Virtual Incision announces $46 million raise

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Virtual Incision MIRALINCOLN, Nebraska (November 30, 2021)—Virtual Incision, a surgical robotics startup company based on University of Nebraska innovations, recently closed a successful $46 million Series C financing round, the company announced today in a press release.

“I feel fortunate to have worked with Virtual Incision over the years as they developed this technology into a successful platform,” UNeMed president and CEO, Michael Dixon, said. “It’s a great example of University innovation, and the time and energy it takes to develop a novel idea into a product. The success of today took more than a decade to build, and I’m excited for their growth over the next 10 years as their platform technology moves into the surgical rooms where it can have a direct impact on patients.”

University of Nebraska-Lincoln robotics engineer Shane Farritor, PhD, and former University of Nebraska Medical Center surgeon Dmitry Oleynikov, MD, co-founded Virtual Incision in 2006. Their collaboration resulted in a surgical device that could transform traditionally open, highly invasive surgeries into minimally invasive procedures.

The cash will finance Virtual Incision’s latest push for full regulatory approval for its flagship device, the MIRA Surgical Platform. MIRA stands for “miniaturized in vivo robot.”

MIRA weighs about two pounds, giving it a distinct advantage over other surgical platforms that require the dedicated space of an entire room. Surgical staff can easily move Virtual Incision’s robot from room-to-room as needed, even for complex procedures like a colon resection.

A typical colon resection surgery today requires a large incision so the surgeon can remove a portion of a patient’s lower intestine. It requires months of recovery and rehabilitation. But a skilled surgeon using Virtual Incision’s MIRA system can shave that recovery time to mere days.

“The ability of MIRA to successfully perform colon resection—a challenging procedure in minimally invasive surgery that requires multi-quadrant anatomical access and significant robotic strength—demonstrates the huge potential of the platform,” Dr. Farritor said in the press release. “This funding milestone represents a step forward in our goal to deliver a miniaturized solution for robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery, regardless of the site of care.”

In August, Virtual Incision announced the “world’s first surgery using the MIRA Surgical Platform.” Michael Jobst, MD, performed a right hemicolectomy at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln. The procedure was part of an ongoing clinical study that could lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the device for use in humans.

According to the issued release, the funding will also support a “research and development pipeline” that include “a family of mini-robots optimized for additional operations such as hernia repair, gallbladder removal, hysterectomy, sleeve gastrectomy and others.”

The successful funding round was led by Endeavour Vision and Baird Capital, with participation from returning investor Bluestem Capital and others, according to the announcement.

Including this most recent raise, Virtual Incision has now attracted nearly $100 million in investments since its initial founding in 2006.

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Dr. Crawford promoted to licensing associate

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Dr. Crawford

OMAHA, Neb. (November 22, 2021)—AJ Crawford, PhD, MBA, 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.

Before joining UNMC, Dr. Crawford was a trauma technician at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.

“My experience enabled me to better understand the medical technologies invented at UNMC and appreciate the value they would bring to patients and healthcare workers,” she said. “The technologies we used ultimately led to my interest in biomedical research.”

Dr. Crawford is a 2015 graduate of the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a Bachelor’s degree in biology. A native of South Whitley, Indiana, she completed her MBA in 2015 at UNO, and added a doctorate in biomedical research from UNMC in 2021.

“We’re excited to have Dr. Crawford on our team as a fulltime Licensing Associate,” said UNeMed president and CEO Michael Dixon, PhD. “Her background in Emergency Medicine, combined with an MBA and PhD gives her a broad base of knowledge to draw on while she works to help our faculty, students and staff bring new discoveries to market.”

The promotion and full-time status expands her role of evaluating, marketing, and seeking partnerships for new inventions, cures, treatments and medical devices developed at UNMC.

UNeMed’s mission is to help faculty, students and staff at UNMC and UNO develop their innovations and ground-breaking discoveries. Dr. Crawford joins UNeMed’s talented roster of licensing experts who work every day to advance the University’s new discoveries into the future technologies that might one-day affect millions around the world.

“I love working with inventors,” Dr. Crawford said. “It’s so exciting to their pet projects, and see all that potential, and try to help them hone that in.”

