list of participating institutions:

  • Kansas State University
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • University of Oklahoma
  • WARF (University of Wisconsin)

A handful of spots remain open for additional participants, which are expected to fill out in the coming weeks. Previous participants have included Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, University of Iowa, University of Kentucky and University of Missouri, to name a few.

Each participating institution will highlight two or three of their new therapeutic developments in short, 10-minute presentations. Specific information about those presentations will be announced later this summer.

The conference is tentatively scheduled for October 4-5.

“Hopefully, as the vaccine rollout continues, we’ll reach a point very soon when large, in-person events like this will be safe again,” event organizer and director of licensing at UNeMed, Matt Boehm, said earlier this year.

UNeMed is the conference’s primary organizer and sponsor, and the technology transfer office for all Omaha campuses of the University of Nebraska.

The 2020 MidWest Drug Development Conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, a dozen universities presented 42 new, drug-related technologies. The audience was a collection of pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, venture capital groups and other potential partners who could help further develop those new technologies.

In 2019, the second year of the conference, 111 people attended, including representatives from 30 companies and investment groups. About 240 one-on-one partnering meetings were scheduled over the two-day conference.

Due to the remaining uncertainty for 2021, however, registrations will remain closed for the time being.

Those interested to learn more about the concern may subscribe for any updates as they happen. They may also reach out to conference organizers to learn more about the conference, speakers, sponsorships opportunities, or other details.

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Several inventors to be honored as Distinguished Scientists today

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OMAHA, Neb. (Feb. 23, 2021)—Several key inventors on more than 50 innovations will be honored today at 4:30 p.m. when the University of Nebraska Medical Center presents its virtual Distinguished Scientists Awards ceremony.

Jingwei Xie, PhD

“We weren’t surprised to see some of our top inventors listed as Distinguished Scientists,” said Matt Boehm, PhD, UNeMed’s Director of Licensing. “Excellent research creates opportunities to develop discoveries into products that improve healthcare.”

While each of the 2020 Distinguished Scientists have made a remarkable impact on research at UNMC, they are also driving past presentations and publications to make sure their research and discoveries make an impact on society.

For example, three in particular stand out as inventors listed on at least 43 inventions: Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, PhD; Hanjun Wang, MD; and Jingwei Xie, PhD.

Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, PhD

Dr. Xie, an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and a leader in the Regenerative Medicine program, has more than two dozen inventions to his credit, many specializing in nanofiber-based materials that promote wound healing and tissue growth.

Previously, Dr. Xie was presented the New Investigator award in 2017, the same year UNeMed named his “Nanofiber Sponges for Hemostasis” as the Most Promising New Invention of the Year.

He was also presented the 2019 Chancellor Emeritus Harold M. Maurer, MD, and Beverly Maurer Scientific Achievement Award, and was honored as one of UNeMed’s “Innovators of the Year” in 2020.

Dr. Gurumurthy was also among UNeMed’s 2020 “Innovators of the Year.”

Hanjun Wang, MD

Hanjun Wang, MD

A professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and the director of the Mouse Genome Engineering Core Facility, Dr. Gurumurthy has 10 inventions during his tenure at UNMC. Most of his inventions involve improvements to the CRISPR gene-editing tool, one of which is license to an industrial partner.

Dr. Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology, and has two inventions that are currently licensed to commercialization partners, including a midsized biotech and a recently created startup company.

His work on methods for treating cardiovascular diseases has led to more than a dozen new inventions; and more than $1 million in industrial sponsored research that will help further develop his discoveries.

Dr. Wang was previously presented a UNMC New Investigator Award in 2015.

The portal to watch the ceremony, and a complete list of all UNMC’s 2020 honorees—including the Scientist Laureate, the highest honor UNMC bestows to researchers—is available on UNMC’s website: https://www.unmc.edu/research/distinguished-scientists/index.html.

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UNMC startup secures $1.93 million for its new arthritis treatment, ProGel

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OMAHA, Nebraska (February 1, 2021)—A startup company founded by UNMC College of Pharmacy scientist Dong Wang, PhD, landed a fast-track Small Business Innovation and Research grant of nearly $2 million for a potentially transformative new treatment for arthritis.

