Nebraska ranks among world’s top 100 in earning U.S. patents

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LINCOLN, Neb. (July 11, 2018)—A new report ranks the University of Nebraska among the top 100 universities worldwide in earning U.S. patents to protect innovative research and discoveries.

The report was released this summer by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. It ranks Nebraska 70th globally for the number of U.S. patents awarded to NU’s technology transfer offices – NUtech Ventures at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and UNeMed Corp. at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

By earning patents, NUtech Ventures and UNeMed can work effectively with NU faculty, staff and students to bring research to the marketplace, resulting in local startup companies, new jobs and university-licensed products that grow the economy and improve quality of life in Nebraska and beyond.

Dr. Bounds

“To be named in the company of some of the world’s leading research universities is one more sign that the University of Nebraska is on a remarkable trajectory in growing our state for the future,” NU President Hank Bounds said. “The good work of our technology transfer offices is helping our talented faculty and students generate broad impact from their innovations – a benefit not just to our economy, but to the people whose lives are ultimately transformed by research born at the University of Nebraska.”

Bounds noted that the university represents a $3.9 billion annual economic engine for the state, generating 11,000 new graduates each year who meet critical workforce needs in agriculture, healthcare, teaching, business, STEM and other areas. NU research, which alone has an almost $400 million annual economic impact, also continues to earn recognition. An independent report last year ranked the University of Nebraska in the top 16 percent nationally for its success in commercializing faculty work in areas like agriculture, engineering and medicine for economic growth.

The new report’s rankings are based on 2017 patent data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Nebraska’s 37 patents include a robotic surgical device and a structural concrete formula to shield buildings from electromagnetic pulse attack.

After securing a patent, the university brings research to market by licensing technology to existing companies or university startup companies. Most university technology is considered early-stage and requires additional research and development.

For example, the structural concrete formula – developed by College of Engineering faculty Christopher Tuan and Lim Nguyen – is licensed to a U.S. company developing buildings that shield from electromagnetic pulses. The robotic surgical device is licensed to university startup company Virtual Incision Corp., led by UNL engineering professor Shane Farritor and UNMC surgeon Dmitry Oleynikov, with the goal of making surgeries more affordable and less invasive.

“We look forward to these newly patented technologies impacting society over the next several decades as they are commercialized,” said Brad Roth, executive director of NUtech Ventures. “Together with UNeMed, our offices are committed to protecting the University of Nebraska’s intellectual property as a critical step in moving innovations from the lab to the marketplace.”

UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon said: “The innovations described in these patents not only have the chance to significantly improve health care, but also form the backbone of the many new startup companies that create jobs and wealth at a local level.”

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Food for thought: UNO capstone program can drive UNMC innovations

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Sachin Pawaskar (left) and Thang Nguyen chat shortly before UNO’s IS&T Capstone presentation on June 1, 2018. The project was the realization of WeChart, Nguyen’s invention of a more efficient way to teach nursing students better clinical charting skills.

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | June 18, 2018

Nourish an invention with a robust diet of diverse thoughts and competing ideas. Go ahead.

Maybe that sounds dangerous. But diversity of thought is a super-food for those delicate innovations as they embark on what will be an absolutely brutal journey.

It’s some tough love, to be sure, but do that and remarkable things can happen.

Maybe you would rather swaddle an idea in bubble wrap and wait for the phone to ring? There’s a word for that. It’s called neglect. All you’ll likely do then is watch that idea grow old, wither and die.

It happens. It doesn’t even have to be anyone’s fault, either. It’s just the dark side of innovation that happens everywhere. Sometimes there just isn’t enough oxygen to go around.

An ER nurse, Thang Nguyen, saw it happening to one of his ideas. As one of the more innovative people at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, most of his ideas come right out of the clinic. He has a long list of better, more efficient ways to do things like washing debris from wounds and helping patients breathe.

Just like any prolific inventor, Thang finds that sometimes those ideas work and sometimes they don’t. And, like too many clever ideas and better ways, sometimes they never get a real chance to fail or succeed.

One of Nguyen’s ideas—a software program to help nursing students learn the arcane art of charting patients in real time—was heading down a path toward obscurity.

Tapping new resources

Thang’s idea: A new way to train student nurses without risking patient safety or privacy. Medical schools don’t often have a lot of resources that involve advanced coding and application design.

Except, it turns out, they actually did: Right down the road at UNO’s Peter Kiewit Institute, a seven-minute drive with bad traffic. PKI is home to the University of Nebraska Omaha’s College of Information Science and Technology and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Engineering.

“There’s a lot of talent here at PKI that no one at UNMC even knows about,” Nguyen said.

Creating that well-balanced meal of innovation super food is not that hard. It turns out, the first, most important step is just getting the right people in the same room. What Nguyen really needed wasn’t another person in healthcare. What he needed was someone completely removed from healthcare. He needed a software engineer.

They have those in spades at UNO’s College of Information and Science Technology, or IS&T for short. They also make some serious hay with a capstone program where IS&T grad students develop concepts and ideas into actual things. Working prototypes ready for full-scale testing and, in some cases, widespread use.

Nguyen’s idea, called WeChart, lay dormant for four years. Then it joined the capstone program.

Working with UNO, Nguyen said he got more “accomplished in one semester than we did in the previous four years.”

