Vireo expansion to add jobs, economic impact to area

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CON-CRET & AminoActiv

PLATTSMOUTH, Nebraska (Aug. 25, 2020)—Vireo Resources broke ground on a $50 million expansion that could create as many as 300 new jobs for the area, according to a recent report in the Omaha World-Herald.

Vireo is a Tennessee-based nutritional supplement company that offers products based on Jonathan Vennerstom’s novel work with new creatine formulations at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. One of the products invented at UNMC is known by the trade name CON-CRET, and it helps improve strength and endurance while reducing recovery times from athletic activities. Another Vireo product based on UNMC innovation is AminoActiv, which promotes joint and muscle health.

Early success led to Vireo opening a manufacturing facility in Plattsmouth in 2008, and eventually expanded into a 10,000 square-foot facility in 2011. The latest expansion broke ground right next door, and will hold an additional 32,000 square feet. Altogether, the facilities will all fit within Vireo’s 10-acre campus and could eventually add another 100,000 square feet, according to the World-Herald report.

Vireo currently employs about 40 people, but that could expand to more than 300 once the expansion is complete in about seven years.

The economic impact of the expansion, however, is not limited to just larger facilities or an injection of new jobs. As the World-Herald reports:

“…added jobs should help fill new housing proposed for Plattsmouth, including a $10.3 million project to convert the old high school near Eighth and Main Streets. An Omaha developer’s plan, which includes public incentives, calls for 25 lofts in a renovated high school and 16 apartments in two newly constructed buildings.

“The adjacent Old Blue Devil stadium, which hasn’t been used as a school district football field since the 1980s, would be transformed into single-family housing under a plan the city is trying to work out with a developer. The mayor said he expects up to 45 dwellings to be built.

“‘We’ve got 200 to 300 jobs coming to this area,’ [Plattsmouth Mayor Paul] Lambert said. ‘Those people have to have some place to live.’”

Read the Omaha World-Herald’s comprehensive report here:

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UNMC researcher synthesizes new antibiotic peptides

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Dr. Wang

OMAHA Neb. (Aug. 19, 2020)—One year removed from publishing a groundbreaking study on classifying and designing antimicrobial peptides, Gus Wang, PhD, has apparently done it again.

A leading expert on antimicrobial peptides, Dr. Wang’s landmark papers were both published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The more recent paper, “Two distinct amphipathic peptide antibiotics with systemic efficacy,” published on July 28, and essentially proves in practical practice and application some of the ideas in the previous paper.

The previous article, “Low cationicity is important for systemic in vivo efficacy of database-derived peptides against drug-resistant Gram-positive pathogens,” published on June 17, 2019. In it, Dr. Wang describes a new approach to classifying and designing antimicrobial peptides.

In the most recent publication, Dr. Wang used these methods to synthesize two examples of antimicrobial peptides, horine and verine. Both have potential for clinical use, through intravenous administration, like a traditional antibiotic.

This represents a huge leap forward in the quest for new antibiotics. Until now, most antimicrobial peptides have only shown promise as a topical salve or lotion when applied at the site of infection. But these new peptides significantly increased sepsis survival in mice, and cleared evidence of infection from major organs throughout the body after a single injection. Significantly, these designer antimicrobial peptides did not show toxic side effects to the kidneys in either mice or rats after a week of daily injections.

“Horine and verine, with horizontal and vertical amphipathic structures, are two tiny, packed, and amazing molecules,” Dr. Wang said. “While horine can eliminate MRSA and similar gram-positive pathogens, verine has broad spectrum activity and can also kill gram-negative pathogens such as the superbug Klebsiella.”

Klebsiella is a common type of bacteria that can live harmlessly in parts of the digestive system. But when Klebsiella infects other systems such as the lungs, urinary tract or bloodstream, it can be dangerous and difficult to treat—particularly if the infection was acquired in a hospital setting where the bacteria is more likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

Treatment options for Klebsiella and other bacterial infections are limited. Since 2018, the FDA approved only two new systemic antibiotic drugs, both in 2019. One was lefamulin, a new treatment for community-acquired pneumonia. The other was cefiderocol, a treatment for urinary tract infections. Neither of the two new treatments list Klebsiella among their lists of targeted bacteria.

Overall, the U.S. antibiotic pipeline has stagnated in the last 20 years. Since 2000, the FDA has approved 20 new systemic antibiotics, a significant drop from the 52 new antibiotics produced in 1980-1999.

In an effort to make peptides a viable antibacterial treatment, Dr. Wang is working with UNeMed and UNeTech to protect, validate and commercialize his discoveries. UNeTech is the accelerator and incubator program for startup companies that spin out of University of Nebraska innovations in Omaha.

Already, several companies have expressed interest related to human health, animal health and even food processing.

“The work has only just begun, and we welcome collaborations to advance these fascinating molecules forward,” Dr. Wang said.

US Antibiotic Pipeline

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Success Stories: Radux helps those who help you

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Greg Gordon, MD, founded Radux Devices around two inventions he created—including the Steradian Shield, above—that help protect physicians during fluoroscopic procedures.

Greg Gordon, MD, founded Radux Devices around two inventions he created—including the Steradian Shield, above—that help protect physicians during fluoroscopic procedures.

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | August 11, 2020

The type of innovative technologies blossoming at Nebraska startup company Radux Devices brings to mind, paradoxically, a 100-year-old Vaudeville routine.

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

Doctor: “Then don’t do that.”

The humor there is perhaps best described as the measure of empathetic annoyance at such “medical” advice. The advice isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t do much to solve to core issue of pain.