The initial Phase I National Institute on Drug Abuse award of $250,000 supported a successful proof of concept study. The Phase I grant was supported with an additional $100,000 in matching funds from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The $1.68 million Phase II funding was approved on Jan. 5, 2021. It will support a series of pre-clinical studies that are designed to open the door to filing an investigational new drug application with the FDA.

Dr. Wang

“This will prepare us for talking to the FDA about the design and implementation of a clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the new drug,” Dr. Wang said, adding later: “We’re really lucky because the rheumatology and orthopedic programs at UNMC are world class, and have established the Nebraska Arthritis Outcomes Research Center, which has the personnel and expertise to conduct the clinical trials. The campus will be an ideal place to initiate the clinical studies.”

Dr. Wang founded Ensign Pharmaceutical on a novel formulation called ProGel, which is an injectable liquid. After ProGel is injected, it transforms into a gel-like substance as it reaches body temperature. The gel is then more likely to linger in the affected area, concentrating the pharmaceutical payload exactly where it needs to be.

Any number of pharmaceuticals can be combined with ProGel, making it a “platform technology.” Platform technologies like ProGel can be used for localized and sustained delivery of a variety of therapeutic agents to treat a broad spectrum of clinical conditions.

Ensign’s first product will incorporate a potent steroid, dexamethasone, into the ProGel formulation. The Phase II study will identify the optimal formulation, and evaluate its long-term efficacy in the treatment of arthritic joint pain.

Dexamethasone is a synthetic version of an anti-inflammatory steroid normally produced by the human adrenal gland. It is a common treatment for lupus, asthma and many other inflammatory diseases, and has gained recent notoriety for its potential in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. When injected into a joint, dexamethasone provides temporary relief of debilitating pain and swelling caused by osteoarthritis, a chronic condition that slowly erodes the protective cartilage at the end of bones.

“It’s important to note that there is no known cure for osteoarthritis,” said Ensign’s Chief Medical Officer, Steven Goldring, MD, former Chief of Rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unfortunately, the best we can do today is to manage the pain and inflammation.”

While effective for pain relief, the benefit of dexamethasone is unfortunately short-lived, usually lasting only a few days. However, when formulated with Dr. Wang’s ProGel, dexamethasone has the potential to remain active much longer, potentially providing relief for months.

“In mouse models of osteoarthritis, ProGel has shown effective pain relief for at least four months,” Dr. Wang said, “but a mouse is very, very different than a human being…These new experiments will help us to better predict how it may work in humans, and to optimize the drug design to provide similar sustained pain relief in humans.”

The hydrogel allows a slow release of the payload—dexamethasone, in this case—while being retained at the injection site. In addition to providing a more sustained and stable local release of medication, the hydrogel also has the benefit of limiting potential harmful side effects, including weight gain, increased blood sugar, insomnia and osteoporosis.

Ensign Pharmaceutical and ProGel also won the 2020 Business Innovation Live Pitch competition in Phoenix during the Orthopaedic Research Society’s annual meeting.

“Something like that is great because it shows us that we’re not the only ones who are excited about this technology and this company,” said Ensign’s CEO Brian Beck.

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Dixon will speak at online symposium

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Online forum will focus on entrepreneurial opportunities with U.S. Defense

OMAHA, Nebraska (January 29, 2020)—A free online symposium will walk through various local entrepreneurial opportunities in the national defense market.

Michael Dixon

Dr. Dixon

The symposium is ideal for early-stage ventures and startup companies that have potential for the military or national security. The forum will explore the nature of defense venture development and a federal grant programs dedicated to small businesses and early-stage technologies.

Among the planned speakers is UNeMed President and CEO, Michael Dixon, PhD. His 10-minute presentation is set for 10:15 a.m.

Other presentations will provide overviews of other local resources that include the Nebraska Business Development Center, startup accelerator NMotion, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising.

Scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5, the Entrepreneurial Symposium will focus on the National Security Innovation Network’s acceleration program for business startups. More specifically, the accelerator seeks new, creative solutions to problems facing the Department of Defense and U.S. armed services members.

