Patent roll call, spring 2016

Lightbulb drawing

Patents protect the ideas behind novel inventions. At the University of Minnesota, filing for a patent isn’t just a way to protect intellectual property — it’s often a crucial step toward moving breakthrough discoveries, like cutting-edge software and pharmaceutical therapies, from the laboratory to the market.

Congratulations to these U of M researchers who were recently awarded patents for their discoveries. To learn more about reporting an invention, contact the Office for Technology Commercialization at 612-624-0550 or Continue reading

Patent roll call, fall 2015

Lightbulb drawing

A good invention can set a new standard in its field, redefine what’s possible and even change lives across the world. But before any of that can happen, most inventions require patenting. Patents protect innovations and help their creators bring them beyond the walls of the laboratory to benefit society at large.

Congratulations to these University of Minnesota researchers who were recently awarded patents for their discoveries. To learn more about reporting an invention, contact the Office for Technology Commercialization at 612-624-0550 or Continue reading

Startup Profile: Minnepura Technologies Inc.

Modern urban wastewater treatment plant

Minnepura Technologies Inc. uses bacteria-based biotechnology to purify water that has been contaminated by chemicals from industrial processes. The company is based on scientific discoveries by University of Minnesota researchers Alptekin Aksan, Ph.D., of the College of Science and Engineering and BioTechnology Institute, and Larry Wackett, Ph.D., of the College of Biological Sciences and also of the BioTechnology Institute.


The U of M-patented technology behind Minnepura uses small, sponge-like silica beads to trap certain types of bacteria in place. The beads, once placed in water, allow the bacteria to eat away potentially dangerous chemicals, naturally breaking these compounds down into harmless, environmentally friendly byproducts. And because the bacteria are contained within silica, scientists can ensure they stay alive and effective for months. Minnepura’s team identifies which bacteria are best suited for removing specific problematic chemicals in water, and then designs silica beads with the right type of bacteria inside to remove those contaminants. The company manufactures these beads for use in industrial and municipal water purification needs.

Potential impact

From industrial waste to agricultural runoff, there are numerous forms of chemical pollution that end up contaminating lakes, streams and groundwater, creating health risks for humans and animals alike. While there is a growing need to remove these chemicals, traditional methods are complex, costly and unsustainable, requiring condensed chemicals to be stored in a landfill as hazardous waste or pumped into injection wells deep inside the Earth. Minnepura’s silica beads provide a natural, low-cost alternative that can be custom-designed for specific chemicals from a wide range of industrial operations. The technology is also flexible enough to use in existing water treatment systems. Continue reading

Regional USPTO director highlights crucial role of patents

Patents play an important role in protecting the ideas behind technological breakthroughs.

That was the message Christal Sheppard, Ph.D., director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s satellite office in Detroit, used to kick off the second day of the 2015 Design of Medical Devices Conference at the University of Minnesota with a keynote address on the role of patents in medical technology. Sheppard went on to further discuss the subject during a breakout session moderated by Jay Schrankler, director of the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization.

Patents have been an important part of the U.S. since the country’s founding, Sheppard said, but are often undervalued as a means for encouraging innovation through research and development. In order to innovate, inventors must spend great effort and expense on research and development. Without patents, another person could take that inventor’s ideas and use them to launch a competing product or service faster and at a lower cost. Continue reading

Patent roll call, spring 2015

Lightbulb drawing

Patents play an important role in bringing cutting-edge research to the market. By protecting intellectual property, patents allow research breakthroughs to thrive in the market and become solutions to real-world problems.

Congratulations to these University of Minnesota faculty who were recently awarded patents for their discoveries. To learn more about reporting an invention, contact the Office for Technology Commercialization at 612-624-0550 or

Engineering and physical sciences

Nanoparticles with grafted organic molecules
Inventors: Lorenzo Mangolini, Uwe Kortshagen and Rebecca Anthony

System and method for making metallic iron with reduced CO2 emissions
Inventors: Richard Kiesel and David Englund

Pulse gap cycling for improved SWIFT
Inventors: Curtis Corum, Djaudat Idiyatullin, Steen Moeller and Michael Garwood

Replication of patterned thin-film structures for use in plasmonics and metamaterials (see license)
Inventors: David Norris, Sang Eon Han, Aditya Bhan, Prashant Nagpal, Nathan Lindquist and Sang-Hyun Oh

Wireless communication system having linear encoder
Inventors: Georgios Giannakis and Zhengdao Wang

For more information on licensing engineering and physical sciences technologies, contact Dale Nugent or Eric Hockert.

Continue reading

Made in Minnesota: Celebrating University Innovators

Fiber optics

Innovation and discovery have always been a proud part of the university’s growing and rich entrepreneurial landscape. During Made in Minnesota: Celebrating University Innovators, which took place Dec. 11 at Northrop, 285 inventors received much-deserved recognition for their efforts to, as President Kaler put it, “confirm that higher education is a profoundly public good.”

Representing 14 colleges across the university system, the honorees earned a total of 141 patents and 316 licenses during fiscal years 2012-2014. The evening included remarks from U of M President Eric Kaler, VP for Research Brian Herman and a keynote from nationally recognized journalist and urbanist Greg Lindsay.

2014 also marked the inaugural presentation of the Innovation Awards—winners were nominated by their peers in three categories for their contributions at various stages in their careers and in the commercialization cycle.

Continue reading

Patent roll call, fall 2014

Lightbulb drawing

Patents allow the most promising discoveries of today to become the game-changing innovations of tomorrow. A key milestone in the transition from the lab to the marketplace, patents protect the ownership of university technologies and grant them real-world applications to benefit society.