How a century-old comedy act dovetails with cutting technology speaks to the very nature of innovation. In this case, Greg Gordon, MD, an interventional radiologist, suffered pain every time he did his job.

Inventor/Founder Greg Gordon, M.D., presents his startup company, Radux Devices, during UNeMed’s 2017 Industry Partnering Summit.

He couldn’t very well stop doing his job, as an old Vaudevillian might have him do. Discomfort, chronic pain, debilitating back injuries and even dangerous radiation exposure are all part and parcel to an interventional radiologist’s existence.

But here’s the thing: It didn’t have to be. Dr. Gordon just found a different, better way to “do that” so it wouldn’t hurt anymore. He solved the core problem.

And now he has a revenue-generating company built around those ideas.

That’s all innovation is.

Not all innovations are as potentially transformative as Dr. Gordon’s devices, but they all seem to share that same DNA.

The problem

Interventional radiology or fluoroscopic procedures actively use x-rays to help guide physicians as they place things like catheters and stents. Using x-rays are also helpful to monitor blood flow and find blocked arteries in real time.

The trouble with fluoroscopic procedures is two-fold.

First, they’re flooded with—surprise—x-ray radiation. That is not a big problem for most patients. They might see that level of radiation only a few times in their entire lives.

The physician, however, might perform several of those procedures in a single day. All that radiation adds up, so physicians must take great care to limit their exposure.

The interventional radiologists who perform these procedures wear heavy, lead-lined protective garments, which lead to the second part of the problem: musculoskeletal injuries.

While wearing a 15- to 30-pound apron, the physicians often try limiting their exposure by standing in ways that keeps them as far removed from the x-ray field as possible. That usually means leaning in odd and uncomfortable angles. It means using less-than-preferred techniques just to avoid feeling the stabbing pains and dull aches that seem to grow more intense with each passing day.

The Standard of Care

The standard of care in cardiac fluoroscopic procedures is to access the patient’s aorta through in the radial artery in the arm. The left is the easier route because the artery on that side has one less curve to navigate.  However, using the left radial artery is often awkward and uncomfortable because most surgeons are right-handed. A right-handed doctor using left arm access usually requires leaning into the radiation field, over the patient, who themselves are often positioned in awkward and uncomfortable positions.

Many physicians in cardiac fluoroscopic procedures can easily avoid the discomfort—and its potential for long-term injury—in favor of using the right arm or the femoral artery in a leg.

The problem with the right arm is one of human anatomy. The right side has that extra curve, which is even more complicated with shorter or older patients. The arteries in shorter people make tighter curves, and older, more fragile patients often have arteries that are more delicate. A physician might struggle for half-an-hour to finesse a catheter into position from the right arm. The same procedure on the same patient might take only five minutes when performed from the groin.

Femoral access may be no more complicated than from the left radial artery, but going through the groin is well documented for carrying a significantly higher risk of complications and failures.

Don’t do that, do this

In 2012, Dr. Gordon solved the problems with two seemingly simple ideas.

One is called the “Steradian Shield,” which is about the size of a steno notebook. It’s a sterile, moveable device that can be placed virtually anywhere, in any position, to block the radiation gaps from entering the physician’s workspace.

Another device, called “StandTall,” helps physicians better manage and direct the catheters used during fluoroscopic procedures. StandTall was designed to help bring the workflow closer to the surgeons while at the same time moving them further away from the radiation.

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

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

Such simple improvements may seem inconsequential, but the change is dramatic in a fluoroscopic suite. What they’ve essentially done is eliminate all the troubles associated with left-arm access, allowing physicians to comfortably perform left radial procedures from the right table set up, giving that gold standard of care a chance for wider use in the United States. The benefits just cascade from there.

No longer in pain and in fear of radiation exposure, physicians can perform procedures faster, more efficiently and more of them. Their use of the preferred access sites leads to better patient outcomes, less complications, and lower costs. A radial access procedure, on average, costs $1,000 less than a femoral access procedure.

Meanwhile the hospital and catheter labs increase the number of procedures that can be performed in a day, with fewer complications and far fewer expenses.

If there are any losers, it might be the chiropractors and orthopedic specialists that interventional radiologists seek out for relief.

Word from the field

In an interview published in the March issue of Cath Lab Digest, one physician found that using the StandTall Device helped him improve his radial access rate, going from 80 percent to 95 percent.

“The StandTall has allowed me to adopt a left radial first approach for bypass cases, because I can use a left radial access without having to lean over the table,” said Ryan D. Madder, MD, Section Chief of Interventional Cardiology and Director of the Cath Lab at the Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He added: “…we have seen an increase in radial access rates as a whole for our entire lab and along with that, we have seen a reduction in our access site bleeding complications. I do think the StandTall has made it more comfortable for operators to use left radial access in bypass cases.”

For the dry prose of a practicing clinician, that’s a ringing endorsement. It’s made all the more remarkable with the knowledge of how fraught and treacherous the road for a startup can be.

At Radux, the first few years was a constant struggle to secure funding just to build a few prototypes.

As it turned out that was the easy part.

The long road

Inventor Greg Gordon, MD, checks the alignment on an early prototype of his Steradian Shield invention during a proof of concept study in 2015. The study found that the shield blocked significant levels of radiation during fluoroscopic procedures.

The University of Nebraska provided some help with a proof of concept grant, and the state’s burgeoning venture capital community stepped in as well.

But one thing many people don’t know about innovation is that the first prototype is just that: The first.

What follows are countless iterations, and follow-on experiments to test incremental changes and improvements. All the while, the fund-raising beast is voracious and must be fed, constantly.

By 2016 Dr. Gordon stepped back from full-time practice in order to help his startup grow.

