May 2011

Marlee Tech, Inc.

Oregon State University, 2010 - $14,500

Shikimic acid is an essential component in the manufacture of the anti-pandemic influenza drug Tamiflu and a valuable precursor in many other chemical syntheses. However, the low availability and high cost of shikimic acid limits the global ability to either stockpile or ramp up Tamiflu production in a pandemic emergency.

The Marlee Tech team is seeking to cost-effectively supply shikimic acid from a renewable wheat source using an environmentally benign bio-enhancement process. The proprietary method involves a chemical treatment process to induce the plant into producing very high levels of shikimic acid that can then be readily extracted in economic quantities.

The team won the 2009 OSU business plan competition and incorporated as Marlee Tech, Inc. The company is now looking to demonstrate technological feasibility and scalability and secure IP to move toward commercialization.

Runner Pro: A Posture-monitoring Device

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 2010 - $8,800

The high-impact nature of running can lead to shin splints, hamstring pulls, twisted ankles, IT Band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, stress fractures, and the infamous "runner's knee." Studies indicate that maintaining a good posture while running can virtually eliminate most of these injuries. Elite athletes go to biomechanics specialists for gait analysis in order to improve posture, but this is far too expensive and impractical for most people.
 
This team is developing the Runner Pro, a portable, easy to use, and affordable device that continuously measures the impact forces experienced by runners during their course of activity. The device will measure the impact forces at numerous locations under the foot (below the toes, balls of the feet, mid-foot and heel) in real-time, collecting hundreds of samples of data every second and providing useful feedback to the user on improving posture and gait.
 
The team envisions Runner Pro being of benefit to runners, walkers, athletes, people suffering from arthritis, and laborers.

High Specific Strength Materials for Ballistic Applications

Oklahoma State University, 2010 - $19,860

According to the United States Department of Defense, approximately 35,000 military personnel were injured in the field from 2001-2009, with 20% of these due to gunshot-related injuries. A majority of the gunshot injuries were caused by Behind Armor Blunt Trauma (BABT)—non-penetrating injuries resulting from high kinetic energy transfer. Despite great advancements in body armor technology, there is still demand from the defense sector for lighter and stronger armor materials.
 
This team is developing a Hybrid Composite Armor stand-alone insert that is capable of significantly reducing BABT. It is a combination of current top-of-the-line armor grade materials and an advanced alloy honeycomb collapsible layer. Preliminary tests indicate the technology could reduce BABT by 25%. This grant will help the team prepare the technology for commercialization. The team is already incorporated as MetCel LLC.

Minimally Invasive Creation of Autologous Venous Valves for the Treatment of Deep Venous Insufficiency

Stanford University, 2010 - $19,973

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) of the deep veins is a disease in which patients suffer from poor circulation in their lower extremities due to non-functional valves. Over the long-term this condition can lead to varicose veins, skin discoloration, leg pain and debilitating leg ulcers. Currently, severe symptoms due to CVI develop in over six million Americans annually; this number is expected to rise as the population ages and obesity becomes more prevalent.
 
The typical treatment for CVI—a combination of compression stockings and wound care—has extremely poor compliance rates. Open surgical valve repair is rarely used because of its highly invasive nature.
 
This team is developing a minimally invasive, catheter-based solution for deep vein CVI. The catheter is inserted into the patient’s venous system and advanced to the incompetent vein, where the physician then actuates the catheter to form a version of a natural vein valve. Once the valve is created, blood flows upward freely past the new valve, and at the end of the pumping cycle, blood fills the newly created sinus pocket, causing the flap to close against the vein wall and creating a temporary watertight seal. In this way, vein competency is permanently restored without the need for an implant or invasive surgery.

A Cell Encapsulation System for Treating Diabetes

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or cannot properly use insulin, the protein required for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Transplantation of live islet cells (the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin) has been studied as a method for curing diabetes, but donor islet cells that are transplanted into patients are attacked by the immune system, causing transplant rejection. There is a relatively low islet transplant success rate, even when using immunosuppressant drugs.