It took a full academic year and two teams of students, but Nguyen now has a final product that, once upon a time, only lived in his imagination. It now lives in the real world.

And it will be used in the real world. UNMC’s emergency medicine department will train their student nurses with it. If all goes well, we might see other teaching hospitals and medical schools adopt the charting training program.

That’s great. Wonderful, in fact.

The bigger picture

For my money, the University of Nebraska—and other similar institutions, if they’re paying attention—should be excited about a more important prototype. I’m talking about the relationship forged between two disparate departments and two wildly different campuses.

“Medical people think one way,” Nguyen said, “a software engineer thinks one way…We should not forget that we are there to solve one central problem even if there are multiple ways of looking at it.”

For Nguyen, the “problem” of the hour was too-common charting errors from inexperienced and poorly trained young nurses. His WeChart application is one solution. We’ll find out real soon if that solution works like we all hope it does.

But there are bigger problems. Unknown problems. Problems the University of Nebraska can identify and solve, if the right people can get together.

“Why can’t we be a powerhouse,” asked the capstone program leader, Sachin Pawaskar, Ph.D., a research technology fellow at IS&T. “I think we have that potential.”

Sachin Pawaskar, leader of UNO’s IS&T Capstone program, addresses the gathering following his team’s WeChart presentation on June 1, 2018.

Pawaskar, who also holds an MBA, made it clear the WeChart project was critically important for the capstone program. He wanted a “showcase of what a successful partnership and relationship could be.”

That showcase will be on full display on campus at UNMC in the coming semesters as young nursing students put WeChart through the paces.

Nguyen’s idea will finally get the chance to sink or swim on its own merits, which is all anyone can really ask.

But more than that, UNMC and UNO now have a buffet line that can fuel some innovative ideas across a treacherous divide—the chasm between the sketch of a promising concept and a final product that actually makes life better.

“I really think that the healthcare area is just set up for an IT revolution,” Pawaskar said shortly after his students presented their WeChat project to Nguyen and dozens of others. Pawaskar added: “I really feel that healthcare can be totally revolutionized if we can incorporate IT at the right places at the right levels…It’s not any silver bullet, but there’s so many things you can do.”

Nguyen nodded: “And the best part? All the pieces are already here.”

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Scherr promoted to full-time licensing position

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Tyler ScherrOMAHA, Neb. (May 15, 2018)—Tyler Scherr, Ph.D., has been promoted from intern to a full-time licensing associate position with UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“We are incredibly fortunate to add the kind of rare skills and experience that Dr. Scherr brings to the team,” UNeMed president and CEO Michael Dixon said. “In addition to having a highly successful graduate research career, Dr. Scherr is an entrepreneur that understands the challenges and benefits of developing new ideas into products that can have a positive impact on healthcare.”

The promotion and full-time status expands his role of evaluating, marketing, and seeking partnerships for new inventions, cures, treatments and medical devices developed at UNMC and UNO. Dr. Scherr first joined UNeMed as a part-time intern in 2017.

UNeMed’s mission is to help UNMC and UNO researchers, faculty and staff move innovations and ground-breaking discoveries beyond the laboratory and into the marketplace. Dr. Scherr joins UNeMed’s talented stable of licensing experts who work every day to advance the University’s new discoveries into the future cures, treatments and products that might one-day affect millions around the world.

“The past year-and-a-half at UNeMed has been one of tremendous personal and professional growth,” Dr. Scherr said. “I’m deeply honored to accept this position, and I’m excited to continue working with UNMC’s and UNO’s gifted inventors and entrepreneurs.”

A native of Aberdeen, South Dakota, Dr. Scherr is the son of Dave Scherr and Liz Cox. He is a 2011 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with an undergraduate degree in Biological Systems Engineering. Dr. Scherr received his doctorate in Biomedical Research from UNMC in December of 2016.

Dr. Scherr’s technology portfolio:

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Scherr, Zuniga featured in recent ‘Consider This’

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UNO researcher Jorge Zuniga, Ph.D.—seen here during an Innovation Week event last October—holds up a cybernetic prosthetic hand, which he created almost entirely with 3D printers.

UNO researcher Jorge Zuniga, Ph.D.—seen here during an Innovation Week event last October—holds up a cybernetic prosthetic hand, which he created almost entirely with 3D printers.

OMAHA, Neb. (April 17, 2018)—Tyler Scherr, Ph.D., a licensing associate at UNeMed, and Jorge Zuniga, Ph.D., a biomechanics expert at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s biomechanics department, anchored a recent three-person panel on a local news program, “Consider This.”

The episode aired on Nebraska’s PBS affiliate, NET, and focused entirely on the marvels of 3D printing or additive manufacturing. The program covered a brief history of 3D printing and examined some of its wider applications before diving into current and even future applications.

Tyler Scherr, Ph.D.

Dr. Scherr

Before joining UNeMed, Dr. Scherr played a large role in bringing 3D printing to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. While pursuing his doctorate in biomedical research, he co-founded UNMC’s 3D Maker’s Club.

Dr. Zuniga has gained international notoriety for his work creating affordable prosthetic limbs for children. His innovative use of 3D printing has made prosthetic devices accessible to countless children throughout the world. Much of his work is “open sourced” through his philanthropic project, Cyborg Beast. Many of his products—3D printing files—are largely available to anyone at little or no cost.