The symposium is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with an overview of the National Security Innovation Network, a program within the Department of Defense that intends to help connect universities and entrepreneurs on projects that can meet the needs of national defense and security.

The online conference is expect to conclude at 1:30 p.m.

Registration is free and open to all. To register and learn more about the event go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/entrepreneurial-symposium-tickets-136480778683.

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UNeTech to help with new postdoc grant program

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OMAHA, Neb. (January 19, 2021)—A new funding opportunity from the National Cancer Institute aims squarely at helping post-doctoral researchers advance university innovations into new startup companies.

Called the Small Business Transition Grant for Early Career Scientists, it is part of the Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research programs, or STTR/SBIR for short. The stated purpose of the new grant is to help postdocs transition from academia to an entrepreneurial enterprise.

Joe Runge

An advantage for UNMC cancer researchers is the added resource of UNeTech, the University’s startup accelerator and incubator institute. Among UNeTech’s critical strengths are its resources dedicated to support university entrepreneurs. In particular, those resources include assistance with writing the grant proposal, company formation and mentoring.

“The transition grant opportunity is proof that NIH really gets the challenges faced by new graduates to start entrepreneurial careers,” UNeTech’s Associate Director Joe Runge said. “UNeTech exists to take advantage of programs like this, and I am so excited to help brilliant scientists use it to start amazing companies.”

Proposals for the transition grant program must fit into at least one of the following categories:

  1. Therapeutics and preventative agents
  2. Imaging technologies, interventional devices and in vivo diagnostics
  3. In vitro and ex vivo diagnostics and prognostics

A transition grant would begin as a Phase I STTR, which would allow the postdoc to continue working at the university while completing proof of concept studies. Those studies could then be used to propel the technology into a small business startup, and potentially transition to a Phase II SBIR award. Phase II SBIR grants are often two-year awards that build on the research and development of a Phase I STTR.

The transition grant would also qualify for Nebraska’s SBIR/STTR grant-matching program through the Department of Economic Development.

Letters of intent for the new transition grant are due 30 days before the application. The application deadline is March 10, 2021. Anyone interested in pursuing a transition grant should contact UNeTech Associate Director, Joe Runge, at 559-1181 or hrunge@unmc.ecu.

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Murari-Kanti headlines Bio Nebraska event

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OMAHA, Neb. (January 14, 2021)—Catherine Murari-Kanti, PhD, a licensing specialist at UNeMed, is the featured speaker for a Nebraska Women in STEM event planned for Thursday, Feb. 4.

Dr. Murari-Kanti’s presentation is titled, “Women and Entrepreneurship: Can we do it? Yes we can!”

Catherine Murari-Kanti

Dr. Murari-Kanti

The one-hour virtual event is planned to start at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $25, but free for students. To register and learn more, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-and-entrepreneurship-can-we-do-it-yes-we-can-tickets-136009027663.

She will discuss potential solutions for women entrepreneurs and the obstacles they face. She will also discuss her work in technology transfer and research commercialization, and lay out some of the entrepreneurial opportunities available through UNeMed and the wider Omaha community.

Bio Nebraska is hosting the event as a part of its Nebraska Women in STEM initiative, which is aimed at helping support and encourage women interested and specializing in scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical fields. Bio Nebraska is a trade organization aimed at helping grow the state’s “bio-ecosystem.”

Dr. Murari-Kanti holds a PhD in cancer research, and joined UNeMed in 2016. She evaluates new inventions for their commercial potential and helps establish intellectual property protections for new innovations and discoveries. She works closely with University innovators to help them push their inventions beyond the laboratory and into the market. She also has significant experience working within the entrepreneurial and startup community.

UNeMed is the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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MidWest Drug Development Conference plans to return in 2021

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OMAHA, Neb. (January 13, 2021)—After the third annual MidWest Drug Development Conference was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are planning to bring the popular event back later this year.

Planners have circled October 4-5 for the two-day conference.