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McClurg honored at BioNebraska Annual Meeting

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LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nov. 3, 2021)—Jim McClurg, PhD, former Charmain of the UNeMed Board of Directors and former Regent for the University of Nebraska, was honored with BioNebraska’s first-ever Bioscience Lifetime Achievement Award during the trade organization’s annual meeting last week.

McClurg—who played a significant role in the early stages of Hudl, one of Nebraska’s most successful startup companies—was a part of the group that created UNeMed, serving as its first chairman.

To hear Don Leuenberger tell it, UNeMed might owe its existence to McClurg.

“When we started UNeMed in 1991, it was very innovative,” said Leuenberger, who was UNMC’s Vice Chancellor for Business from 1988 until his retirement in 2015. “There weren’t any other tech transfer entities at the University of Nebraska… I think it was Jim’s presence on the board that prompted the Board Regents’ approval.”

As the person who invited McClurg to join to UNeMed in the first place, Leuenberger himself has often been called the “Godfather of UNeMed.” Leuenberger eventually went on to serve UNeMed as its chairman in 2006-2016, but he still points to McClurg’s early involvement as foundational.

“Certainly, he gave us the prominence, the respect and guidance that made this whole innovative thing work,” Leuenberger said. “He gave us legitimacy.”

McClurg’s impact and influence has not been lost on UNeMed’s current CEO and President, Michael Dixon.

“In addition to his role as a founding father of UNeMed, Jim has continued to serve UNeMed as a mentor and adviser,” Dixon said. “When UNeMed needed to restructure a decade ago, Jim’s guidance and mentorship were invaluable.”

UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, PhD, presented the award during BioNebraska’s annual meeting, which included a video message from former governor Mike Johanns, a longtime friend of McClurg. Johanns also served as a U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

“If we are lucky, once in a lifetime, we meet someone who makes lifetime commitments and friendships that change our world,” Johanns said in the video. “Tonight, we honor such a man: Jim McClurg.”

A native of Bassett, Neb., McClurg earned his doctorate in biochemistry from UNMC in 1973. He sat on the University Board of Regents in 2002-2012, serving as chairman in 2006-2012.

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Bio Nebraska, UNeTech receive grant to support women in STEM

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Bio Nebraska and the UNeTech Institute have received a $250,000 grant to enable the launch of Opportunity Corps, a program designed to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as they explore the viability of launching tech ventures.

The grant is a Central Standards grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Opportunity Corps is inspired by the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps, which helps researchers achieve entrepreneurship.

“The Kauffman Foundation is taking a strong leadership role in the heartland, and we’re so pleased to be a part of it,” said Rod Markin, MD, PhD, executive director of UNeTech. “We’re excited to join Bio Nebraska and help expand entrepreneurship throughout Nebraska and the surrounding states.”

As part of its Nebraska Women in STEM initiative, Bio Nebraska will expand its engagement through the grant to encourage inventions from women in STEM in Nebraska. UNeTech will be a subrecipient of Bio Nebraska’s grant and will help to identify women inventors from the campuses of the University of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska Medical Center to participate in the Opportunity Corps program.

“Partnering with Bio Nebraska is the ideal collaboration for this grant,” said Stephanie Kidd, PhD, principal investigator for the grant. “We know women in STEM face huge barriers in entrepreneurship, from their male peers, male supervisors and male potential funders. Developing this program with Bio Nebraska will allow us to reach out to women in STEM in both academia and in the industry to provide innovative support and training. UNeTech could not do that alone.”

The Central Standards grant provides matching funds to encourage and accelerate collaborations between two or more entrepreneurship support organizations working together to support Heartland entrepreneurs in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Bio Nebraska and UNeTech were among nine Central Standards grantees in the Midwest working to advance inclusive prosperity through entrepreneurship.

“At Bio Nebraska, we’ve been committed to growing our Nebraska Women in STEM initiative to provide ongoing professional development opportunities to our more than 90 member organizations, as well as STEM professionals across the state, with the goal to recruit and retain more women in STEM in Nebraska,” said Sasha Forsen, assistant director of Bio Nebraska. “As experts in partnering with future business leaders and bringing impactful ideas into a reality, UNeTech’s partnership on this project is essential to realizing our shared goal of increasing the number of women leaders in STEM in our statewide communities.”