The extra time appeared to pay off.

Radux secured FDA registration, and finally rolled out its official launch with a national distributor in September 2019. There was actually revenue, which is no small feat for a fledgling startup.

Even better, more and more hospitals were buying into the devices Radux created: It was an easy sell once doctors and administrators were able to use them.

What pandemic?

Today, in spite of a pandemic that shut down all non-emergency procedures, Radux has continued its momentum. So far, Radux boasts nine full-time employees, and their devices are in more than 70 hospitals nationwide and a high reorder rate, supporting their sales model and product acceptance.

And when face-to-face meetings become a thing again, those numbers are expected to keep growing.

It would be shocking if it didn’t.

The undeniable thing about these devices is that when they get into the hands of health care professionals, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

In essence, they tell Radux it hurts to do what they do.

Radux gives them far more than an old punchline.

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Virtual ‘Women in STEM’ event is Aug. 11

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Lisa Bilek, Ph.D. (right), is seen here during a careers seminar that UNeMed hosted during Innovation Week in 2015. Seated next to her is co-panelist and fellow UNMC alum Tyler Martin, Ph.D.

Bio Nebraska will host a free virtual presentation next month, “Nebraska women in STEM: Finding what you need to succeed (or creating it if it doesn’t exist).”

The event is planned for Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Lisa Bilek, Ph.D., will tell the story of how she built and developed a stable career in science, and how that journey led her to create LOLA. LOLA is a non-profit that connects and supports women with shared experiences in their professional lives.

Learn more about the free presentation, including how to register, on the Bio Nebraska website:

Bilek received her doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2013. Since then, she has worked in medical affairs for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, accepting a position with Sanofi Genzyme’s multiple sclerosis team in 2015. She also sits on the UNMC Graduate Studies Alumni Advisory Board.

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MidWest Drug Development Conference for 2020 is postponed

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OMAHA, Neb. (July 15, 2020)—The third annual MidWest Drug Development Conference has been postponed due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hated to do it, and that’s why we put off the decision as long as we did,” said Matt Boehm, Ph.D., the event organizer and director of licensing at UNeMed. “Even though we’re still more than two months out, we’d rather err on the side of caution.”

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

In addition to obvious concerns for the health of attendees and staffers, general uncertainty related to travel and hosting large events also played a large role in the decision to postpone the event.

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

While the conference will not happen in 2020, organizers will start planning for the conference to take place again in 2021. Any updates will first be announced via the MidWest Drug Development Conference newsletter, which can subscribed to at

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

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OMAHA & LINCOLN, Nebraska (June 24, 2020)—For the third straight year, the University of Nebraska system is ranked among the top 100 academic institutions worldwide in earning U.S. patents.

A newly released report from the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association lists the NU system at No. 65, a 14-spot improvement from the previous year. The ranking reflects the 44 patents granted in 2019 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 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.

Michael Dixon

Dr. Dixon

“The University of Nebraska’s culture of innovation grows stronger and stronger year after year” said UNeMed president and CEO, Michael Dixon, Ph.D. “The ongoing creativity from our inventors only proves it, and will soon pay dividends not just to our overall health, but throughout the ecosystem as the backbone of some new high-growth, high-wage Nebraska companies.”

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.

“It’s always gratifying to see the University of Nebraska land on lists like this,” Dixon said. “But it’s also important to realize that patents are but one tool for us as we try to help these discoveries and innovations move forward. Patents are great, but that just the beginning for us and NUtech.”

Often, a patent can attract collaborative partnerships that help finance and support additional research and development of University technologies. Right now, 71 percent of UNeMed’s patent portfolio is licensed for further development.

Of UNeMed’s 21 issued U.S. patents last year, 17 were licensed to nine different companies.

“What that means is that’s 17 technologies that are getting the additional support they need for further development,” Dixon said. “In a nutshell, that’s why we exist: To help push University innovations as far down the development road as possible.”

Among the companies that licensed UNeMed’s issued patents, seven are Nebraska startups, including Radux Devices.

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

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

Radux developed a device that helps physicians avoid the muscoskeletal stresses and injuries common for interventional radiologists. Developed by Greg Gordon, a former UNMC interventional radiologist, the device improves the ergonomics of catheter management during fluoroscopic procedures. It now serves as the basis for Omaha-based startup company Radux Devices, which is manufacturing and selling multiple FDA-approved medical devices that help improve safety and quality for both patients and physicians.

Seven patents are related to the groundbreaking surgical robots created by co-inventors Shane Farritor, Ph.D., and former UNMC surgeon, Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D. So far, Virtual Incision has raised more than $50 million, and has already succeeded in early human trials as it approaches FDA clearance.

Another licensed and patented technology is also approaching FDA approval: A hemodialysis catheter invented by nephrologist Marius Florescu, M.D. Licensed to Chrysalis Medical, the new catheter contains a small balloon that can expand to break up the kind of tissue that often forces physicians to replace catheters.

Yet another licensed technology that earned patents in 2019 was in collaboration with Vireo Systems, which operates a manufacturing facility in Plattsmouth, Neb. Vireo makes and sells health supplements such as UNMC’s creatine ethyl-ester and creatine hydrochloride compounds. They are both sold globally under the brand names “CON-CRET” and “AminoActiv,” respectively.

Two more patents are continued testament to the creativity of Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., who suddenly passed away in 2017. His startup company, Prommune, along with his co-inventor, Joe Vetro, Ph.D., are developing immune-stimulating peptides that can boost the human immune system to fight deadly infections.