James Pierce, a graduate assistant in Dr. Zuniga’s lab, was also on the panel. Pierce is the co-founder of one of Omaha’s first 3D printing ventures, Kül 3D. Cathy Wyatt hosted the program.

“Consider This” is a half-hour weekly program produced by UNO Televeision and the UNO College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media.

Watch the entire episode here or follow this link: http://netnebraska.org/media/media.php?bin=NET&vidgroup=50005871

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Applications now open for 2018 Tech Transfer Boot Camp

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OMAHA, Neb. (May 9, 2018)—The 2018 Technology Transfer Boot Camp is scheduled for Aug. 6-10, UNeMed announced today.

Entering its fourth year, the Tech Transfer Boot Camp is aimed at scientists and students that are interested in what it takes to commercialize a new invention or discovery. The week-long event can also serve as fast-track toward an alternate career in science as a technology transfer professional.

The training program helps scientist gain a wide range of skills and experience that match their scientific knowledge and training.

The program will focus on several key areas relevant to a successful career in technology transfer, including:

  • Invention evaluation
  • Intellectual property law
  • Marketing and commercialization
  • Contract negotiation

UNeMed’s Tech Transfer Boot Camp will dive deeper than simple lectures. Topics wills be explored with hands-on activities meant to teach, correct and reinforce new skills and abilities.

Anyone within the University of Nebraska system is encouraged to apply and participate free of charge, but space is limited. People who aren’t affiliated with the University of Nebraska are also welcome, but will be charged $200 upon acceptance.

Applications will be accepted through Monday, July 30, and will be reviewed in the order they are received until all spaces are filled.

Use the embedded form below or apply here.

More information about the application process and requirements can be found at https://www.unemed.com/about-us/join-our-team#bootcamp.

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Taconic inks license deal for Easi-CRISPR

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Schematic of Easi-CRISPR

Schematic of Easi-CRISPR

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (April 23, 2018)—A technology developed in part at the University of Nebraska Medical Center was signed to a non-exclusive licensing deal that will bring Easi-CRISPR to the market.

Taconic Biosciences announced the agreement in a press release late last week, and indicated they would use the technology to genetically engineer mouse models for research purposes.

“Easi-CRISPR is the next progression of the revolutionary CRISPR/Cas technology,” John Crouse, vice president of scientific services for Taconic, said in the press release. “In an industry where time is a precious resource, access to this technology underscores Taconic’s commitment to providing our customers with the best solutions.”

The Easi-CRISPR technology could reduce research project timelines by six months, Crouse said.

A product of a collaboration between Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, Ph.D., at UNMC and Masato Ohtsuka, Ph.D., at Tokai University in Japan, Easi-CRISPR dramatically improves the efficiency of genetic splicing. Recent headlines—and science-fiction plot lines—have featured CRISPR for is remarkable ability to precisely cut genetic code. What CRISPR cannot do very well, however, is insert or replace the genetic material.

Easi-CRISPR is that solution, providing research scientists the ability to produce genetically modified mice. That will help scientists better understand or possibly even better treat a multitude of diseases including various forms of cancer.

“The discovery of CRISPR hints at products and services that are now possible with Easi-CRISPR,” said Joe Runge, licensing specialist at UNeMed. “We’re over the moon that Taconic is the first of many to start making those possibilities real.”

Taconic is a fully-licensed provider of rodent model generation services and has over 20 years of model design experience. The company provides gene inactivation, gene mutation or replacement, transgene expression, RNAi, and gene editing via CRISPR/Cas9, pronuclear injection, and homologous recombination technologies.

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Free seminar planned: ‘Leveraging Intellectual Property for Success’

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MArk Radtke

Mark Radtke

OMAHA, Neb. (April 5, 2018)—A free seminar covering the importance of intellectual property for startups, small businesses, independent inventors, students and entrepreneurs will be held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Hosted by UNO’s Nebraska Business Development Center, Mark Radtke of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, will deliver “Leveraging Intellectual Property for Success.” Radtke is the Assistant Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional USPTO. He will also be available for one-on-one meeting and small group discussions immediately following the presentation.

The talk is planned for 2-4 p.m. in the Mammel Hall auditorium at UNO’s College of Business Administration at 6708 Pine Street. Free parking will be availing in Lot 5 from 1-6 p.m.

The seminar is free and open to the public.

Any questions should be directed to Wei Jing of the Nebraska Business Development Center at wjing@unomaha.edu.

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Skin holds off nearly all infections, but no match for biofilms

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Bacterial infections are a glitch.

The marvel that is the human immune system keeps us safe from billions of microscopic organisms every day. Skin may not look like much more than a soft and fragile surface, but intact and healthy, it represents an impenetrable wall, equipped with security sensors, armed guards, and decked out in a variety of traps, snares and proximity mines for good measure.