This team is developing a new solution: encapsulating the islet cells in a biocompatible hydrogel membrane. The cell encapsulation system will allow glucose and insulin to diffuse through freely, but Immunoglobulin G and white blood cells will not be able to pass through, effectively “hiding” the islet cells from the immune system. With this implantable device, diabetics will no longer have to deal with the hassle and pain of testing their blood glucose up to four times a day, calculating the correct amount of insulin, and injecting themselves.

RxCap

Harvard University, 2010 - $18,550

Patient non-compliance in routinely taking the medications prescribed for them costs the US $170 billion dollars yearly. The 75 million Americans considered “health illiterate” are at particular risk for prescription drug misuse: they are 3.4 times as likely to misinterpret drug warning labels, leading to greater risk of medication-related adverse events and a doubling of all-cause mortality risk. Up to 85% of prescriptions are not refilled after the initial dispensing, which translates to an annual loss of $77 billion for retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies.
Visual cues have not improved adherence, but auditory notifications have shown promise. However, current auditory devices are too expensive to be scalable, too hard for patients to operate, and can’t be adapted to pill bottles of varying sizes.

This team is developing the RxCap, a $1 device that installs seamlessly within existing pill bottles, provides verbal explanations of proper medication use/dosage when the bottle is opened, and reminds patients to refill their medication when the time comes.

PuraCath Medical

Stanford University, 2010 - $16,172

Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a treatment for patients with severe chronic kidney disease. The process uses the patient's peritoneum in the abdomen as a membrane across which fluids and dissolved substances are exchanged from the blood. Fluid is introduced through a permanent tube in the abdomen and flushed out either every night while the patient sleeps or via regular exchanges throughout the day. PD is used as an alternative to hemodialysis, with the primary advantage being the ability to undertake treatment without visiting a medical facility. The primary complication with PD is the patients’ failure to adhere to the complex protocol. This complicated protocol exists in order to ensure proper transfer of fluids while reducing side effects and complications.

The PuraCath Medical device can simplify the procedure and enhance quality of life of patients. The device is an innovative, self-contained PD catheter that doesn't rely on patient compliance.

Minimally Invasive Device for Harvesting Iliac Crest Bone Graft

Johns Hopkins University, 2010 - $20,000

There are over 1.5 million spinal fusion surgeries performed annually worldwide. Bone grafting is the standard practice in orthopedic medicine to foster restoration and healing of the spine in addition to providing structural and biological support. The current gold standard for graft materials is the autologous bone graft, which uses cancellous bone from the patient’s own hip (clinically termed the iliac crest bone graft or ICBG). ICBG produces the best results, but it must be extracted through an invasive procedure that is cumbersome for the surgeon and painful for the patient. There is currently no specialized device designed to extract sufficient volumes of ICBG for spinal surgery without high risk to the patient.

This team’s goal is to dramatically improve the procedure for extracting ICBG. The device will be minimally invasive, will standardize the harvesting procedure, and will allow for safe extraction of large volumes of ICBG. This will increase spinal fusion success rates while reducing patient morbidity, surgical time, and healthcare expenditures.

Novel Antibacterial Coatings for Combating Healthcare-Associated Infections

Brown University, 2010 - $18,200

Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is the second most common type of healthcare-associated infection in the US. VAP occurs when bacteria form on endotracheal tubes and invade the lungs, resulting in over $10 billion in unnecessary hospital expenses and almost 36,000 deaths annually.

Currently, only two methods are used to combat VAP: sterilization and antibiotics. Sterilizing medical tubes rids the surface of transmissible pathogenic agents, but over half of all endotracheal tubes are exposed to bacteria even before being inserted, with some adhering irreversibly to the tube surface. The second technique is administering antibiotics to patients, but this has not shown satisfactory results due to bacteria’s inherent resistance to antibiotics.

This team is developing nano-TEC, a proprietary antibacterial coating that is effective in preventing bacteria formation on endotracheal tubes. In bench tests their solution is six times more effective and costs substantially less than the only other antibacterial coating products on the market.