“Obviously, as we begin this planning phase, it’s with a healthy dose of cautious optimism,” said Matt Boehm, Ph.D., the event organizer and director of licensing at UNeMed. “Hopefully, as the vaccine rollout continues, we’ll reach a point very soon when large, in-person events like this will be safe again.”

UNeMed is the conference’s primary organizer and sponsor and the technology transfer office for all Omaha campuses of the University of Nebraska.

The MidWest Drug Development Conference gained popularity for its ability to bring academic researchers, venture capital groups and pharmaceutical representatives together. The in-person meetings and networking opportunities proved to be the backbone of the conference’s success, Boehm said.

The value of the conference was in combining assets of leading Midwest universities into one event that served as a one-stop shop for major pharmaceutical and investment firms to find new treatments and cures hidden in so-called “flyover country.”

In 2019, a dozen universities presented 42 new, drug-related technologies in short, 10-minutes packages. The audience was a collection of pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, venture capital groups and other potential partners who could help further develop those new technologies.

In previous years, participating institutions included Colorado, Colorado State, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Mayo Clinic, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Chicago, Wisconsin’s WARF, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The 2019 group alone accounted for more than a combined $6.65 billion in research expenditures and 2,875 new inventions in 2017, according to the most recent data available.

All told, 111 people attended the two-day conference in 2019, including representatives from 30 companies and investment groups. About 240 one-on-one partnering meetings were scheduled over the two-day conference.

Due to the remaining uncertainty, registrations will remain closed, but those interested to learn more about the concern may subscribe for any updates as they happen. They may also reach out to conference organizers to learn more about the conference, the speakers, sponsorships opportunities, or other details.

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The year in review: Highlights from 2020

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by Charles Litton, UNeMed | December 28, 2020

It’s time again to look back over the previous year, where we review highlights and reflect on some of the more important stories, developments and most popular items from 2020.

1. COVID-19 Innovations

Without question, the brightest highlight from the previous year was the inspiring level of innovation and tenacity from all inventors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine. From the start of the pandemic’s U.S. outbreak, innovations related to COVID-19—and the novel coronavirus that created it—flooded the UNeMed inbox. Inventors created a new method for sterilizing what had been single-use items for personal protection equipment like masks and gowns. Inventors found clever ways to add more effective layers of protection with new intubation shields, improved aerosol devices, an adaptive filter housing, and new versions of common tools that helped ease international shortages for things like nasal swabs and face shields. Additional COVID-19 technologies that captured wide interest: A smartphone app that helps people screen for COVID-19 symptoms, an adapter that allows for wider use of varied air purification systems, a new PCR test for COVID-19 and a new platform for creating vaccines. And there were dozens more, which is why UNeMed took the unprecedented approach to name all the inventors of COVID-related innovations and named them collectively as the 2020 Innovators of the Year during their annual Innovation Awards ceremony in October (see below).

2. Success Story: Radux

StandTall is a device Greg Gordon, M.D., invented and is among the products he sells through his startup company, Radux Device.

StandTall is a device Greg Gordon, M.D., invented and is among the products he sells through his startup company, Radux Devices.

The story of UNeMed’s most recent startup success topped the charts as the most popular blog post of 2020. The story highlights Radux Devices, a company founded in 2012 to help interventional radiologists and their patients with faster, safer and less expensive fluoroscopic procedures. Despite the pandemic, the Omaha startup has products in more than 70 hospital systems nationwide and continues to grow.

3. Patent Leaders

The top news story of 2020 announced the University of Nebraska in the top-100 for international institutions that secured U.S. patents in 2019. System wide, University of Nebraska inventors were awarded 44 patents. Of those, UNeMed secured 21 for UNMC or UNO inventors, and all but four were licensed to nine different companies.

4. Prototyping grant lands safely

In May, UNeMed landed important grant funding that could help seed a new industry for Omaha and the surrounding area. A $50,000 grant from SHARPhub will build the Medical Device Prototype Pipeline project. UNeMed will identify projects with potential as products that can help create startup companies, then the Machining and Prototyping Core facility at UNO will help create prototypes for further testing. Then UNeTech, the University’s startup incubator, will then provide space, expertise and support to help those young startups and medical devices move succeed.