“All these technologies will help improve the quality of life for countless people over the coming years,” Dixon said. “That’s fantastic, but another result is the juice they add to Nebraska’s economic engine. Those home-brewed innovations create new industry and produce the kind of high-paying jobs that can really boost the local and state economy.”

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UNeMed lands prototyping grant to build medical device pipeline

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Michael Dixon

Dr. Dixon

OMAHA, Neb. (June 10, 2020)—UNeMed recently secured a $50,000 SHARPhub grant to create the Medical Device Prototype Pipeline project.

UNeMed—the technology transfer and commercialization office for the Omaha campuses of the University of Nebraska—will identify projects with potential as healthcare products that can form the basis of a startup company. UNeMed will then work with the Machining and Prototyping Core facility to create and test working porotypes for those technologies, moving them another step closer to patients and healthcare providers. The Machining and Prototyping Core facility is housed within the Center for Research in Human Movement Variability at UNO’s Biomechanics building.

“The great thing is this funding stream will allow us to pull together all these great resources for several projects that just need that little push,” said Michael Dixon, Ph.D., President and CEO at UNeMed. “Combining the prototyping experts from UNO together with the entrepreneurial resources at UNeTech should result in the kind of translational projects that can help drive a new biomedical industry in town.”

UNeTech is a research institute and startup incubator shared between UNO and UNMC. UNeTech provides space, expertise and support to startup companies built around University of Nebraska innovations.

The grant is through the SHARPhub Proof of Concept program. SHARPhub is the technology transfer hub for the Sustainable Heartland Accelerator Regional Partnership, which is a collaboration between BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting and the five-state Midwestern region that includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. SHARPhub’s mission is to coach and provide opportunities and resources that would help commercialize life-science innovations in the Midwest.

SHARPhub’s proof-of-concept funding could help as many as eight University of Nebraska innovations move toward a working prototype that could form the basis of a new startup company. The planned projects are:

  • Variable Diameter Balloon Catheter—A new balloon that will eliminate the need for series of inflations at increasing diameters during some angioplasty procedures. The variable sizes should decrease patient risk and perhaps improve outcomes.
  • MedLens—There remains untapped potential in the use of mobile devices for medical imaging, and this universal lens adaptor kit would improve their use in clinics everywhere.
  • Self-Pacing Treadmill—The world’s first treadmill that adjusts its own speed to the user’s pace, including sudden starts and stops. First applications will be used to help rehabilitate stroke patients.
  • Syringe Actuator—A powered injection device for performing peripheral nerve blocks as a regional anesthetic, most commonly used before surgeries on a hand, arm, leg or foot. The new device will provide real-time haptic feedback to anesthesiologist for better patient care.
  • Mechanical Aortic Prosthetic Valve Delivery Device—A collapsible mechanical aortic valve that is compatible with delivery via minimally invasive surgery, such as a transcatheter. Funding will create alternative CAD designs, followed by further functionality testing with rapid prototyping.
  • Next Generation Distal Radius Fracture Plating System—A system for setting broken wrists that is designed to provide all the benefits of fragment specific plating without the drawback of the inherently complex and difficult surgical procedure.
  • Guided Endodontic System—A system for improved precision during both implantation and removal of dental prosthesis.
  • Ultrasound Probe Gel Cap—A self-contained ultrasound probe attachment that provides the necessary gel interface for scanning without the need for reapplication of external gel during dynamic scanning.

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Omaha startup to launch clinical trials combating the precursors of skin cancer

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OMAHA, Nebraska (May 28, 2020)–ProTransit Nanotherapy, an Omaha startup built around a nanoparticle technology invented at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, will launch human clinical trials this summer with products that could help prevent and, in some cases, improve sunspots and neutralize free radicals, both precursors to skin cancer.

The trials will test a series of groundbreaking new topical skincare products and assess their ability to optimize skin health and improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin including spots, wrinkles and sagging.

Artesian Beauty, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, financed the trials with a capital investment that will lead to product launches if the studies prove successful. A portion of the funding will also help ProTransit optimize the production of nanoparticles at UNMC’s Nebraska Nanomedicine Production Plant, ProTransit’s primary manufacturer.

“This is really a prequel for us,” said ProTransit CEO and co-founder Gary Madsen, Ph.D., “but if this works like we think it will, then we’ll move on to fully commercializing Pro-NP™.”

Pro-NP™ is ProTransit’s patented and unique nanoparticle delivery technology. The nanoparticle quickly penetrates the skin, delivering a sustained release of active ingredients throughout the epidermis. Early studies have shown the nanoparticles can deliver a wide variety of payloads to treat multiple conditions. The first round of products, however, will focus on optimizing skin health while promoting a more youthful appearance.

By encapsulating high potency antioxidant enzymes—superoxide dismutase and catalase— Pro-NP™ should improve the signs of photoaging, which include wrinkles, sagging and sunspots, all signs of free radical damage which can lead to skin cancer.

“While topically applied antioxidants are notoriously hard to get into the skin, we’ve seen remarkable skin penetration and efficacy using superoxide dismutase and catalase in the studies we’ve done to date,” Dr. Madsen said. “Effective penetration and meaningful delivery of antioxidants may help improve the visible signs of sun damage. But we’re also conducting a 2-year study with a grant from the NIH to assess our ability to prevent skin cancer using the Pro-NP™ nanoparticle loaded with the same antioxidants.”

The NIH-supported skin cancer prevention study is being conducted at Omaha’s Creighton University School of Medicine, which has one of the leading skin cancer labs in the US. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.

Additional efforts will look at expanding the number of medical conditions that can be treated topically using Pro-NP™ loaded with other active ingredients.

