OHSU Startup Company Creates Workplace Training Software For The 'Forgotten People'

12/22/05  Portland, Ore.

New company is one of six founded in 2005 based on technologies developed at OHSU.

New training software designed at Oregon Health & Science University will help improve workplace safety and lower business insurance costs by reducing on-the-job injuries. The software was designed specifically to meet the needs of migrant workers.

Employees in physically demanding jobs such as field agriculture, food preparation, painting and building maintenance routinely use hazardous chemicals. Often these employees have limited education and/or limited English skills. When workers don't read English or are intimidated by computers, teaching them standard safety procedures to protect themselves can be a challenge. 

A researcher at OHSU has come up with one solution. Kent Anger, Ph.D., senior scientist and associate director of the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, has developed PC-based training software called cTRAIN that's designed for people who aren't comfortable with computers.  

"People with little education are the forgotten people," Anger said. "They have a real need for basic safety and skill training." 

The research began five years ago when a local painters' union asked Anger, an internationally known expert in occupational neurotoxicology, for a way to train workers who did not use computers to select and use respirators. Anger and his team devised a program that teaches with pictures and the spoken word. Trainees respond to on-screen questions using a response unit with nine large buttons instead of the usual keypad.  

The program is effective with people at all organizational levels and with any level of education, including those with no education at all. It is especially efficient when companies hire just a few people and can't justify the expense of a training consultant. With the computer-based program, Anger said, "a single person can be trained at any point in time without significant resources being expended."  

After several successful prototypes in different industries, Anger founded a startup venture called Northwest Education Training and Assessment (NETA) to develop and market a commercial version of cTRAIN.

NETA is one of six startups launched in the university's 2005 fiscal year that are based on OHSU research discoveries. Including the 2005 startups, OHSU technologies have now given birth to 57 companies. The six startups in fiscal year 2005 follow a record-setting seven startups in 2004. Other new companies target neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis; treatment for UV-induced skin damage; DNA-based cancer diagnostics; and novel medicines for obesity.

Startups are coordinated through the Office of Technology and Research Collaborations (TRC). TRC supports OHSU's research community by facilitating collaborations, managing intellectual property and developing business partnerships. These activities enable the transfer of OHSU research discoveries from the laboratory to the market for the benefit of the public. 

In fiscal year 2005, TRC received 101 faculty invention disclosures and filed 63 patent applications. TRC staff negotiated 36 licenses and 54 corporate research collaborations, resulting in $1.2 million in income from licensing and $4.5 million from corporate research. Revenues generated from licensing help advance OHSU's missions of healing, teaching, discovery and community service. 

For more information on TRC, visit www.ohsu.edu/tech-transfer.