Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tech Spotlight: Advanced, Diffraction-Unlimited Photolithography

A group of researchers at the University of Colorado led by Robert McLeod have discovered an approach to photolithography that can create features not limited by the physics of diffraction. Like traditional photolithography, a projected pattern is used to initiate the polymerization in a photoresist or photopolymer. A second optical pattern in a different color is superimposed to inhibit polymerization, typically at the edge of the first pattern. The final size and shape is given by the difference of the first pattern and the second inhibiting pattern as well as the diffusion and reaction rates. The difference between the first and second patterns is not limited by diffraction like traditional photolithography, the limit is now given by the contrast ratio that can be maintained between initiation and inhibition. This method is applicable to both mask-less and mask-based photolithography.

To read a non-confidential summary of this technology, please click the image above (or go directly to the patent application). For more CU technologies available for licensing, please visit our Tech Explorer site.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 2012 Newsletter Now Available

Top stories from TTO's March newsletter:

Ultracold Matter Technology from CU and SRI International Licensed to Boulder's ColdQuanta

Double Helix to Develop CU 3D Super-Resolution Imaging Technology

GE and InDevR Developing Breakthrough Device to Improve Flu Diagnosis at Point-of-Care
Scientists at GE Global Research have been awarded a program through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a breakthrough medical device that can diagnose the flu and other infectious diseases such as malaria, E. coli and salmonella at the point-of-care. GE scientists will be partnering with InDevR, a CU licensee developing new tools to assist in disease diagnosis such as the flu.

HepQuant to Begin Clinical Study of Liver Function Measurement Tests
CU licensee HepQuant, LLC, a liver diagnostics company focused on delivering a non-invasive alternative to liver function testing, has announced it will begin its first sponsored clinical study of its liver function tests.

Viral Genetics Submits Pre-IND Document for Lyme Disease Drug Candidate
Viral Genetics announced that it has submitted a pre-IND briefing document to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Lyme Disease drug candidate, VGV-L, the second candidate developed from the company's Targeted Peptide Technology (TPT) platform licensed from CU.

Read the full newsletter, or sign up to receive a monthly email update.  

Ultracold Matter Technology from CU and SRI International Licensed to Boulder's ColdQuanta

World’s first commercial device to produce ultracold atoms has applications in navigation, quantum computing and geology

BOULDER, Colo., March 19, 2012 – ColdQuanta Inc. (Boulder) and the University of Colorado have finalized an agreement allowing ColdQuanta to commercialize cutting-edge physics research developed by CU-Boulder and SRI International. The licensed technology centers on Bose-Einstein Condensate, or BEC, a new form of matter created just above absolute zero.

CU-Boulder physics professor and JILA Fellow Dana Anderson, center, in his JILA laboratory with research assistants Kai Hudek, left, and Seth Caliga. (Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Ultracold matter such as BEC can be used to dramatically increase the performance of devices such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, gravimeters and magnetometers because of its strong interaction with gravity and magnetic fields, as compared with laser-based devices. BEC also has potential applications in a wide range of research and commercial settings, ranging from atomic clocks to improved navigation of submarines and spacecraft, and even quantum computing.

“We are delighted that this license agreement has been finalized,” said ColdQuanta CEO Rainer Kunz. “It’s a great example of the university’s strong support for commercializing BEC and cold atom technology born out of CU and SRI International, and will ultimately boost advances in the ultracold applications field.”

“Cold atom research has great potential for fields such as instrumentation and cryptography,” added Chris Lantman, senior director of business development at SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif. “We are pleased that ColdQuanta will commercialize this important technology and look forward to new applications of our physics R&D.”

Initially theorized by Satyendra Bose and Albert Einstein in the 1920s, BEC was achieved for the first time at JILA - a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology - by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman, who received a Nobel Prize in 2001 for their work. ColdQuanta was founded in 2007 to commercialize work by CU-Boulder physics professor and JILA Fellow Dana Anderson to develop streamlined devices for BEC experiments.

“Startup companies like ColdQuanta play a pivotal part in the transition of an entirely new scientific domain into the realm of practical applications,” said Anderson. “By now we have come full circle, so that they contribute to our scientific progress here at CU as much as our academic research advances their R&D progress.”

 “We’re glad to see this forward-looking technology achieve commercial penetration, in addition to the strong academic interest,” added Ted Weverka, a licensing manager at CU. “ColdQuanta is just the adventurous company to make this happen.”