Former UNMC researcher Vinod Labhasetwar, Ph.D., invented the innovative nanoparticle. He is a co-founder of ProTransit and is currently a professor of biomedical engineering at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

A vial of ProTransit NanoTherapy's proprietary antiparticles that will soon enter a clinical trial to test its effectiveness against preventing the kind of sun damage that often leads to skin cancer.

A vial of ProTransit NanoTherapy’s proprietary nanoparticles that will soon enter a clinical trial to test its effectiveness against preventing the kind of sun damage that often leads to skin cancer.

ProTransit Nanotherapy Inc. is a research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company – is committed to advancing nanotherapy for better health using its patented and proprietary Pro-NP™ technology to deliver potent biomacromolecular therapeutics topically and intravenously. For company information visit:

Artesian Beauty LLC was founded in 2013 to develop specialized beauty products that reduce the effects of aging by combining elements of the earth with science and technology. For more information, visit:

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Virtual classes for securing grant funding starting in June

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SHARPhub logoCHELSEA, Michigan (May 29, 2020)—Four virtual classes will go online early next week providing educational opportunities for life-science entrepreneurs.

All classes are free and open to all, but primarily aimed at entrepreneurs in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas.

Beginning Tuesday, June 2, the first virtual class is a mentoring program aimed at helping university researchers commercialize their innovations. Three more classes—June 15, June 22 and July 28—will guide life-science entrepreneurs through the entire grant process for successful SBIR/STTR funding.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs are federal research and development grant funds administered by a dozen government agencies, including the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Defense, to name a few. Each year, the top two programs award more than $3 billion to small businesses.

SHARPhub is providing the classes at no charge as a part of its mission to coach and provide opportunities and resources that would help commercialize life-science innovations in the Midwest. SHARPhub is the technology transfer hub for the Sustainable Heartland Accelerator Regional Partnership, which is a collaboration between BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting and the five-state Midwestern region.

The first online class is the “SHARPhub MAP Program Webinar,” which runs just 30 minutes, beginning at noon on Tuesday, June 2. The MAP (Mentoring, Assessment, and Planning) program uses a combination of educational modules, tools, and mentoring to help university researchers assess the potential of their life science technology to ensure they’re on a strong development path to successfully commercializing their innovations. Participants work one-on-one with a SHARPhub mentor using their Startup School video series: “8 Steps to Commercialization of Research Technology.” To register, go to:

The next offering is “ABC of SBIR/STTR Funding.” That class is scheduled for Monday, June 15, at 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. This class will teach the basics of the SBIR/STTR program, including program purpose, eligibility, and sources of funding. The goal of this presentation is to help participants determine if they want to seriously pursue proposal development and provide tools to begin that process. To register, go to:

Next is “SBIR/STTR Proposal Prep for NIH” on Monday, June 22 at 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This class will outline the differences between SBIR and STTR; review how to navigate the NIH’s SBIR website to research awarded projects; how to prepare an SBIR proposal; and how to avoid common pitfalls. To register, go to:

Finally, the online classes will conclude with “Commercialization Planning for SBIR/STTR Proposals” on Tuesday, July 28 at 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This class will teach the essential components of an effective plan; how to find and use cost-effective market research; which supporting documents are needed; and other tips for writing a winning plan. To register, go to:

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Making pandemic lemonade with academic innovation

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*UPDATED 7/29/20: New invention numbers updated to reflect final data for the fiscal year ending in 2020.

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | May 26, 2020

I remember clearly the moment when I realized I’d be working from home for an extended period.

My big concern at the time—which seems preposterously silly now—was that I was about to be desperate for things to do. I needed to dream up ways to keep myself occupied for what was beginning to look like a pandemic.

I sure wasn’t going to have a lot of office work to do. That much was certain.

I went around the house, writing up a list of small projects suitable for my level of (in)competence.

I worried that it was a short list. Maybe I could take up gardening? Learn the mystic arts of the magical force that powers lights and TVs and other gizmos. Some people call electricity witchcraft, and those people are correct.

The truth is, I’ve been as busy at work as I’ve ever been…even if that work looks a lot like a modest dining room…now scattered with an ENTIRE BOX of crispy rice cereal that my kid just dumped all over the floor!

Oh, the humanity!

ANYWAY…I know why my wide-eyed home project list now lays forgotten somewhere, probably buried under a pile of poorly crayoned first-grade worksheets.

It’s the University of Nebraska’s fault. Specifically, the researchers, clinicians and all the other folks around here who have been feverishly thinking of better ways to do things amid this pandemic. We’re up to our eyeballs in new inventions, and there seems no end in sight.

Just look at the numbers: In the third fiscal quarter that ended on March 31, we had 34 new inventions, which was then the third-best quarter in our history. I will detail a few of those innovations in a minute.

But if you look at the final 13 weeks of the fiscal calendar, inventors submitted 39 new inventions. That is the second-most prolific quarter in UNMC and UNO history (The 42 new inventions in 2018’s third quarter is the most.)

But the pandemic doesn’t neatly fit into our fairly arbitrary quarterly brackets. If the pandemic were the measuring stick, then in the 13 weeks beginning with the start of lock-down in mid-March, we counted a whopping 49 new inventions.

That is an unprecedented amount of innovation at UNMC and UNO during a time when everyone is supposed to be sitting at home, power-streaming Stranger Things and baking sourdough bread.

I think it’s safe to say that this is likely the most innovative stretch of 13 weeks in Nebraska history.

In fact, in our entire history, we’ve landed 30 or more inventions in a single quarter only five other times.

So, as I update this post eight months later, I still haven’t looked anyone from our office directly in the eye for more than 130 days, but they too are apparently not lacking for things to do.