About Bio Nebraska
Founded in 2005, Bio Nebraska is a non-profit trade association dedicated to supporting, promoting and growing Nebraska’s bio-ecosystem. Bio Nebraska represents over 90 member companies from all segments of our state’s bio-ecosystem and works to connect the bio-ecosystem to the world to create opportunities for economic development and growth in the state.

About the UNeTech Institute
The UNeTech Institute is Omaha’s only university-supported startup incubator. UNeTech engages in research to add value to startup companies. Research can come from the learning laboratories of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Metropolitan Community College or from UNeTech’s internal team of experts.

About the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with us at  www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn  and  www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

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UNeMed seeking qualified licensing specialist

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OMAHA, Neb. (October 19, 2021)—UNeMed is accepting qualified applications for an opening on its licensing team.

The licensing specialist position is aimed at those interested in continuing a career in technology transfer and research commercialization.

UNeMed licensing specialists work closely with inventors, helping evaluate, market and license the discoveries and innovations that emerge from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The licensing associate position is a regular, full-time position.

A minimally qualified candidate will have:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a scientific field
  • At least one year of experience in technical sales/marketing, intellectual property or business development
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Exceptional written, oral, communication and analytical skills

Preference will be given to candidates with doctoral degrees in scientific fields, and at least two years’ experience negotiating and closing intellectual property licensing deals. Other desirable traits include working knowledge of the patent application process.

Learn more, including how to apply for the position, at the UNMC job portal, https://unmc.peopleadmin.com/postings/62409

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UNeTech lands $150,000 SBA award

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Rodney Markin - Pathology

Dr. Markin

OMAHA, Neb. (September 30, 2021)—The UNeTech Institute, a startup incubator affiliated with the University of Nebraska Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, will receive $150,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to fund the creation of a collaborative partnership of entrepreneurial support organizations aimed at supporting innovation-focused entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The eight winners of the 2021 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst Prize competition were announced on Sept. 16.

Dr. Gatzemeyer

The SBIR Catalyst competition is intended to expand access to the SBIR program, a highly competitive grant program that supports small businesses engaged in research and development with the potential for commercialization. Funding from the SBA will help UNeTech create the Heartland SBIR Catalyst Partnership, a collection of technology transfer offices at 11 midwestern universities aimed at linking university-owned intellectual property, SBIR funding and local entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations.

Jace Gatzemeyer, PhD, UNeTech’s innovation development strategist, was responsible for landing the prize and will be leading the implementation of the new partnership. “UNeTech has an ambitious plan to build an inclusive R&D ecosystem in the heartland,” Dr. Gatzemeyer said. “This funding will support the continued assembly successful SBIR proposals.”

Runge

“Jace has put together an amazing program,” said Rod Markin, MD, PhD, executive director of UNeTech. “It is wonderful to see him get the national recognition he deserves.”

Dr. Markin said the prize funding will help the incubator advance more ambitious projects.

Joe Runge, JD, associate director of UNeTech, expressed gratitude to the SBA. “It is an honor for UNeTech to be mentioned alongside such experienced colleagues as BBC Entrepreneurial Training and OK Catalyst, who also were recognized from our region,” he said.

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Entrepreneurial learning sessions planned

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From the Sources Mouth:  BBCetc’s annual “From the Sources” Mouth” fall event is bigger and better than ever! Program managers will provide a 30-minute overview of the agency’s mission and tips for creating a successful proposal.  Attendees will have time for Q&A and the opportunity to sign-up for one-on-ones with agency officers.

  • Sept. 14 – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm EST –  Federal Granting Agencies: SBA, NIH, NSF, DOC-NOAA, DOE, USDA, NIAD
  • Sept. 15 – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm EST –  Federal Contracting Agencies: SBA, EPA, BARDA, NASA, DOT, DOEd, CDMRP
  • Sept. 16 – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm EST – DOD & Components:  DOD, DHA, DARPA, SPARTN, NavSea, Air Force/AFWERX, DHS

Register here [ec2-34-221-130-80.us-west-2.compute.amazonaws.com]

 

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Back-o-the-Napkin Contest opens for UNMC

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OMAHA, Nebraska (September 9, 2021)—A new contest is open to all faculty, students and staff who have ideas for innovative medical devices.