5. Parenting App finds greener grass

Rosie Zweiback

A popular parenting application found its collaboration with UNMC researchers so productive, that the headquarters relocated from Pennsylvania to Omaha. The web app—Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale, or KIPS for short—is dedicated to supporting and providing resources to early childhood development professionals. Family support organizations like social services or school districts rely on KIPS to help train staff as they assist families with young children that need or want extra help. KIPS can also measure a parenting program’s impacts and outcomes.

6. MWDD: What could have been

Almost a full year ago, UNeMed and the drug development industry, were abuzz with the planned return of the MidWest Drug Development Conference. I nearly January UNeMed announced that the conference would return for a third year, and almost immediately attracted interest from all corners. In the ensuing months, it became more and more clear that the conference could not continue as planned, until it was finally and officially postponed in July. Plans for a 2021 conference are still underway, but an official announcement won’t happen for another several weeks.

7. Success Story: VIC raises $20M

Virtual Incision MIRAAny regular visitor to UNeMed.com is probably familiar with the continued success and growth of Virtual Incision Corporation. In January, the company announced the successful close of its Series B+ round of financing, to the tune of $20 million. The added capitol is expected to help the surgical robotics company clear regulatory hurdles and continue its intended transformation of laparoscopic surgery.

8. Innovation Awards

Thanks to the pandemic and UNeMed’s resulting inability to host a live event, the Innovation Awards dropped a few spots after five straight years at the top of previous year-end lists. The virtual Awards ceremony named all 44 UNMC and UNO inventors of pandemic-related inventions as the 2020 Innovators of the Year. UNeMed also honored collaborators Joseph McMordie, MD, and Daniel Surdell, MD, for their device, “Anterior Cervical Space Spreader,” as the Most Promising New Invention of the year. UNeMed also recognized and celebrated the work of UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who contributed to a new invention disclosure, a licensed technology or received a United States patent during the previous fiscal year.

9. Antibiotic peptides

The worldwide quest for new antibiotics made a huge leap forward when UNMC researcher Gus Wang, PhD, announced his ability to synthesize two antimicrobial peptides that have potential for intravenous clinical use. Until now, most antimicrobial peptides have only shown promise as a topical salve or lotion when applied at the site of infection.

10. 2020 Annual Report

2020 Annual Report Cover

2020 Annual Report Cover

For the second straight year UNeMed’s annual report announcement cracked the top 10. The 2020 report focused on the impact of the pandemic to innovative efforts at UNMC and UNO, and details several key metrics for measuring tech transfer success at UNeMed.

Several posts from previous years remain popular and relevant, particularly those that focus on day-to-day operations and legal issues associated with intellectual property.
1. Veins and arteries are just pipes, right?
2. How to determine who is an inventor on a patent: Unraveling inventorship vs. authorship
3. Technology transfer 101: Defining research commercialization
4. Five important aspects of copyrights that you should know
5. What you need to know about royalty distribution

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UNeMed releases 2020 annual report

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2020 Annual Report Cover

View or download the 2020 Annual Report here.

OMAHA, Nebraska (Oct. 30, 2020)—UNeMed released today its 2020 annual report, which details UNeMed’s key metrics, and highlights notable achievements during the fiscal year ending in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic loomed large for the report, dominating the cover design while also proving to be a key content feature within.

In his open letter to readers, UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon, PhD, noted that the pandemic forced the cancellation of the MidWest Drug Development Conference and pushed the annual Innovation Week events into the virtual realm. Yet, despite all the cancellations, postponements and fears for health and safety, inventors at UNMC and UNO seemed to flourish.

“From the beginning of the outbreak, inventors at the University of Nebraska turned their ingenuity on the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic,” he wrote. “The result was a flurry of innovation that not only kept our staff as busy as ever, but helped thousands across this planet fight COVID-19.”

He goes on to note that the 73 new inventions submitted during the second half of the 2020 fiscal year is a new UNeMed record, and 28 of those inventions were directly related to fighting the pandemic. A complete list of those pandemic-related innovations is included in the report.