This gangbuster innovative productivity is probably the most heartening thing I can take away from our circumstances. We now know with clear-eyed certainty that the brightest bulbs in our state—physicians, academic researchers, nurses, and others—are pouring themselves into finding solutions to the single-biggest problem of our time. And I can also say with maximum confidence that the same can probably be said about every other biomedical academic and clinical institution like ours.

What we see happening in our small corner of the universe amounts to 30 new inventions—in the last five months—that are directly related to fighting the pandemic. Yet that is but a small illustration of what is happening everywhere, and we should all take heart that some of the smartest people in the world are giving COVID-19 their undivided attention.

That is just awesome—in the truest sense of the word’s primary definition.

Here’s a closer look at a handful of some of the innovations Nebraska inventors have been churning out in response to this pandemic, in no particular order (This list doesn’t even include the more than 50 drug development and ongoing research discovery projects.):

  • Intubation Shield: Placing a tube in infected patients to help them breathe has become a high-risk procedure for healthcare workers. The intubation shield is a simple, cost-effective design that can be easily cleaned, stored and moved from room-to-room, unlike other intubation boxes which are bulky and heavy.
  • Infectious aerosol capture mask and filter housing: The mask and filter housing are a great example of innovation through improvisation, the mask and filter were cobbled together largely with repurposed parts. The result is a new device for patients who need oxygen but might not be symptomatic. The Air Force tested the device for use on their flights transporting COVID-19 patients. They liked it well enough to order 4,000 units.
  • Magnetic face shield: Developed by Nebraska Medicine and UNMC emergency staff, the magnetic face shield is a clever design that makes easier (and safer) the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment for hospital staff.
  • 3D printed nasal swabs: It seems unbelievable that there are shortages of the kind of cotton swabs clinicians use to take nasal samples for various tests. It’s also remarkable that a 3D-printed version can both be safer and more comfortable for the patient.
  • UV cleaning method: UNMC researchers and Nebraska Medicine clinicians developed a process for sanitizing single-use personal protective equipment. The process enables things like masks and face shields to be used more than once, easing the strain of rising shortages during the pandemic.
  • Remdesivir trial: The first clinical trial launched in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19 began at UNMC with an American who was quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Yokohama, Japan. Andre Kalil, M.D., a physician and researcher at UNMC, led the trial.
  • COVID-19 triage app: A new mobile app, 1-Check COVID, helps guide the screening of large groups of individuals concerned that they might have COVID-19 and helps first responders and other health care providers determine a person’s likelihood of carrying the disease.

Final point: There are even more on the way, and you can find them here when they become available for licensing or as products on the market.

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New UNMC device captures exhaled coronavirus particles

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OMAHA, Nebraska (May 13, 2020)—A new protective device that is expected to help protect healthcare workers everywhere from the novel coronavirus is now available thanks to a remarkable partnership between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Omaha Custom Manufacturing.

The device has already drawn interest from the U.S. Air Force, which is currently studying the mask’s ability to protect flight crews that transport patients who are infected with COVID-19.

As the Air Force continues its study, the partnership will fast-track the manufacture of the device, called the Infectious Aerosol Capture Mask. It is designed to prevent infected patients from spraying or exhaling viral agents and potentially infecting others in the room.

“Omaha Custom Manufacturing has been incredible to work with,” said Tyler Scherr, Ph.D., the licensing agent at UNeMed who brokered the deal. “They’re basically doing this for us on a hope and a prayer. They saw the need and are investing to make these devices available to help protect all healthcare workers.”

Added Omaha Custom Manufacturing CEO and President, Mark Keffeler: “If there’s a way for us to help with the pandemic, we want to do it.”

Founded in 1978, Omaha Custom Manufacturing is a family owned, full-service contract manufacturing company that got its start in producing products for use in pharmacies and long-term care facilities—products that are still on the market today.

“Being able to partner with the med center is fantastic, and being able to help with the COVID-19 pandemic adds passion for the project,” said Tyler Keffeler, Vice President at Omaha Custom Manufacturing. Tyler is son to Mark and the third generation of Keffelers in the business.

Developed by the chair of UNMC’s Department of Anesthesiology, Steven Lisco, M.D., the Capture Mask is a face tent that covers the patient’s mouth and nose, and is then coupled with a viral filter and a special adaptor that connects the unit to standard vacuum supplies in most clinical settings.

Dr. Lisco—along with director of perioperative imaging, Nicholas Markin, M.D., who 3D printed the adapter—teamed with UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office at UNMC. UNeMed arranged a licensing agreement with a local company, Omaha Custom Manufacturing, which, given the urgency of the pandemic, agreed to focus resources in order to accelerate the device’s speed to market.

It will take about four weeks to set up their manufacturing process for the adapter, about half the time that is customary for injection-molded products. In the meantime, 3D-printed adapters will be sold until the injection molding process is completed, Scherr said.

“This has gone as smooth as possible,” Scherr said, “and the best part is Omaha Custom Manufacturing is right in our backyard. And not only that, but to be a local shop willing to invest their hard-earned money at a time like this, for something like this, is pretty amazing, really.”.

The Nebraska Medicine Innovation Committee has approved the device for use in its facilities, and has already deployed them in operating rooms and elsewhere in the hospital.

Hospitals risk wider contamination from COVID-19 patients when they cough or even just breathe. They produce microscopic particles that float through the air of their rooms, and potentially beyond. Even patients that have no symptoms may still unwittingly spread the virus in the same way, particularly when wearing supplemental oxygen or undergoing the procedures that insert or remove breathing tubes.

Dr. Lisco said in a recent announcement the device performed well in early tests, “catching more than 90 percent of airborne particles expelled in the mask, ultimately preventing the aerosol from entering the patient environment.”