Sponsored by UNMC’s technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed, the “Back-o-the-Napkin Contest” will accept entries throughout the fall until the New Year.

Find entry forms at the James and Karen Linder Maker Studio within the Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library, who is co-sponsoring the contest. Entry forms, designed to resemble actual napkins, ask that inventors draw and describe their ideas. All novel innovations will be rendered into a three-dimensional model.

The top three innovations will win additional support with a professionally engineered and designed prototype. The prototype stage is a common hazard for inventors because prototypes can be costly to create. Yet they are essential for attracting additional support and financing for further development.

The 3D modeling and prototyping will be provided by co-sponsors UNeTech and the Center for Innovation Entrepreneurship and Franchising at the College of Business at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

In addition to the McGoogan Library, entry forms will be available at UNeMed, UNeTech and within various departments around campus.

Submit completed entry forms to UNeMed via campus mail. For digital entries, scan and email completed forms to unemed@unmc.edu.

Direct any questions or request additional entry forms at tyler.scherr@unmc.edu.

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Probiotics: Digestive miracle or persistent myth?

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by Lisa Jorgenson, UNeMed | September 7, 2021

Alternative medicine has people turning to essential oils, herbal medicines, and probiotics, among others, to treat all sorts of ailments. People using these products claim countless benefits, which include curing coronavirus, beating cancer, and improving mental health.

But do these things work?

Here, we will explore probiotics and evaluate the science to see if they are a digestive miracle or persistent myth.

Probiotics are microorganisms, like bacteria and yeast, with beneficial qualities. You can find products all over grocery stores within yogurt, cheeses, kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented products and drinks. There are also dietary supplements that people can take orally, each containing millions of live bacteria and yeast.

You probably think of germs when you think of bacteria, but there is a full spectrum of bacteria. Of course, some do make you sick, the bad guys. But others, the good guys, are essential for proper gut health.

So, how do we kill the bad guys while, at the same time, promoting growth of the good guys?

A quick Google search will tell you that probiotics are the answer. Probiotic sellers and people taking probiotics claim probiotics offer a myriad of health benefits. These include balancing your digestive system, treating diarrhea, improving mental health, reducing symptoms of digestive disorders, boosting your immune system, and even helping you lose belly fat.

Sounds impressive, right?

But if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Nonetheless, savvy marketers have convinced a growing number of consumers that probiotics are the answer. Grand View Research reports that the probiotic market value in 2020 was $54.2 billion and will expand to $77 billion by 2025.

Commonly sold as dietary supplements, probiotics do not require FDA approval. Probiotic manufacturers can claim how the product may affect your body, but those claims cannot include using probiotics to cure or treat diseases.

As reported by the American Gastroenterological Association, there is not one FDA-approved health claim for any probiotic on the market.

However, high-quality scientific studies do exist that studied the effects of probiotics on humans. Unfortunately, the results of those studies are contradictory.

For every study suggesting that probiotics improve health, another shows probiotics do nothing or might even be harmful.

There is no conclusive evidence that probiotics improve digestive health.

In the studies that showed probiotics helped people, the benefits were subjective to the people taking it, the type of probiotic bacteria used, the design and analysis of the studies themselves, and the intended use of the probiotic.

There is still a laundry list of studies needed before we can use probiotics to treat digestive disorders like irritable bowel disease, which would require FDA approval.

The current standard of care for irritable bowel disease, or IBD, focuses on decreasing inflammation with immune system suppressors and anti-inflammatory drugs. Although these therapies can induce and maintain remission, they cause significant side effects. In the long term, most people with IBD require at least one surgery.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center are taking on the challenge of designing better therapeutics to treat IBD. Researchers are looking at chloroquine, a common malaria treatment, for its anti-inflammatory properties to treat IBD. But chloroquine is readily absorbed and disseminated throughout the body and can cause harmful side effects.

David Oupicky, Ph.D., and Fei Yu, Ph.D., have developed a better way to deliver chloroquine directly to the gut, thereby limiting its harmful side effects. This new technology is an improved version of chloroquine that passes through the digestive system without getting absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead, these chloroquine-based polymers stay in the digestive tract and directly reduce harmful inflammation.