Cheer up kid, it’s worse than it looks. If we can get past the pattern-recognition receptors, those murderous macrophages, pools of acid sweat and gooey oils, those infernal helper bacteria— traitors!— and these new-fangled antimicrobial peptide bombs... we’ll still have all the internal defenses to deal with. But, we gotta’ job to do, kid... you didn’t wanna’ live forever, did you?Innate immunity is formidable: The result of an evolutionary arms race with pathogens that has spanned several hundred million years. The human immune system is really a combination of two overlapping systems: innate and adaptive immunities. While both are important, the ancient innate immune response is comprised of nonspecific defense mechanisms that form the first response to pathogens. Adaptive immunity is much more specific; it learns to specifically target pathogens we have already encountered and, therefore, are likely to encounter again.

Bacterial pathogens only stand a chance when things go wrong. And any medical procedure presents an opportunity for things to go wrong.

A breach in the skin—from a cut, for instance—creates the possibility for surrounding pathogens to enter the body. This is why, given the option, surgical procedures, like implanting a medical device, aren’t just performed anywhere. If cleanliness is next to godliness then the operating room is a holy temple. If bacteria get through that first line of defense, they can cause tissue or organ specific infections or even systemic infections with fatal outcomes.

XKCD.comImplanted medical devices are a double-edged sword, then. On one hand, they are a modern miracle of biomedical engineering; providing a synthetic solution where nature has failed. On the other hand, they represent a literal chink in the armor.

For reasons that aren’t yet completely understood, opportunistic pathogens are highly attracted to these implanted medical devices. Once discovered, the bacterial invaders quickly go to work colonizing the implant until a mature community, or biofilm, is established.

If the bacteria are allowed to establish a biofilm, it has successfully beaten the immune response. About the only option left is to relinquish the territory and hopefully contain the bacteria to that one location in the body. And because antibiotics are impotent against bacterial biofilms, the only effective solution is total removal of the implanted device along with any infected surrounding bone and muscle tissue. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, the patient is also at a significantly increased risk for recurrent infection on any new device.

But if a medical device could be imbued with its own innate immunity, then the implant would be more like human skin. The implant could prevent bacterial attachment and inhibit biofilm formation.

Researchers have long been focused on discovering ways to prevent bacterial biofilm formation on medical devices by modifying the material surface properties. But what if the best solution is simply to think of the implant surface as an extension of the natural surfaces in our body? The first line of defense for these natural surfaces isn’t special patterning or unique physical properties, but innate immunity.

Guangshun Wang, Ph.D., at UNMC, has designed antimicrobial peptides to coat the surface of metallic orthopedic implants, and specifically target MRSA. Not only do these proteins prevent MRSA biofilm formation, but they also recruit host immune cells to help clear any opportunistic bacteria.

The preliminary data looks promising, with impressive effectiveness against MRSA biofilms. Dr. Wang is now seeking corporate partners to sponsor additional proof-of-concept research specifically focused on coating orthopedic implants. The hope is that by adding these peptides to the implant’s surface, Dr. Wang’s technology will effectively imbue the medical device with its own first line of defense.

 

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UNMC-UNO Innovation Accelerator meets for first time

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The first UNMC-UNO Innovation Accelerator Gathering was held earlier this week, an event that was organized in part by the UNMC Department of Emergency Medicine's Research Coordinator, Thang Nguyen (at left). UNeMed's Michael Dixon (upper right) and Deepak Khazanchi, Associate Dean of UNO's College of Information Science and Technology. were also on hand.

The first UNMC-UNO Innovation Accelerator Gathering was held earlier this week, an event that was organized in part by the UNMC Department of Emergency Medicine’s Research Coordinator, Thang Nguyen (at left). UNeMed’s Michael Dixon (upper right) and Deepak Khazanchi (lower right), Associate Dean of UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology. were also on hand.

OMAHA, Neb. (Feb. 21, 2018)—The University of Nebraska Medical Center hosted today the first UNMC-UNO Innovation Accelerator Gathering, a small meet-and-greet between the College of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Information Science and Technology.

The informal meeting was held in the Linder Reading Room at the Michael F. Sorrell Center. The stated goal was the hope of fostering more collaborative projects between the two campuses.

“We wanted to get the channel open so there are no road blocks because there are so many great ideas,” said event organizer Thang Nguyen, MSN, FNP-C. Also a doctoral candidate at UNMC, Nguyen is the research coordinator for UNMC’s Emergency Medicine program, and an Advanced Practice Provider for Nebraska Medicine’s emergency department.

At the meeting, departmental leaders outlined for the group major areas of research interest and clinical expertise. They also suggested how those areas of interest and expertise might overlap, perhaps opening the door to future collaborations.

Michael Dixon, Ph.D., UNeMed’s President and CEO, also addressed the group with brief remarks. He explained how the University’s tech transfer and commercialization office in Omaha can help support the innovations that might grow from those collaborations.

“We just want to be a resource for you,” Dixon told the group. “Hopefully help commercialize your inventions and ideas into products that can go market and actually do what we all want them to do, which is help people live healthier lives.”

Future meetings are not yet planned, but a steering committee was established to help guide potential collaborators, ideas and projects.

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Nebraska lands top Pipeline awards

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Kansas City, Missouri (Jan. 25, 2018)—Nebraska entrepreneurs  were the toast of the show at a regional entrepreneurial awards ceremony last week, receiving recognition for entrepreneurial leadership, best pitch, growth and the Innovator of the Year.

During Pipeline’s annual The Innovators awards ceremony, Omaha startup founder and Nebraska native Evan Luxon was named the 2017 Innovator of the Year. Luxon, the co-founder of Centese—formerly known as Esculon—also won the Innovator Pitch Competition.

