MN-REACH seeks health care innovators for fourth funding cycle

Researchers who have developed cutting-edge medical technologies or pharmaceuticals can soon apply for funding to help bring those discoveries to market.

The University of Minnesota’s MN-REACH program, part of the National Institutes of Health’s Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs, is now entering its fourth funding cycle to help commercialize new med-tech and pharma inventions. MN-REACH aims to improve health care by fostering the development of breakthrough lab innovations — such as therapeutics, preventatives, diagnostics, devices and software tools — into products that create health, economic and societal benefits.

Researchers can submit pre-proposals from Thursday, July 14 through Friday, Aug. 12. Funding is available in the range of $10,000 to $150,000 per project. See the list of projects selected for MN-REACH funding during Cycle 1 and Cycle 2. Awardees of Cycle 3 grants will be announced later this month. Continue reading

New MN-IP option offers royalty-free licensing

Since it debuted in 2011, the nationally recognized Minnesota Innovation Partnerships program, or MN-IP, has set the University of Minnesota apart. This multi-faceted program has business-friendly terms that have helped forge more than 175 research agreements and several technology licenses between the U and industry partners.

MN-IP Create previously offered two options for companies looking to sponsor University research and license the intellectual property that results: Option A, which allows companies to pre-pay a portion of a research agreement in exchange for an exclusive license to the technology developed; and Option B, which has no upfront fees and waits until IP is developed to negotiate a royalty-bearing license.

Now, MN-IP Create is expanding to offer a third option. “Option C” allows companies to pre-pay 10 percent of a sponsored research agreement or $10,000, whichever is greater, in exchange for a non-exclusive, worldwide license to all inventions that arise from the project. The sponsoring company does not pay any royalties, annual minimums or other technology commercialization fees on the license. The company also has the opportunity to later negotiate an exclusive, royalty-bearing license if desired. Continue reading

MN-REACH seeks med-tech, pharma projects for third funding cycle

Pills on a white background

An upcoming funding opportunity will help researchers who have developed cutting-edge medical technologies or pharmaceuticals bring these discoveries to market.

The University of Minnesota’s MN-REACH program, a National Institutes of Health’s Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub, is accepting pre-proposals for its third funding cycle to help commercialize new med-tech and pharma inventions. MN-REACH aims to improve health care by fostering the development of breakthrough lab innovations — such as therapeutics, preventatives, diagnostics, devices and tools — into products that create health, economic and societal benefits.

Researchers can submit pre-proposals for MN-REACH Cycle 3 funding from Monday, Jan. 25 through Thursday, Feb. 11. Continue reading

Top 10 Inquiry stories of 2015

Sparkling 2015

As 2015 winds to a close, Inquiry reminisces on a year of innovation and discovery at the University of Minnesota.

Led by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the blog set out in June 2014 to explore the impact of university research and tap into the collective knowledge of the U’s research community. Since then, it has delved into a number of fascinating and eye-opening subjects, from how wearable electronics can help treat brain disorders to how lions became social. And, along the way, it came across countless examples of how research can improve our health, protect our environment and change our society for the better.

Before Inquiry forges on into 2016, here’s a look back on the 10 most viewed stories from the past year.

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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 umotc@umn.edu. Continue reading

Seminar series: Launching startups around U research

Interested in expanding the impact of your research, but unsure how to make it happen?

An upcoming event series hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Venture Center will help researchers demystify the process of launching a startup company to bring their discoveries beyond the lab and into the marketplace. The Venture Center, part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, invites University faculty, staff, postdocs and grad students who are involved in research to attend these free events.

“Startups are a great way for University researchers to bring their inventions to life,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center. “These seminars allow them to understand what their role is in launching a new company around their technology and give them the knowledge they need to help the whole process go smoothly.” Continue reading

Startup tests children’s early learning skills

Child with tablet

A University of Minnesota spinout company that develops software to assess early learning skills is starting to take off.

Reflection Sciences, which launched in July 2014 and is based in St. Paul, provides training and tools for assessing children’s executive function — the skills that control attention, thoughts, actions and emotions. The company now has about 30 local, national and international customers who use its digital assessment platform, including public schools, private schools, after school programs and other universities, which use the assessment for their own research on executive function.