Congratulations to these University of Minnesota faculty who were recently awarded patents for their discoveries. To learn more about reporting an invention, contact the Office for Technology Commercialization at 612-624-0550 or

Continue reading

The key to innovation? Invest in a knowledge economy


Many far-reaching innovations were born and nurtured with the university setting serving as the incubator and the locus of brilliance. Facebook and Microsoft, Apple, Google, Medtronic, for example, all were hatched when their creators were barely into their 20s and their student days hardly in their rear view mirrors.

Universities have always played a major role in scientific and technological advances. But because federal research funding is in steep decline, they must dedicate themselves to a much more prominent role. In fact, the U.S. is in danger of losing its research and development primacy—the foundation of our nation’s knowledge economy—- unless universities, partnered with industry, can fill the R&D void.

“Our nation’s role as the world’s innovation leader is in serious jeopardy,” a group of nearly 200 university leaders wrote President Obama last year. Continue reading

Partnership creates eco-friendly method to clean mine water


As the nation’s largest producer of iron ore and taconite, Minnesota has historically depended on its mining industry. The state’s mining operations, which have seen a resurgence in recent years, provide raw materials for everything from cars to electronics, employ more than 4,100 people and have a $3.2 billion annual impact, according to a recent report produced by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics.

Recently, tightening Environmental Protection Agency regulations have spurred mining companies to up their environmental game and remove more contaminants from mine water. According to the EPA, consuming high concentrations of heavy metals causes kidney damage, bone disease and other health problems. While mining companies are already required to adhere to strict environmental guidelines, industry leaders are seeking more effective, cost-efficient and renewable alternatives to existing methods like oil-based ion exchange systems, chemical reagents and reverse osmosis systems.

Now, a Minnesota-based business and U of M researchers are teaming up to develop industry solutions to fill this need. In 2009, Aitkin-based American Peat Technology, which manufactures environmentally beneficial products, signed its first research agreement with the U to partner with UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute. The partnership opened the door for NRRI and APT to explore new ways to use peat to remove harmful pollutants from mine water. In 2013, APT signed another research agreement with the U under the new Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program, establishing the partnership that continues today. Continue reading

Patent roll call, spring 2014

Lightbulb drawing

At the core of the University of Minnesota’s culture of innovation and discovery are its talented staff and faculty. From disease treatments to high-tech materials, world-changing breakthroughs are the fruit of months’ or years’ worth of time, effort and knowledge from the U’s dedicated researchers. The patenting process is an important milestone for intellectual property as it transitions from university lab to real-world application.

Here’s a list of U of M faculty and their colleagues who recently acquired patents for their discoveries. Learn more about reporting an invention or contact the Office for Technology Commercialization at 612-624-0550 or

Recent patents

Active Transmit Elements for MRI Coils and Other Antenna Devices
Inventors: J. Thomas Vaughan
Charles Lemaire

Adiabatic Magnetization Preparation for B1 and B0 Insensitive High Contrast MRI
Inventors: Curtis Corum, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research
Steen Moeller, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research
Djaudat Idiyatullin, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research
Michael Garwood, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research

Analgesic Agents
Inventors: Philip Portoghese, Pharmacy
Ajay Yekkirala, Pharmacology Continue reading

FAQ: Reporting university inventions

Lab notes

Reporting inventions is an important step faculty must take to ensure research-driven innovations transform our world. To help faculty navigate the process, here are answers to common questions.

How can I recognize an invention?

An invention, also referred to as intellectual property (IP), can take many different forms, from databases to material inventions. These works may be protected by a copyright, patent or trademark, depending on their nature and purpose. At the University of Minnesota, an invention is likely to be the result of your research, and could include discoveries as varied as medical devices, pharmaceuticals and new varieties of fruit.

How do I report my invention?

Inventions are reported to the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization, who can assess your invention and determine the best path towards commercialization. If you think you have developed something of commercial value, contact the OTC technology strategy manager that correlates with your field of research. If you’re not sure who to contact, email OTC at or call 612-624-0550 if you would like assistance in finding the right contact. For more information, see Steps for Reporting Inventions.

Why should I report my invention?

Your inventions can have a big impact. Taking the time to report your invention is a necessary step toward ensuring your ideas are protected and can ultimately benefit society through commercialization. Not only can your inventions lead to significant financial rewards—for you, your department and the university as a whole–they may also lead to further research opportunities and business contacts. Continue reading

Startups, partnerships fuel new technology at U

Annual report cover

It sounds like a puzzle pulled from the pages of a medical textbook: Imagine you wanted to treat cancer by blocking the blood flow to a tumor, but needed the artery to open itself back up later.

Dr. Jafar Golzarian, director of interventional radiology at the University of Minnesota, solved the puzzle and brought its solution to life. His natural polymer bead, which breaks down after a period of time, fit the bill and was so promising it gave root to EmboMedics, a new medical technology company.

Golzarian’s invention is one of the many research projects the U has spun off as a startup over the years to help new technology reach the market. The U launched a record 14 startups during fiscal 2013, according to a recent Office for Technology Commercialization report on the U’s growing tech transfer efforts.

While new companies are bringing U technology to market, partnerships between departments are thriving back on campus. College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Marilyn Speedie and her team are partnering with OTC to patent and commercialize their research, which includes new therapeutics for a wide range of diseases.

Across the board, OTC Executive Director Jay Schrankler said the U is bringing in more invention disclosures and filing more patents than ever before.

“Our goal is to maintain this innovative spirit, stay at the forefront of technology management, and to continue developing new ideas and programs in 2014,” Schrankler said.

To learn about some of the other startups and internal partnerships that defined the year in tech transfer, check out OTC’s 2013 annual report.

Originally published on Business @ the U of M.