Last fall, Centese was among the first startup companies to sign on with UNMC’s incubator program, UNeTech. Centese is developing a self-cleaning chest tube that would be less likely to become blocked or clogged.

Nebraska also claimed the Entrepreneurial Leadership awards for the continued support and advocacy from the University of Nebraska, Nelnet, Prairie Ventures and Linseed Capital. The University of Nebraska’s Pipeline sponsorship includes contributions from UNeMed, UNeTech and the University’s tech transfer office in Lincoln, NUtech Ventures.

Pipeline is an entrepreneurial mentoring program in the Midwest that offers a handful of highly selective entrepreneurial fellowships each year. Fellows in the Pipeline program received hands-on training from successful entrepreneurs and mentors from around the region and across the nation. The program helps fellows refine their business plans, raise money and dramatically improve their chances for ultimate success.

The program culminates with the annual Innovators awards celebration.

Nebraska won a fourth award, the Pipeline Entrepreneur Growth award, which was presented to Lincoln resident and Bulu Box co-founder Paul Jarrett.

This also marked the first year that a UNMC student was selected to represent the University of Nebraska system in Pipeline’s Spotlight Entrepreneur program. The program allowed four student entrepreneurs to present their business plans at the pitch competition and to be recognized before an estimated 600 attendees at the awards show.

William Payne, a UNMC doctoral student of pharmaceutical sciences, presented his company, Simple Vet Solutions. It’s a software service that eliminates the extra time and energy required to meet FDA regulations for animal medications.

Simple Vet Solutions, according to the executive summary in the business plan, offers “secure and compliant management of veterinary prescriptions and feed directives for any size of livestock operation, veterinary practice, or feed distributor.”

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UNO, UNeMed expand tech transfer relationship

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OMAHA, Neb. (January 22, 2018)—The University of Nebraska at Omaha and UNeMed, the technology transfer office at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, have signed a new services agreement for UNeMed to be the exclusive agent for UNO.

“We’ve worked with UNeMed in the past, and it always went well,” said UNO Associate Vice Chancellor Scott Snyder, Ph.D. “We wanted to make that process easier and more efficient for everyone, and this arrangement does that.”

Dating back to the mid-1990’s, UNeMed has received about 50 new inventions from UNO inventors. Most UNO inventions, however, are more recent, emanating from UNO’s cutting edge Department of Biomechanics. Perhaps one of UNO’s more noteworthy innovations led to the creation of a new startup company, Avert, which promises to help athletic teams quickly and accurately diagnose concussions.

The new arrangement with UNeMed removes many institutional hurdles, allowing faculty, students and staff at UNO to work directly with the technology licensing experts at UNeMed.

Michael Dixon

“This is perfect for us,” UNeMed president and CEO Michael Dixon said. “We have a long history of working with UNO, and many UNMC researchers have strong collaborative ties to UNO. Hopefully, this will allow us to partner more with UNO researchers and help develop their innovations into products that can have a positive impact in the market.”

Common at virtually every major university in the nation, technology transfer offices work to protect the discoveries, innovations and inventions of their researchers. Tech transfer offices like UNeMed help identify industrial partners that can bridge the funding gap between a discovery and a product on store shelves.

“To have the expertise and experience of the people at UNeMed at our disposal is a huge asset,” Snyder said. “This should be a huge boost for many of our faculty, students and staff that want to see their ideas developed into products that help people.”

Initially established in 1991 as the tech transfer office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, UNeMed now serves all University faculty, students and staff at both Omaha campuses and the College of Dentistry in Lincoln. UNeMed’s sister office, NUtech Ventures, serves the remainder of the University’s resources in Lincoln and Kearney.

Working primarily with academic researchers and inventors, UNeMed protects University discoveries and innovations, securing 489 patents over the last quarter century. With 106 years of combined technology development and commercialization experience, UNeMed staffers help propel those innovations through development into products that help improve the lives of people everywhere.

Virtual Incision’s robots are on the verge of transforming complicated, highly invasive open surgeries into relatively simple laparoscopic procedures.

Common routes to commercialization include establishing relationships with industrial partners for sponsored research agreements, signing licensing agreements with established commercial entities or building new startup companies. For example, a UNMC surgeon and a UNL engineer collaborated on a surgical robotic device to create Virtual Incision, a biomedical startup. Virtual Incision recently announced a successful Series B financing round of $18 million.

Virtual Incision is just one of 58 new startups UNeMed has help build in its 26-year history. UNeMed has also helped UNMC secure an additional $6.32 million in sponsored research while processing more than 1,330 new inventions from University faculty, staff and students.

Those 1,330 inventions eventually resulted in 230 licensing agreements over the years, which amounts to a track record that helped place the University of Nebraska 35th out of 230 in a recent report from the Milken Institute, a non-partisan think tank. The placement puts UNeMed, NUtech Ventures and the University of Nebraska in the top 15th percentile.

The 2017 report ranked the University of Nebraska’s tech transfer efforts ahead of such institutions as the Mayo Foundation (36), the University of Wisconsin (39), Ohio State University (55), and the University of Iowa Research Foundation (59), to name a few.