He added: “Even when the vacuum wasn’t turned on, the mask was still 85 percent effective as a barrier.”

At this initial stage, the special adapter for the Infectious Aerosol Capture Mask is available for purchase through Omaha Custom Manufacturing at or 800-228-5021. All other components are commonly accessible in most clinical settings and readily found through various medical equipment suppliers.

A future version of the technology will incorporate all components into one contiguous device, but that will not be available for purchase until a later date.

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COVID-19 screening app for individuals, groups now available to Android users

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by Vicky Cerino, UNMC Communications | May 18, 2020

The University of Nebraska launched a new mobile app, 1-Check COVID, to help guide the screening of large groups of individuals concerned that they might have COVID-19 and to help first responders and other health care providers determine a person’s likelihood of carrying the disease.

Launched for iOS phones, that app now is available on Google Play for anyone on Android phones.

“We’re pleased to make this resource available to Android users,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). “By expanding the platform, we can continue to help our Nebraska communities and beyond navigate important symptoms of the coronavirus.”

The app, he said, helps reassure the worried well, as well as assist public safety teams responding to concerns and guide individuals who may have symptoms but are unsure what to do or how to share their concerns with others.

The iOS version already has topped more than 60,000 images and 9,800 downloads and received favorable App Store ratings and reviews.

1-Check COVID enables the users to privately answer a series of questions and assess their risk of having COVID-19. Based on the user’s input, the screening app will issue a “low-risk,” “urgent risk” or “emergent risk” assessment and guide the individual user and up to six family and friends toward possible next steps specific to their needs.

The steps range from continued monitoring of symptoms, contacting one’s health care clinic or public health department to determine whether testing is needed, or going to the nearest emergency facility and/or calling 911. The app also helps the user, if they wish, to share their COVID current risk profile with their health care professionals, employers, families and others if they desire to do so.

Although not a diagnostic tool, 1-Check COVID will provide appropriate advice based on the user’s symptoms, recent travel, geographic region (based on the ZIP code) and medical history. Developers say the screening app will enable individuals to make thoughtful decisions about when, or if, they should seek medical attention and allow them to immediately share the results only if they so choose.

The app was developed by medical and public health experts at UNMC, and computer science and computer engineering students within the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship program at UNO.

The team included Rod Markin, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for business development at UNMC and director of UNeTech; the UNMC Department of Emergency Medicine’s Thang Nguyen and Wes Zeger, D.O.; and UNO’s Harnoor Singh, director of student development for the Scott Scholars Program, as well as UNO Scott Scholars Grayson Stanton, Keegan Brown and Carly Cameron.

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New intubation shield protects healthcare workers from coronavirus during intubation procedures 

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OMAHA, Neb. (April 7, 2020)—A new protective barrier invented at the University of Nebraska Medical Center shields and protects healthcare workers from contagions and other contaminants during intubation procedures.

Inventors Thomas Schulte, MD, and Michael Ash, MD, in collaboration with Scott Nepper at Design Plastics, Inc. in Omaha—developed the device in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were looking for a way to help offset the widespread shortages of personal protective equipment facing healthcare workers, but also a better version of intubation boxes already on the market.

“We liked the idea of the intubation box but worried the rigid construction and size would have limited us to only a few operating rooms,” said Dr. Ash, a physician who is also the vice chancellor for information technology at UNMC and executive vice president and chief transformation officer at Nebraska Medicine. “We also worried about storage after the pandemic. We came up with a lightweight, foldable solution that is easily maneuverable for our providers and easy to clean. We now have thirty Intubation Shields deployed around the hospital.”

The Intubation Shield looks like a four-sided box made of a clear, lightweight plastic. It has ports so a healthcare professional can access the patient.

Easily maneuverable and adjustable, the Intubation Shield acts as a barrier to any pathogens a patient might express as a physician installs a tube down a patient’s throat and into the lungs. The tube provides an uninterrupted air supply for patients that struggle to breathe, including those suffering the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.

“The intubation shield provides an additional layer of safety and is so easy to use we plan on using the shield on every intubation of patients we suspect may have COVID-19,” said Schulte, an anesthesiologist at Nebraska Medicine.

The box is lightweight, folds flat for easy storage and can be cleaned for multiple uses, including cleaning using UV methods.

UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha, will ship intubation boxes to hospitals in some of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. Michael Dixon, CEO of UNeMed said, “We are humbled to be able to play a role in helping to protect providers on the front line and grateful to our inventors for creating an easy-to-use tool that could help stop the spread.”

Orders for the devices can be placed here.

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CleanCore kills bacteria without chemicals, coronavirus next on the hit list

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What is aqueous ozone and how does it work. First, Ozone molecules, which are made up of three oxygen atoms. are dissolved in water. Then the extra oxygen attacks and destroys contaminants. Finallly, the extra atom disinitragaes from the ozone molecule leaving behind only simple oxygen.OMAHA, Nebraska (March 18, 2020)—Research conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows that a new, chemical-free cleaning solution eliminates at least 99.9 percent of bacteria living on nonporous solid surfaces.

The findings have led researchers and CleanCore Solutions—the Omaha-based company that manufactures the new product—to test its effect against viruses, beginning with coronavirus.

James Talmadge

James Talmadge, Ph.D.

“We never took it to the next level with viruses, but I think it has potential,” said researcher James Talmadge, Ph.D., the Director of UNMC’s Laboratory of Transplantation Immunology and a professor in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology.

“It’s encouraging,” he said, “but until you do the tests, you cannot make a statement about viruses.”