Until medications like UNMC’s new chloroquine formulation gains FDA approval, there are not many options. If you experience digestive upset, the best idea is to talk with your physician to diagnose the root cause so they can advise on the appropriate treatment.

As medicine advances, the idea of personalized probiotics is promising, but more research is needed. In their current state, probiotics are a digestive myth.

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Drug development conference moves to an online event in 2021

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MidWest Drug Development Conference

OMAHA, Nebraska (Aug. 17, 2021)—Due to rising concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 MidWest Drug Development Conference will move to a 100-percent virtual event.

The two-day conference will still be on Monday, Oct. 4 and Tuesday, Oct. 5, but all events will be online. Register here: https://www.mwdrugdevelopment.com/tickets/.

Cost to attend the event is $500, but a discount code is available for representatives at pharmaceutical companies and investment groups. To request a discount code, contact event organizers at https://www.mwdrugdevelopment.com/#contact.

Up to 19 major Midwestern institutions are planning to attend the virtual event, which will feature about 50 short presentations of their latest and most promising therapeutic innovations. Each participating institution will present some of their most promising therapeutic candidates in 10-minute presentations, followed by a brief Q&A session.

The 19 presenting institutions are Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University, Indiana University, Kansas State University, Mayo Clinic, Medical College of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Kentucky, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Oklahoma, University of South Dakota and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Additional guests will predominantly include key decision makers at pharmaceutical companies that are looking to expand their portfolio with new therapeutics. Also expected to attend are investment groups who are interested in building or investing in startups companies.

The ability for academic technology transfer professionals, university researchers, and industry representatives to meet and talk in-depth about these innovations is a key component of the conference. Because of that importance, the virtual conference will include one-on-one partnering opportunities.

More information, including the full schedule of planned presentations, will be announced in the coming weeks.

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UNeMed postpones in-person events

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Important events originally planned as in-person activities for this fall are now postponed due to surging COVID-19 numbers and rising concerns related to the Delta variant.

Out of an abundance of caution UNeMed is postponing the fall 2021 Technology Transfer Boot Camp and all 2021 Innovation Week events, including the Innovation Awards banquet.

One of the most meaningful aspects of Boot Camp are the in-person interactions between students that promotes deeper learning and understanding. Because those interactions cannot be replicated virtually, UNeMed is postponing until such time that in-person events are much safer.

Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards ceremony are also valuable events for UNeMed that feature robust networking opportunities among the University’s innovative faculty, staff and students. While it’s possible to host another virtual Awards program in 2021, UNeMed would rather wait, and hold a safe, in-person event that properly delivers the recognition University innovators so richly deserve.

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Drug Development Conference sponsorships, presentation slots nearly full

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MidWest Drug Development Conference, hosted by UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
www.mwdrugdevelopment.com

OMAHA, Nebraska (July 30, 2021)—The final slate of participants and sponsorships for the 2021 MidWest Drug Development Conference are nearly filled as several major institutions have lined up to participate in the event.

Sponsored in part by PhRMA, a massive international trade association that advocates and supports pharmaceutical companies, the conference will feature 18 major Midwest institutions.

Among the participating research institutions are biomedical heavyweights such as Mayo Clinic, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Ohio State University, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University of Minnesota.

The impressive list of participating research institutions continues, including Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Oklahoma, Purdue and South Dakota.

Joining PhRMA as primary sponsors of the event are SHARPHub, Olon Ricera Bioscience, Marshall Gerstein, UNeMed and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Each participating institution will highlight new therapeutics under development. The conference will span two days, beginning on Oct. 4, and will feature about 40 novel technologies in 10-minute presentations. Specific details about those presentations can be viewed here: https://www.mwdrugdevelopment.com/technologies/.

The 18 institutions account for a massive amount of research and innovation in the region, according to the latest data from the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM. In 2019, the participating universities spent a combined $9.63 billion in research, which led to 3,699 new inventions. They secured 1,049 U.S. patents, produced 211 new products and formed 123 startup companies. They also signed 832 licensing agreements, 39 of which were worth more than $1 million each.

A key feature of the conference is the ability for participants to set up one-on-one partnering meetings between researchers, tech transfer professionals, industry representatives, investors and other interested parties. Previous attendees have included representatives from such companies as AbbVie Ventures, Atlas Ventures, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Pfizer, to name a few.