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How we can help: Licensing and startups

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by Catherine Murari-Kanti, UNeMed | January 10, 2018

Part seven of a series

As part of UNeMed’s research commercialization activities, we routinely seek industrial partners to license University of Nebraska innovations. For this purpose, the University and industrial partners set up license agreements that describe the rights and responsibilities related to the use and exploitation of the intellectual property.

Licensing associates at UNeMed diligently market and license Nebraska’s technologies to appropriate industrial partners. Licensing significantly reduces researchers’ devotion of time and money. The licensee generally has significant financial, physical and labor resources to commercialize University intellectual property, allowing the masses to benefit from technologies developed at the University of Nebraska.

License agreements usually cover four key areas:

  • They stipulate that the licensee will diligently seek to bring the University’s intellectual property into commercial use for the public good.
  • Plan specified milestones that hold the industrial partner to keep up with the development and commercialization of the technology.
  • Financial obligations like up-front license fees, milestones, royalties and minimum payments and maintenance fees. Agreements sometimes make licensees responsible for paying all incurred and future patent expenses.
  • Provisions for a reasonable monetary return to the University.

Inventors participate in any financial returns from a license in terms of earned royalties, milestone fees and minimum royalties. In addition, inventors enjoy the satisfaction of knowing their inventions benefit the general public.

License agreements vary in length and complexity depending on a of myriad factors such as the type of licensed technology, scope of patentability, the particular industry involved and the relationship between the licensee and licensing parties.

Under certain conditions, UNeMed will license technologies and assign all its rights back to the inventor to develop the technology. This usually leads to the development of a startup.

A few factors when considering a startup company:

  • Is your technology is in its nascent stages and requires additional development before a licensee can take it over?
  • How much is it going to costs to develop the technology and if investors would be willing to put that money in?
  • Is it possible for the inventor to develop multiple products from the same technology, maybe even target different markets – providing a larger competitive advantage?

The choice to establish a new company is a joint decision made by UNeMed and the inventor.

Of course, we do not expect you to do this alone. UNeMed will advise and provide the right coaches and resources to help set up the startup.

The primary inventor on the New Invention Notification form is typically the founder of the company. Most faculty will wear two hats–one as faculty and one as the CEO of the startup. Very rarely does a University of Nebraska faculty leave to run a startup. Faculty involvement of any kind in a startup is reviewed for conflict of interest.

It is important to remember that a startup is like a baby. Startups require a considerable amount of tender, loving care to grow and develop. The primary inventor will need to champion the effort in setting up a management team and recruiting other members required for the company to survive and eventually thrive.

UNeMed has a list of successful startups and is consistently playing an active role in educating, advocating and mentoring new entrepreneurs.

This was the final installment in a series of blog posts covering the many services UNeMed provides for faculty, students and staff at UNMC and UNO. Here’s the full list of topics:

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The year in review: Highlights from 2017

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by Charles Litton, UNeMed | December 27, 2017

It’s time to close the books on another year of tech transfer and commercialization at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As is our custom, we like to take this time to look back on the year that was, and reflect on some of the more important stories, developments, most popular posts and other highlights from UNeMed in 2017.

1. Innovation Week

Innovation Week continued its dominance as a popular destination at UNeMed.com, and for good reason. The week is an annual showcase for all of UNMC’s and UNO’s innovations throughout the year—including the 2017 Most Promising New Invention and the Emerging Inventor of the year. Pediatric ophthalmologist Donny Suh, M.D., was named the 2017 Emerging Inventor, and co-inventors Mark Carlson, M.D., Jingwei Xie, Ph.D., and Shixuan Chen, Ph.D., won the Most Promsing New Invention award for a sponge made from nanofibers. Innovation Week 2017 also combined the popular Shareholder Meeting event with the Innovation Awards ceremony.

2. Sam Sanderson, 63

Sam Sanderson, Ph.D.

The UNeMed family suffered a tough loss with the unexpected death of Sam Sanderson, unmatched for his enthusiasm and passion. As an inventor, Sanderson stood out to UNeMed staffers as the poster child for dogged determination and boundless tenacity. Every meeting with him left us with smiles, and a resurgent optimism. Our only consolation of his loss is that his technology and startup company, Prommune, continues…and hopefully will for a long, long time.

3. Industry Partnering Day

For the second consecutive year we offered this low-key event, focusing this time on medical devices. The continued success of the event encouraged us to consider ways to expand. A future announcement will detail our future plans. Spoiler Alert: The Midwest Regional Drug Development Conference is coming soon!

A prototype of a new one-handed syringe Donny Suh, M.D., invented and developed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

4. Technology Portfolio

A PDF version of our entire technology portfolio was among our most popular new offerings this year. Hard copies quickly disappeared from the office, and web traffic to specific technologies swelled to unexpected numbers, including ChimeRscope, Lab Safety Posters, a motion capture system, a cardiovascular disease blood test and Emerging Inventor of the year Donny Suh’s Precision Syringe.

5. UNeTech

Launched in late 2016, UNeTech announced its first four projects by the end of summer. A new joint institute at UNMC and UNO, UNeTech was designed to identify promising University startups and nurture them through the so-called “Valley of Death.”