After optioning the technology in 2007, ColdQuanta received a $100,000 Proof of Concept investment from the CU Technology Transfer Office to help bring it to market. Since then, the company has been awarded contracts from the Army, Navy, NASA and the National Science Foundation, which have helped expand its array of products and core competencies beyond ultra-high vacuum, or UHV, design and opto-mechanical and atom chip design, to include UHV processing, systems controls, and diverse glass and silicon bonding expertise. The company sells to research labs and industry nationally and overseas. The company also has partnered with CU-Boulder and SRI International to provide critical UHV components for a major quantum computing project led by the University of Wisconsin.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Double Helix to Develop CU 3D Super-Resolution Imaging Technology

Cost-effective technique provides an order of magnitude better resolution in 3D than current microscopes. 

BOULDER, Colo., March 16, 2012 – Double Helix, LLC (Boulder, CO) and the University of Colorado recently completed an exclusive option agreement to allow Double Helix to develop a novel technique for 3D super-resolution imaging.

The technology was developed by Rafael Piestun, a professor in the CU-Boulder department of electrical and computer engineering. Super-resolution – techniques to enhance the resolution of an imaging system beyond the limitations set by the diffraction of light – is key to the development of next-generation microscopes and other optical instruments. The Double Helix optical technology combines 3D optics and a unique signal post-processing technique used for quality improvement in image processing.

Microtubule structure of rat kangaroo epithelial cells, using conventional fluorescence microscopy (top) and 3D Double Helix super-resolution microscopy (bottom). Images courtesy of G. Grover, K. DeLuca, J. DeLuca and R. Piestun
The optical technology offers a major opportunity to provide multifunctional 3D super-resolution imaging capability to thousands of cellular, molecular biology and biophysics laboratories in the United States around the world. The Double Helix technology platform is applicable to a variety of scientific, industrial, and consumer applications, including microscopy, metrology, and computational digital photography, said Piestun. Piestun also is the director of director of COSI, an NSF-funded program for education and research training in Computational Optical Sensing and Imaging.

“We are looking forward to bringing this leading-edge technology to the market, initially in microscopy and later to more markets including metrology and digital optics, a stronghold of the Boulder entrepreneurial community,” said Double Helix founding partner Leslie Kimerling.

“We are excited to see this company launch with our broad fundamental patents,” said Ted Weverka, a licensing manager at the CU Technology Transfer Office. “The cost savings and superior technology will give Double Helix a strong lead.”

About Double Helix:
Double Helix, LLC was founded in 2011 by Dr. Rafael Piestun. The company works in close collaboration with scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder to develop and commercialize computational optical-digital technologies used in range estimation, super-resolution, and 3D imaging. The company designs products that integrate micro and nano technologies with computational algorithms to offer improved performance in conjunction with reductions in cost, size and complexity. Double Helix focuses on product development while exploring licensing opportunities based on ongoing technological advances.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tech Spotlight: Cancer Treatment using Synergistic Combination of HDAC Inhibitors

Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC inhibitors, HDI) are a class of compounds that block the activity of histone deacetylase (HDAC), a crucial part of the gene expression cycle within a cell. HDI’s have a long history of use in psychiatry and neurology as mood stabilizers and anti-epileptics. Over the last several years, numerous HDI’s have been found to inhibit cellular proliferation and cause apoptosis of tumor cells. However, the precise mechanisms by which HDI’s arrest tumor growth are still under investigation, and currently just one HDI has been approved for treatment of cancer.

A research team led by Lia Gore and Deb DeRyckere at the University of Colorado has demonstrated a synergistic cell kill effect when a class I-specific HDI is used in combination with another, non-class I-specific HDI. Dr. Gore’s team has shown that class I-specific HDI’s induce cell cycle arrest at the GI stage, whereas other HDI’s act at later stages from G2 thru S. The team has hypothesized that the mechanism of synergy is due to complementary G1 + G2 --> S arrest.

This method for combining a class I-specific HDI with another, non-class I-specific HDI presents a novel approach to the development of HDI’s as anti-cancer agents. Using this approach, an HDI combination therapy would have greater efficacy and possibly fewer side effects than any HDI used alone as a cancer therapy.

To read a non-confidential summary of this treatment approach, including links to relevant patent documents, please click the image above. For more CU technologies available for licensing, please visit our Tech Explorer site. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tech Spotlight: Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer Using MicroRNA

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important for regulating gene expression during organism development and adult function. Mysregulation of miRNAs has been shown to contribute to various diseases including cancer, cardio-vascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and diabetes. Research has shown that in many instances, miRNA expression can be used as a biomarker for disease. The up- or down-regulation of one or more miRNA can be indicative of disease or a specific disease phenotype. Importantly, since miRNA expression affects disease states, miRNA screens have inherent potential to identify therapeutic opportunities using miRNAs from the same screen.