The company is based on technology developed by Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., two scientists with the U’s Institute of Child Development. Their Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS) forms the basis of a five-minute iPad game that tests the skills of children ages 2 to 7. The easy-to-use program serves as an inexpensive way for teachers, paraprofessionals and researchers to not only measure executive function, but to identify where and when to positively intervene to help students.

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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.


Technology

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

Startup Profile: The Actives Factory

Autumn Birch Trees

The Actives Factory prepares the natural chemicals found in birch tree bark for use in environmentally friendly cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and more. The company is based on scientific discoveries by Pavel Krasutsky, director of the Chemical Extractives Laboratory at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute.


Technology

The birch tree has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to protect itself from harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses by producing natural chemicals. Studies show these compounds, found in the trees’ bark, kill bacteria and prevent the growth of viruses, making them ideal for use in many different personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos and body lotions. The Actives Factory uses patented technology invented at the U of M to extract beneficial chemicals from the bark on an industrial scale, which can then be sold wholesale to manufacturers.


Potential impact

Birch bark is a widely available byproduct left over from pulp and paper mills. Rather than discarding it through burning, the Actives Factory puts this resource to use, processing it into a form that can be used in a wide range of everyday cosmetic and hygiene products, as well as many pharmaceuticals that treat serious illnesses. With its natural ability to limit inflammation, bacterial infection and virus growth, birch bark is an effective ingredient in medicines and completely safe for human use. Continue reading

Industry, university deal moves novel cancer treatment forward

What happens when you put two great biomedical discoveries together? An innovative approach to fighting a major disease.

The University of Minnesota has combined its own patented gene delivery technology with cancer therapies discovered by the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to create a first-of-its kind nonviral gene therapy treatment that targets cancer by supercharging a patient’s immune system. The collaborative approach of pooling separate intellectual property underlying two distinct sets of technologies created by two institutions is uncommon for research universities, representing a strong commitment in working together to tackle the grand challenge of cancer.

The institutions’ combined technology recently spurred a landmark $100 million exclusive licensing deal with biotech company Intrexon Corp. and pharmaceutical company Ziopharm Oncology. The deal, a key part in getting the treatment to market, paid the U of M and M.D. Anderson up front for use of the technology instead of designating royalties to be paid after product launch years in the future. A portion of the funds will be shared with the U of M, which will provide substantial support for future research. Continue reading

Startup Profile: MesoFlow

MesoFlow manufactures a device that prepare biological cells for use in medical procedures like bone marrow transplants and to treat disease like sickle cell anemia. The company is based on scientific discoveries by the University of Minnesota’s Allison Hubel, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering with the College of Science and Engineering.


Technology

Blood cells and stem cells, generally obtained through donations, are an important resource for biotechnology, disease treatment and advancing medical research. After collection, cells are stored for future use by a freezing technique using chemicals to help cells survive the process. When the cells are later prepared for use, the chemicals have to be removed, as they can be harmful to humans.

MesoFlow’s technology uses a first-of-its-kind approach to remove these chemicals by funneling the cells through a saline wash. At a microscopic scale, the cells separate from the storage chemical as they flow through the device. The technology makes the process of cell preparation automated, disposable and inexpensive, while minimizing the number of cells lost in the process.

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Nature Biotech ranks U in top 5 for life sciences tech transfer

Across the country, top universities are finding innovative ways to put their weight behind tech transfer, working to push cutting-edge research from the lab to the market.

The University of Minnesota is one of the institutions leading the charge. A Nature Biotechnology report of U.S. tech transfer offices in 2013 ranks the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization fifth overall in life sciences tech transfer and gives the office high rankings in individual areas like licensing income, patents awarded and startups launched.

The article also illustrates how the U of M is forging ahead in the growing trend of tech commercialization, building its efforts through programs, such as the Entrepreneurial Leave Program and Minnesota Innovation Partnerships Program (MN-IP), that help spur new industry partnerships and launch new startups.

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