 

6. Grant Program lifts UNMC Innovations

An internal review of a little-known funding program led to this revealing post. It turns out the Proof-of-Concept, or POC, grant program has delivered much-needed jolts of capital to University inventors and startups. The review shows the program is a clear success, leading technologies deeper into development of things like advanced prototypes and renewed industrial interest.

7. The other side of CRISPR

A popular blog post from Joe Runge, J.D., UNeMed’s Director of Business Development, tackled the growing concern around the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR/CAS9. The post covers what CRISPR can and can’t do: Primarily it’s great at cutting genetic material, but generally useless for inserting new material. The larger point in Runge’s piece is that a UNMC innovation adds that insertion functionality, which stands to make CRISPR a vastly more powerful tool.

Honorable Mention:
The addition of licensing associate Catherine Murari-Kanti, Ph.D., provided an unmistakable boost to UNeMed.com traffic. Some of the year’s most popular posts revolved around her, beginning with the announcement of her promotion from an intern to full-time staff. She also penned popular articles about the Association of University Technology Managers’ annual conference and her ascendance from student to teacher in UNeMed’s popular Tech Transfer Boot Camp program.

Classics
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. The importance of technology transfer
2. How to determine who is an inventor on a patent: Unraveling inventorship vs. authorship
3. Technology transfer 101: Defining research commercialization
4. What you need to know about royalty distribution

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How we can help: Patents

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by Catherine Murari-Kanti, UNeMed | December 20, 2017

Part six of a series

What does UNeMed generally patent?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues three types of patents in the United States: utility, design and plants. Utility patents cover new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture or compositions of matter. Design patents cover new, original and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture. Plant patents cover new plant varieties.

Does UNeMed patent naturally occurring substances?

Generally, you cannot patent a naturally occurring substance. A natural substance only in its isolated form or a variation of the natural substance maybe patentable if the inventor is able to demonstrate substantial, non-obvious modifications that offer advantages of using that variant.

Who is an inventor? Who decides who can be the inventors on a patent?

It is important to note that authors on a publication don’t necessarily become inventors on a patent application. An inventor is anyone who takes part in the conception of the idea in the patent claims of the application. Willful misrepresentation of inventorship could lead to invalidation of intellectual property rights. UNeMed works with the patent attorneys to make sure the patent application has the appropriate inventors.

How are provisional patent application used?

Our inventors often have novel, non-obvious and useful ideas, and wish to share them at conferences or with potential licensees or investors. In such circumstances, once the invention is disclosed to UNeMed, a provisional patent application is filed as a protective place-holder to protect the University of Nebraska’s intellectual property. Provisional patent applications have a lifespan of one-year and are never prosecuted. This time allows the inventor to gather data while preserving patent rights. At the end of one year the data collected would allow UNeMed to prepare a non-provisional patent application.

What is the patent process at UNeMed?

UNeMed works with outside counsel to prepare and file patent applications. The patent attorney and licensing associates will review the patent application and confirm an accurate list of inventors. Once an application has been filed, it may take the USPTO anywhere between one and three years to respond. USPTO patent examiners rarely accept the application and issue the patent upon the first review. They almost always reject all or most of the claims listed in the application. The examiner’s written explanations for rejecting claims are called “Office Actions,” and a final resolution can sometimes take several years of back-and-forth between a patent attorney and the USPTO.

What about foreign or international patent protection?

Depending on the type of technology, UNeMed may file for a foreign patent to protect commercial rights in specific countries. Because patent laws vary in foreign countries, it’s not uncommon for an inventor to lose foreign patent rights because they did not first protect their innovation before publicly disclosing the invention.

What is the timeline and expense of patent protection?

A fair estimate is about three years or longer. Filing for a non-provisional patent can cost $10,000-$15,000, but they can soar much hig her. Patent prosecution and filing in foreign countries only add to the expense. For example, an invention with patents in the United States, China and Europe might accrue more than $40,000 or more in patent expenses.

Does UNeMed pursue patent protection in the absence of a licensee?

UNeMed will often take the risk of applying for a non-provisional patent application before a licensee is identified. If UNeMed can find a licensee during patent prosecution, further patent prosecution and expenses are passed on to the licensee.

What happens if I share an invention with another university?

The technology you develop with another inventor will be co-owned between the two Universities. The licensing team at UNeMed will file an inter-institutional agreement that will identify one of the universities to take lead on protecting and licensing.

Where can I go to get more information?

Contact UNeMed at unemed@unmc.edu with any questions. You can find more information on patents and intellectual property here and here.

 

This is part of a series of blog posts covering the many services UNeMed provides for faculty, students and staff at UNMC and UNO. Next up is our final installment, which will startups and licensing. Here’s the full list of topics:

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Nebraska medical startup, Virtual Incision, raises $18 million

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OMAHA, Neb. (December 15, 2017)—Virtual Incision Corporation, a startup company born from a collaborative research project at the University of Nebraska, completed an $18 million round of fund-raising, officials announced Tuesday.

“Virtual Incision is a perfect example of what the University of Nebraska can do when we work together,” University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, Ph.D., said. “Multiple researchers from multiple campuses and areas of expertise, coming together to create something that makes the world a better place: That’s the power of Nebraska.”

The funds will support manufacturing and clinical trials that can allow Virtual Incision to secure FDA approvals in the United States. Virtual Incision has already performed successful procedures in humans during feasibility testing last year.