CU researchers have developed a number of microRNA-based cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, including microRNAs targeting Six1 as broad anti-cancer therapies (Heide Ford), diagnosis/treatment of triple-negative breast cancer (Jennifer Richer) and Ewing's Sarcoma (Paul Jedlicka), microRNA induction-directed cancer drug discovery (Bolin Liu), microRNAs for heart/muscle wasting disease (Heide Ford) and prediction of survival/response to EGFR therapy (Lynne Bemis).

To view a summary of CU's microRNA-based cancer portfolio, please click the image above. For more CU technologies available for licensing, please visit our Tech Explorer site.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TTO Commentary: Diving Deep Into Tech Transfer Performance

The "Inside The Black Box" event we hosted last month was intended to provide a glimpse of:
  • Inputs (inventions and patent applications) into the Technology Transfer process at the University of Colorado
  • The quality and quantity of outputs (mature patent portfolios, licensing deals and investment in startup companies)
As with any vetting and maturation process, there is a natural attrition rate, which management consultants communicate with waterfall charts. In these charts, the process at hand is broken down into non-overlapping steps; the total number of subjects (in the example below, all startup companies created from CU technology) are shown in a complete column on the left, while the percentage of companies who have achieved each step are shown in a series of floating columns. We use these waterfall charts to characterize progression by stage of inputs into CU IP, startups, and license portfolios. In a less granular fashion, this helps us characterize the attrition rates of our portfolio.

This is the first public effort we're aware of in which a major university IP portfolio has been broken down to shed substantial light on measures of the quality of intellectual property, licenses/partnerships, and startup companies. If other universities have taken a closer look at portfolio dynamics in their institutions, we would be very interested in benchmarking relative to the University of Colorado.

The reference point for this analysis is the measure of the viability and progression of invention disclosures received by TTO. Whether an invention disclosure results in a single U.S. patent application, or patent applications in 50 countries worldwide, this analysis registers one invention disclosure resulting in a regular patent application. The methodology filters out the multiple patent estates that can result from one very important property; these can distort the metrics when measuring gross patent applications vs. gross invention disclosures. Put another way: we are evaluating how many invention disclosures result in patents and licenses, not the numbers of patents and licenses themselves.

These measures are rooted in external validation: commercial licensees open their checkbooks in order for many of these small "wins" to register on the scoreboard. Licenses and investment (which are tightly coupled in transactions with University of Colorado partners) are the truest measures of the quality of our assets that are readily available to us and practical to monitor and report.

Specifically, the market-derived quality measures are:
  1. Fraction of ideas vetted by TTO that actually result in commercial licenses.
  2. Fraction of licenses that are sustainable and durable for a specified period of time. 
  3. Fraction of startup companies that remain a going concern (i.e., they secure some capital and remain a licensee in good standing). 
  4. Amount of investment capital attracted, specifically investment from institutional or professional investors ("smart money").
The quality of the input (ideas disclosed to TTO) is a function of the quality and scope of the research enterprise, while the quality of the output (capital committed to deals) is more directly impacted by the Tech Transfer team and the commercial ecosystem in which they work.

Below are a few key factoids derived from our analysis of new and mature technology portfolios:
  • About 1/3 of all inventions received by TTO are ultimately licensed to industry.
  • 52% of CU startups have received outside investment capital (other than founder capital).
  • Only 11% of CU startups are defunct (though several of these did receive funding).
  • From 2002 to 2011, CU startups have raised over $150M in grant funding.
  • From 2002 to 2011, CU startups have raised over $1.4B in investment capital, which includes over $1B in VC and private equity funding, and an additional $390M from public equity markets.
  • Only 5% of CU inventions are licensed nonexclusively (largely distribution partnerships for software and reagents) - this equates to about one out of every seven deals.
  • The 30% of CU inventions that are exclusively optioned or licensed require a capital commitment and commercial diligence.
  • About 2/3 of all inventions received by TTO have a patent filed; about 40% are not converted, but 25% go on to the later stages of patent prosecution.
  • Almost all issued patents are licensed. 
CU's waterfall charts and other analysis (including comparison of mature and new invention cohorts) are available in PDF format here (supplemental materials available here). (See our original "Inside The Black Box" post here.

About the author: Rick Silva directs operations at TTO's University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus office.