We’ve had some good news business stories lately and I thought I’d keep the ball rolling. Last week I mentioned that Kent’s Alpha Micron received the largest single award from the state of Ohio in the latest round of Third Frontier Grants (try $5 million on for size) which speaks volumes for the growth potential of this company that is creating a whole new industry for its liquid crystal technology in our backyard. Go team go! Not to be outdone however is another grant award winner, Pathogen Systems Inc., which won $3 million from Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy to research and commercialize an instrument that uses liquid crystal technology to detect pathogens in water. Did I mention that they’ll be opening up shop at Kent’s Centennial Research Park — go team go!
NEOUCOM Researchers Move Forward with Leading-Edge Technology to Battle Bioterrorism
Mark Bosko, 330-325-6675
ROOTSTOWN, Ohio – Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM) and Kent State University were awarded $6.7 million for the continued development and commercialization of a real-time pathogen detection instrument. This award represents a $3 million Wright Project grant from the Ohio Department of Development which will be matched by $3.7 million from other sources.
The pathogen detection instrument can quickly detect harmful microbes, such as anthrax or plague. The uses for this technology are numerous and include homeland security, environmental safety and rapid medical diagnoses. The pathogen detection technology is the result of a well-established collaboration among NEOUCOM and Kent State University (KSU) researchers. The researchers combined their expertise in biomedical sciences and liquid crystals to invent and develop this important new technology. Commercialization of the device will create new jobs and economic development in northeast Ohio.
“The real-time pathogen detection instrument is the result of a significant, long-term collaboration among NEOUCOM and Kent State scientists,” says Walter E. Horton Jr., Ph.D., NEOUCOM vice president for research. “The Wright Project grant will allow our investigators to further develop this technology for commercial use through the establishment of an applied research laboratory at NEOUCOM and the creation of a manufacturing facility in Kent State’s Centennial Research Park.”
“By working across institutions and disciplines, our research team was able to create a totally new technology capable of rapidly identifying specific disease-causing agents of all kinds within minutes,” says Gary D. Niehaus, Ph.D., NEOUCOM, Principal Investigator. “The biosensor works when antibodies cause microbes (bacteria or viruses that cause disease) to form clumps in a liquid crystal matrix.”
Members of the real-time pathogen detection system research team include Gary D. Niehaus, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology, NEOUCOM; Christopher J. Woolverton, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, KSU; Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Ph.D., director of KSU’s Liquid Crystal Institute; Kathleen Doane, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy, NEOUCOM; Steven Schmidt, Director of Surgical Research, Summa Health Systems, and Steven Signs, formerly of NEOUCOM. The team produced a portfolio of patents and, ultimately, a licensing agreement for commercialization.
NEOUCOM and Kent State licensed the pathogen detection technology to Pathogen Systems Inc. (PSI) of Boulder, Colo., for further development. PSI will establish its manufacturing, sales and marketing operations in northeast Ohio within the next eighteen months.
“This is a prime example of technology-based economic development that benefits Northeast Ohio. It has been a successful partnership between researchers and a technology company and now includes the state through this Third Frontier vote of confidence,” said Greg Wilson, Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Strategic Partnerships and Principal Investigator, KSU. “We are pleased to have PSI as a key tenant in our Centennial Research Park and business accelerator. PSI possesses innovative technology and is poised for great things scientifically and commercially. Kent State looks forward to the acceleration of their success!”
“This award represents an important economic investment by the State of Ohio in the more than seven-year relationship between PSI and the two academic institutions,” said Dr. Horton. “This investment enables us to bring a university-based technology out of the laboratory to the market place, where it will address important public health concerns and build jobs in Ohio.”
“We are pleased to be part of the NEOUCOM led proposal. I’m thrilled that Kent State’s share of this grant will be dedicated to PSI’s facilities in our Centennial Research Park. This successful partnership is an effective example of two institutions working together on research that addresses an important need, and will bring home funding and produce economic development to benefit our region. I look forward to a bright future for this exceptional joint effort,” said Dr. John L. West, Vice President of Research and Dean of Graduate Studies.
“There is a critical need for a faster and more accurate device for pathogen detection. Our Wright Project grant will facilitate and accelerate the transition of this path breaking technology from the laboratory to an array of commercial products that will enhance the health, safety and economic vitality of Ohio and beyond,” says Lois Margaret Nora, M.D., J.D., NEOUCOM president and dean for the College of Medicine.
The Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy are community-based, public institutions focused on the interprofessional training of health professionals, offering both a doctor of medicine (M.D.) and a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. The colleges’ educational consortium includes the Rootstown, Ohio, campus, teaching hospitals, community pharmacies, two boards of health and four northeast Ohio public universities. Through these and other collaborative arrangements, the colleges participate in the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program and offers graduate-level coursework and research opportunities leading to master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences and biomedical engineering.