Virtual Incision is a product of the collaboration between the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s chief of minimally invasive surgery, Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., and Shane Farritor, Ph.D., a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Oleynikov and Farritor are co-founders of the company, which licensed the technology from UNeMed, the University of Nebraska’s technology transfer and commercialization arm in Omaha.

Virtual Incision’s device is not yet commercially available, but it could change the future of surgical robotics and minimally invasive surgery.

“Virtual Incision demonstrates the kind of positive impact the University can have,” said Jeffery Gold, M.D., Chancellor of UNMC and UNO. “We can talk about the benefits of new jobs and the boost to the local economy, but the important thing for me is they’ve built a medical innovation that can improve lives around the world. I think that alone is enough to make all Nebraskans proud.”

Most surgical robots today are large, mainframe-like robots that reach into the body from outside the patient. They can be overly complex, often require dedicated spaces and weigh thousands of pounds—making them virtually permanent fixtures wherever they are placed.

UNMC surgeon Dmitry Oleynikov (left) and UNL engineer Shane Farritor test a surgical robot prototype during a recent trial in Omaha. Their collaboration created a startup company, Virtual Incision, which hopes to make major surgery—like a bowel resection—a laparoscopic procedure.

Virtual Incision’s two-pound robot platform features a small, self-contained surgical device that is inserted through a single midline umbilical incision in the patient’s abdomen. The technology is designed to use existing tools and techniques familiar to surgeons, and does not require a dedicated operating room or specialized infrastructure.

Because of its much smaller size, the robot is expected to be significantly less expensive than existing robotic alternatives for laparoscopic surgery. Virtual Incision’s technology promises to enable a minimally invasive approach to surgeries performed today with a large open incision.

This most recent funding success was the second or Series B round of financing for Virtual Incision. Virtual Incision closed its Series A round in 2010 with $2 million. More recently, Virtual Incision closed a follow-on round with $11.2 million in 2015, which led to the successful feasibility trial and first-in-human tests.

“It’s tremendous that their vision has been validated by significant external investment,” said James Linder, M.D., President of Nebraska’s University Technology Development Corporation. “They are role models for academic faculty and staff at the University of Nebraska who strive to commercialize inventions. Bringing new technology to the benefit of patients is the ultimate validation.”

The device is designed for colon resection, a procedure to treat patients with lower gastrointestinal diseases including diverticulitis, pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease and colon polyps that are too large to be removed endoscopically.

In the future, Virtual Incision’s platform might also be used for gall bladder removal, hernia repair, colectomy and other abdominal surgeries, Oleynikov said.

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How we can help: Intellectual Property

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by Catherine Murari-Kanti, UNeMed | December 13, 2017

Part five of a series

Bench to market can happen in one of two ways, both with the same ultimate goal: Developing the invention into a final product.

The most common path is protecting the intellectual property, and licensing the invention and its rights to a company. The other option is to build a new startup company around the innovation.

Either way, protecting the intellectual property that comes out the University of Nebraska is of utmost importance to UNeMed.

Intellectual property are inventions or materials that may be protected under the patent, trademark or copyright laws. Like any owned property, intellectual property can be bought and sold and, unfortunately, stolen. At UNeMed, we work closely with our inventors to make sure we effectively protect intellectual property that stems from University research.

UNeMed typically works with four different types of intellectual property:

Patents

Enumerated in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers, , a U.S. patent gives inventors a legal, although temporary, monopoly. Most patents are valid for 20 years. During that time, patent holders have the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell and importing the patented invention. A patentable invention could be a process or method, a machine, an article of manufacture, or a composition of matter.

UNeMed mostly uses patents to protect Nebraska’s intellectual property related to new inventions in research tools, devices, compounds and drug formulations. UNeMed seeks industrial partners who can either sponsor research to improve the invention, or take over the patent rights to develop the product on their own.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, which will take a more in-depth view on patents.

Copyrights

Authors of “original works of authorship” are protected by copyrights.  This includes literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, as well as computer software. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

Copyrights are automatically secured for tangible mediums such as a book, software code or video. Sometimes, UNeMed waits to register a copyright till a commercial product is ready for manufacture. Copyright protection generally extends through the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, depending on several other factors. At UNeMed, most copyrighted works are things like software applications or educational materials.

Trademarks

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or combination that is used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those manufactured or sold by others. Company logos can be an example of trademarks.

Trademarks make it easy to remember who produces a product. Golden arches that appear along the roadside alert people that a McDonalds ahead. There is no mention of the name “McDonalds” on the golden arches, but the symbol clearly differentiates them from other fast food restaurants.

Trademarks are registered at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and generally become protected as soon as they are adopted by the organization and used in commerce, even before registration.

Trade Secrets

The first things that comes to mind when thinking of a trade secret is Coca-Cola and its vault that holds the recipe for the inestimable carbonated beverage, or the composition of WD-40 or the recipe for Twinkies or Listerine. A trade secret is any information that is valuable, at least in part, due to its secrecy and which the owner maintains reasonable efforts to keep the secret.

This is part of a series of blog posts covering the many services UNeMed provides for faculty, students and staff at UNMC and UNO. Our next installment will dive a little deeper into patents. Here’s the full list of topics:

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