UNMC and Dr. Talmadge are finalizing a study that will test CleanCore’s formulation against the coronavirus, but it may be several more weeks, if not months, before any results might be known. Current laboratory facilities are expected to be stretched thin with priority falling to testing patients for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, which is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because it was a University innovation, UNeMed secured the patent for the new formulation, and exclusively licensed the technology to CleanCore. Even though the new formulation has not yet been tested against viral agents, it has already met the rigors needed for clearance as a certified sanitizer.

“That’s not just my opinion. It fulfilled the requirement, which is a 3-log decrease,” Talmadge said. “That is sufficient to meet the sanitization requirements.”

A 3-log decrease refers to a 99.9 percent reduction in the colony forming units of several bacteria, which is the government’s requirement for non-food related surfaces.

A 4-log decrease is 99.99 percent reduction, and a 5-log decrease is 99.999 percent. Government agencies require a 5-log decease to meet a designation as an approved “disinfectant.” Against Salmonella, CleanCore’s new formulation showed a 6-log decrease.

Gary Hollst

Gary Hollst

“Our current products have proven to be a safer and more sustainable way to clean,” said CleanCore President Gary Hollst, “and this added formulation, once reviewed, should get us the sanitizer claim, while keeping our core values of safety and sustainability.”

CleanCore’s newest technology is an on-demand system that creates a cleaning solution when it combines water, ozone and the active ingredient in common household vinegar, acetic acid.

“Ozonated water, or aqueous ozone, has been used rather than chlorine in swimming pools, it has been used in drinking water,” Talmadge said.

The use of ozone as an effective disinfectant for water treatment has been known for more than 100 years. CleanCore’s equipment uses an electrical process that creates ozone, which is then dissolved into softened tap water. Aqueous ozone has proven to be significantly effective at cleaning non-pourous surfaces contaminated with bacteria, including E. Coli, Salmonella, Staphycoccus, and Klebsiella.

The studies from Talmadge’s lab paired the aqueous ozone solution with other known natural disinfecting agents. The stated goal was to raise the acidity of the solution and potentially increase its effect against more dangerous microbes.

Talmadge and his team introduced several known natural disinfecting agents, including citric acid, acetic acid and propionic acid, a common food preservative that inhibits mold.

Talmadge’s experiments showed the combination of acetic acid and aqueous ozone, in the right concentrations, were highly effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica and Klebsiella pneumonia, which causes a dangerous version of pneumonia that is often resistant to antibiotics.

“It is our hope that through this additional research we can be in a position to help reduce the risk of this new coronavirus and others that will potentially develop in the future,” said Lisa Roskens, Chair of the Board at CleanCore Solutions.

CleanCore Solutions focuses on providing an effective and natural aqueous ozone solution for all-purpose cleaning. Their Patented Pure Aqueous Ozone technology provides a cleaner, safer and healthier environment while also deodorizing and sanitizing multiple surfaces. Learn more at, or contact them at or 877-860-3030.

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UNMC/Nebraska Medicine pioneering method to reuse personal protective equipment

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Nebraska Medicine has developed a safe and effective method to decontaminate single-use personal protective equipment, or PPE, so they can be used multiple times. A team led by John Lowe, Ph.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center assistant vice chancellor for inter-professional health security training and education, is using ultraviolet light towers to irradiate high numbers of masks, which were originally designed to only be used once.

Read the New York Times’ coverage here.

The strategy will allow Nebraska Medicine to greatly extend its supply of these items during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The shortage of PPE is a nationwide issue – each and every one of these items is increasingly precious,” said Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the infectious diseases division at UNMC. “Although we were well prepared, our supplies were beginning to dwindle. We had to find a way to keep our providers and patients safe, and this will definitely help us achieve that goal.”

The decontamination of these items works like this: groups of masks are safely bagged and transported to a room inside the hospital which is equipped with two ultraviolet light towers. The PPE is hung on wires stretching the length of the room and then decontaminated when the lights are powered on. The items are then removed and returned to the original owners for reuse.

“The shortage has forced us to be innovative,” said Dr. Lowe. “While these items weren’t meant to be used more than once, this is a 100% safe way to extend their useful life. Other major hospital systems in the U.S. have also started to implement this method for the same reason we are.”

Our staff members have been provided with instructions on how to safely remove their PPE and place in bags for transport to the decontamination room.

Several community partners and concerned members of the public have offered to donate masks to help us in this time of need. We greatly appreciate these offers and are exploring all of them to continue to add to our stockpile of personal protective equipment.

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Top Midwest universities line up for 2020 Drug Development conference

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OMAHA, Neb. (February 11, 2020)—With eight months before the third MidWest Drug Development Conference opens its doors, 11 Universities are already lined up to participate in the two-day event.

So far, the impressive list of participating institutions are:

  • Mayo Clinic
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Colorado Anchutz Medical Campus
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • University of Oklahoma
  • WARF (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation)

Each participating institution will highlight new therapeutics they are developing. All told, the two-day conference will feature about 40 therapeutics during 10-minute presentations. Specific details about those presentations are not yet available, but a list of previous technology presentation titles can he viewed here:

The 11 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 for short. In 2018 the participating universities spent a combined $6.05 billion in research, which led to 2,625 new inventions. The 11 schools secured 685 U.S. patents, produced 186 new products and formed 89 startup companies. They also signed 998 licensing agreements, 25 of which were worth more than $1 million each.

Additional institutions will likely join the list in the coming weeks.

Another key feature of the conference are 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. 5, and concludes the following day, Tuesday, Oct. 6. 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:

A full list of participating universities—and the technologies they plan to present—will soon be announced.

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