The second-half burst of innovation fueled 105 invention submissions in 2020, which is the third-most since UNeMed was founded in 1991.

Dixon concludes his letter with a thank-you:

“So, rather than pat ourselves on the back for doing what we’re supposed to do, I’d rather take this moment—on behalf of everyone at UNeMed—to thank all those at UNMC, UNO and Nebraska Medicine for all they’ve done in 2020 to help make this world a little bit better.

“If there’s one thing to take away from the year that was 2020, it should be that.”

Other metrics highlighted in the annual report include patents, agreements, revenue and other benchmarks that measure UNeMed’s commercialization efforts.

The annual report also highlights the 2019 Innovation Awards and UNeMed’ relationship with UNeTech. UNeTech is the University’s startup accelerator/incubator program, aimed toward helping startups linked to University innovations.

Finally, several key technologies currently available for licensing are also included in the report.

The report can be viewed online, and printed copies are also available. Contact UNeMed to receive a free printed copy.

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Pandemic innovations highlight 2020 Innovation Awards

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OMAHA, Nebraska (October 29, 2020)—UNeMed’s annual Innovation Week festivities concluded today with its 2020 Research Innovation Awards Ceremony, which featured a Most Promising New Invention, the Startup of the Year and the Innovators of the Year.

“The pandemic did not slow down innovation here, in fact it added fuel to the fire,” UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon, PhD, said during the 40-minute presentation. “We saw more than twice as many new inventions (73) in the last two quarters of 2020, making it the most productive six-month span in our history.”

For just the second time in the event’s 14-year history, UNeMed recognized the efforts of a group of inventors as the 2020 Innovators of the Year. More specifically, the award went to all UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who contributed a new invention related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic during the fiscal year ending in 2020.

In just a few months, 44 University inventors combined their expertise and experience to create 28 new inventions related to the pandemic.

Download the 2020 Innovation Awards program.

Download the 2020 Innovation Awards program.

Most of those innovations focused on helping protect healthcare providers, and some were fast-tracked to market and used throughout the world. For example, UNMC inventors created an intubation shield that several American hospitals and care facilities purchased. Another device, an infectious disease filter adapter for air masks, sold in bulk quantities to the U.S. Air Force.

Other innovations included mobile applications to help track or screen the pandemic; new mouse models and assays to help improve study of the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic; solutions to personal protective equipment shortages; and solutions to limit the spread of infectious disease.

The Most Promising New Invention was the “Anterior Cervical Space Spreader,” a device born from the collaboration of surgeons Joseph McMordie, MD, and Daniel Surdell, MD. Their device is a new approach to c-spine retractors that could help future surgeons increase their access during complicated and delicate neurosurgeries.

Sponsored by UNeTech, the Startup of the Year award went to BreezMed, founded by UNMC psychiatrist Stephen Salzbrenner. BreezMed was founded on a software solution Dr. Salzbrenner created to help doctors and pharmacists better manage patient prescriptions.

The Innovation Awards confers recognition for all UNMC and UNO inventors that, during the previous fiscal year, submitted a new invention, were issued a United States patent or had a technology licensed.

A video of the 2020 Innovation Awards ceremony is also available through UNeMed’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/YKRszu4ajkU.

More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards ceremony, including its history and awardees, can be found at https://www.unemed.com/innovation-week.

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Innovation Awards ceremony is today

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OMAHA, Nebraska (October 29, 2020)—Innovation Week concludes today at noon with the 2020 Research Innovation Awards ceremony.

The Awards ceremony can be viewed via Zoom at http://bit.ly/iWEEK20awards.

The awards will be held via Zoom, and will honor all UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who submitted a new invention, were awarded a U.S. Patent or had a technology licensed during the 2020 fiscal year. UNeMed will also name the year’s Most Promising New Invention and will announce the “Innovator of the Year.”

UNeMed is the technology transfer and commercialization office for UNO and UNMC, and sponsors Innovation Week each year as a way to celebrate the recognition innovation and discovery at the University of Nebraska.