The conference begins on Monday, Oct. 4, and concludes the following day, Tuesday, Oct. 5. It will be at the Capital District Marriott in downtown Omaha.

Cost is $500 per ticket, but organizers will waive a limited number of registration fees for those who represent pharmaceutical and biotech companies and investment groups. Contact conference organizers to learn how to receive a waiver code.

Register here: https://www.mwdrugdevelopment.com/tickets/.

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University partners with venture capital group to bring technologies to market

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by Tyler Scherr, UNeMed | July 26, 2021

Tyler Scherr

Tyler Scherr, Ph.D.

Proven Ventures just placed a big bet on the ingenuity of the University of Nebraska.

The University of Nebraska is full of experts: Researchers, clinicians, technicians and students who have made it their life’s work to understand everything they can about a single, crucial factor in human health.

For many, securing a patent or publishing their research in journals like Nature or Science is the penultimate outcome of all those sleepless nights.

But that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to positively impact human lives. And, to achieve that goal, an invention must ultimately be commercialized.

UNeMed, the technology transfer office for UNO and UNMC, and UNeTech Institute, the startup incubator for UNO and UNMC, have worked diligently to identify, protect and commercialize University inventions. An important part of this process is recruiting experienced, qualified entrepreneurs willing to partner with University inventors to form small business startups around University technology. But where do you find experienced, qualified entrepreneurs?

Enter Proven Ventures.

Proven Ventures, a Burlington Capital Fund located in downtown Omaha, has partnered with UNeMed and UNeTech to bring experienced entrepreneurs to the table to run University startups. The entrepreneurs will come alongside University experts to bring state-of-the-art technologies to market where they can solve real-world problems to benefit real people. Better yet, startups will be homegrown and nurtured in Nebraska, providing desirable jobs and training for our local, talented workforce.

The Omaha region is full of experts: Executives, MBAs, CEOs and venture capitalists who have cut their teeth forming and running businesses of all shapes and sizes.

For many, earning a Business Excellence Award or landing in the 40-under-40 group is the penultimate outcome of all those sleepless nights.

But that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to positively impact human lives. And to achieve that goal, a business must do something truly innovative.

Sound familiar?

It should.

What too many fail to realize (and why too many promising startups unexpectedly fail) is that entrepreneurs and academic innovators need each other. They’re made of the same stuff. They want the same things. What they really need is a way to help each other succeed.

And that’s what Proven Ventures and UNeMed are now better positioned to do.

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University cracks top 100 in US patent tally

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OMAHA & LINCOLN, Nebraska (June 22, 2021)—For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Nebraska system is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions for securing U.S. patents.

A newly released report from the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association lists the NU system at No. 77. The ranking reflects the 38 patents that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted in 2020 to the University’s technology transfer offices: UNeMed and her sister office NUtech Ventures in Lincoln. UNeMed is the technology transfer office for UNMC and UNO

“It’s incredibly gratifying to see Nebraska stand alongside world leaders of innovation and discovery,” said UNeMed president and CEO, Michael Dixon, Ph.D. “But I’m even more excited about the fact that 75% of the US patents in our portfolio that issued last year have been licensed to companies for continued development and commercialization. That’s huge, and that’s the ultimate goal: Giving every innovation an opportunity to become a product that helps people.”

Patents allow UNeMed and NUtech Ventures to work with faculty, staff and students to bring research and innovations in areas like biotechnology, agriculture, healthcare, engineering and others to the marketplace. The results are new startup companies, jobs and university-licensed products that grow the economy and improve quality of life.

“The University of Nebraska Medical Center continues to grow basic science, translational and front line clinical research and discovery,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor at UNMC and UNO. “These dedicated faculty, staff and students continually develop new prevention strategies, diagnostics and treatments that improve the human condition and at the same time contribute to significant economic development. These activities are core to our mission of strengthening the economy and true excellence of our academic medical center.”

Patents from the University of Nebraska Medical Center include a surgical device that could dramatically improve the success rate for patients suffering from kidney disease and failure. For such patients, mere survival requires regular dialysis treatments, the success of which often rests on the outcome of a surgical procedure to create an AV or arteriovenous fistula.