Innovation Week began on Monday with a panel discussion about SBIR/STTR funding, and continued on Tuesday with a seminar about women in STEM fields and panel discussion about local web and app development services. Then, on Wednesday, UNeMed hosted another panel discussion, this one about local prototyping and manufacturing resources.

More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards can be found at unemed.com/innovation-week.

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Getting early advice is key for prototyping, manufacturing panelists

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OMAHA, Nebraska (October 28, 2020)—UNeMed’s Innovation Week continued today with a panel discussion that looked at manufacturing and prototyping resources for inventors and entrepreneurs.

In Zoom meeting that ran a little under an hour, an expert panel discussed the steps and processes involved with getting an idea from the back of a napkin to a product on the market.

“When they come with a napkin, a lot more work has to be done before you get it pushed through, that’s for sure,” said panelist Mark Keffler, the CEO at Omaha Custom Manufacturing. “When we get a prototype in here, the first thing we have to do is dissect the prototype, figure out what makes it tick.”

The other panelists all agreed that it is usually best to bring in experts to guide the design and prototyping process as early as possible.

As the panelists described, and advanced protortpy might look and function well, but setting it up for large-scale production might not be feasible. Sometime and inventor or business owner might have a product that just can’t be easily made with current manufacturing techniques, or it would be far too expensive. When that happens, the panelists all agreed, then the process has to start over, nearly from scratch.

The entire panel discussion is available on UNeMed’s YouTube channel, and can be viewed at https://youtu.be/B-IXgCtVZ-c.

Other panelists include Rakesh Srivastava and Kyler Meredith from the Hastings-based Shabri; Brian Knarr and Travis Vanderheyden from UNO’s Machining and Prototyping Core; and Tyler Keffeler at Omaha Custom Manufacturing.

Innovation Week concludes tomorrow with the Innovation Awards ceremony at noon.

The awards will be held via Zoom, and will honor all UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who submitted a new invention, were awarded a U.S. Patent or had a technology licensed during the 2020 fiscal year. UNeMed will also name the year’s Most Promising New Invention and will announce the “Innovator of the Year.”

The Awards ceremony can be viewed via Zoom at http://bit.ly/iWEEK20awards.

More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards can be found at unemed.com/innovation-week.

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Prototyping, manufacturing panel starts at noon

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OMAHA, Nebraska (October 28, 2020)—Innovation Week continues today with an expert panel examining the local resources available to researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs interested in developing software and web applications.

This will be a virtual event hosted via Zoom, begins at noon and is expected to run about an hour. The discussion is free and open to all at http://bit.ly/iWEEK20WebDev.

Planned panelists are UNO’s Brian Knarr, Omaha Manufacturing’s Tyler Keffeler and Shabri’s Kyler Meredith.

Brian Knarr

Brian Knarr

Brian Knarr, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Machining and Prototyping Core in the Department of Biomechanics at UNO. His research takes an interdisciplinary approach by combining clinical, experimental, computational, and device design concepts to develop clinically translatable rehabilitation.

Tyler Keffeler is Vice President of Omaha Custom Manufacturing, a full-service contract manufacturing company.  As a member of the executive management team, he oversees business development and project management.

Kyler Meredith specializes in rapid prototyping, batch manufacturing and product development, using additive manufacturing methods to bring designs to life.

Tyler Keffeler

Tyler Keffeler

Innovation Week concludes on Thursday, Oct. 29, with the Innovation Awards ceremony at noon.

The awards will be held via Zoom, and will honor all UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who submitted a new invention, were awarded a U.S. Patent or had a technology licensed during the 2020 fiscal year. UNeMed will also name the year’s Most Promising New Invention and will announce the “Innovator of the Year.”

The Awards ceremony can be viewed via Zoom at http://bit.ly/iWEEK20awards.

Kyler Meredith

Kyler Meredith

Innovation Week opened on Monday with a panel discussion about SBIR/STTR funding, and continued on Tuesday with a seminar about women in STEM fields and panel discussion about local web and app development services.

More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards can be found at unemed.com/innovation-week.

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