A surgeon creates an AV fistula by connecting a vein, usually in the arm, with a nearby artery. The increased blood flow from the artery forces the vein to enlarge into a suitable portal for dialysis machine. However, AV fistulas are notoriously fickle, and fail to mature about half the time. UNMC’s patented device, invented by surgeon Marius Florescu, MD, is an implant that promotes more reliable and effective fistula maturation.

Last year, the University of Nebraska was ranked No. 65 for the number of patents secured in 2019. Nebraska ranked No. 79 in 2018 and No. 70 in 2017.

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Three UNMC startups selected for Invest Midwest

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Dong Wang, PhD

OMAHA, Nebraska (April 27, 2021)—Three Nebraska startup companies formed on the back of innovations developed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center were among a select group of presentations at the most recent Invest Midwest Venture Capital Forum.

The virtual conference spanned two days in late April, and featured more than 40 startup companies based on university technologies.

The goal of the forum was to help early-stage companies attract additional investment and support for further research and development of their products, particularly for university-based innovations.

The Nebraska startups selected to participate in the event were Ensign Pharmaceuticals, Global Laparoscopic Solutions and Intuitool.

Ensign Pharmaceuticals is a startup created by inventor and UNMC chemist Dong Wang, Ph.D., who developed a drug delivery platform called ProGel.

A liquid at lower temperatures, ProGel transforms into a gel-like substance as it reaches body temperature. As a result, the gel is then more likely to linger in the affected area, concentrating the pharmaceutical payload exactly where it needs to be.

Ensign Pharmaceutical’s initial product is a novel therapeutic prodrug for the most common cause of disability in the adult population: osteoarthritis pain.

The prodrug incorporates a potent steroid, dexamethasone, into the formulation. While effective for pain relief, the benefit of dexamethasone is unfortunately short-lived, usually lasting only a few days. However, when formulated with ProGel, dexamethasone has the potential to remain active much longer, potentially providing relief for months.

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.

This device under development at Global Laparoscopic Solutions could make minimally invasive procedures more accessible and affordable throughout the world.

This device under development at Global Laparoscopic Solutions could make minimally invasive procedures more accessible and affordable throughout the world.

Any number of pharmaceuticals can combine with ProGel for localized and sustained delivery of a variety of therapeutic agents. For example, ProGel could help treat other musculoskeletal disorders such as chronic back pain, tendonitis, bursitis, fracture repair, spinal fusion, and periodontal bone regeneration. It may also serve as a depot for sustained drug delivery in a broad spectrum of disorders, including hormone therapy for high-risk pregnancy, and localized chemotherapy.

Global Laparoscopic Solutions is a startup company based on innovations from UNMC surgeon Chandra Are, MD.

The technology at GLS is an elegant solution to the lack of laparoscopic surgical options throughout the world. Essentially, the device transforms any standard operating room into a minimally invasive surgical suite. While providing access to the furthest corners of the globe, the innovation also simplifies minimally invasive procedures, and at more affordable prices.

Intuitool is also built on a laparoscopic surgical solution. It features an ergonomic design that enables better performance from the surgeons who wield it.

Pictured is an early prototype of the Intuitool.

An early prototype of the Intuitool.

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Webinar will help researchers secure military support

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OMAHA, Nebraska (June 9, 2021)—A free virtual seminar will explore the U.S. Army’s work with universities and businesses on biomedical innovations and discoveries that have potential for military applications, including therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics, devices and information technology.

Sponsored by UNMC’s Vice Chancellor for Research and UNeMed, the seminar will be held via Microsoft Teams on Thursday, June 24 at noon. Anyone can join the one-hour event through this link or by dialing in at 402-797-7499. The phone conference ID is 591-474-296.

Barry Datlof, Chief of Business Development and Commercialization at the Office of Medical Technology Transfer in the U.S. Army Medical Research & Development Command, will deliver the presentation, “Advance your technology with the DOD.”

Michael Dixon

Dr. Dixon

Datlof’s remarks will also include tips on how to navigate and identify potential funding opportunities and write effective Cooperative Research and Development Agreements.

UNeMed CEO and President Michael Dixon, PhD, will emcee the event.

Direct any questions to research@unmc.edu.

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