OHSU Innovator Spotlight: Luiz Bertassoni, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Every year, approximately 4,000 new cases of bone or joint-related cancer are diagnosed in the United States. Treatment and recovery can be painful — often requiring surgical removal of the affected tissue as well as chemotherapy and other treatment options aimed at preventing further spread of the disease.
Biomedical engineer Luiz Bertassoni, D.D.S., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the OHSU School of Dentistry and a member of CEDAR, the Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research center in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, has developed a new material that has the ability to replicate human bone tissue, mimicking both its microscopic crystalline structure and its biological activity.
Like real bone, the material has a three-dimensional mineral structure populated with bone-making, nerve and endothelial cells that self-organize into functioning blood vessels and nerves — a complete replica of human bone down to a nanometer scale that can be produced in a matter of 72 hours or less. Not only has this new material opened doors to new modalities of treatment, but it allows researchers to gain a deeper understanding of how cancer originates and grows within bone tissue.
OHSU startup spotlight: QuantiPort, Inc.
Trauma-related hemorrhage is a leading cause of death among adults under 45 years old, as well as children of all age groups. The diagnostic challenge is determining the volume of blood loss or conversely, the volume of blood remaining in circulation. Younger individuals tend to maintain high vascular tone in a setting of acute blood loss; this compensatory mechanism often masks signs of hemorrhagic shock. When such robust compensatory mechanisms are overwhelmed, patients rapidly decompensate, leading to overt shock, multiple organ failure and often death.
OHSU startup QuantiPort, Inc. has developed a system for measuring blood volume quickly and accurately. This helps identify patients who have lost significant blood volume as well as to detect ongoing blood loss. The QuantiPort Blood Volume Measurement Device (Blood Volume MD) provides advance warning and a valuable head start for physicians to initiate emergency therapeutic intervention prior to patient decompensation, overt shock and death.
Innovator spotlight: Bill Rooney, Ph.D.
In the coming year, patent-pending imaging software developed by OHSU scientists will be used to validate, for the first time in humans, a new imaging approach to map brain metabolism at high spatial resolution and determine if metabolic deficits are common in individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis. Part of what makes translation of this study to the human brain possible is the new software, which was developed by a team led by Bill Rooney, Ph.D., professor and director at the OHSU Advanced Imaging Research Center. Rooney, together with colleagues Rebecca Spain, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, and Manoj Sammi, Ph.D., assistant professor within the Advanced Imaging Research Center, are advancing this approach with funding provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
This approach will also be applied to investigate a newly discovered physiology, the glymphatic system, that clears out toxins in the brain, including those that form Alzheimer's plaques. Until now, the glymphatic system has only been studied in small animals, and the application of less invasive methods will support human studies. A $1.4 million Allen Distinguished Investigator award from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is funding this next step in the Alzheimer's research being conducted by OHSU scientists. Jeff Iliff, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, and Rooney are co-leaders of the study.
Startup spotlight: ReelDx, Inc.
ReelDx, Inc. is an OHSU startup company developing secure, HIPAA-compliant medical video platforms for educational and clinical use. Launched in 2013, the company's initial goal was to improve medical instruction by creating ReelDx Education, a video library of case studies to broaden medical student's experiences in real-world health care settings. The company has since expanded to incorporate an additional video platform, called medvid.io. This video platform is aimed at improving the patient and physician relationship through asynchronous video telemedicine, video check-in visits, and recordings of discharge instructions for patient use.
Today, ReelDx Education maintains a vibrant and growing library of over 600 video case studies, describing over 1,000 topics. Participating medical and nursing schools, physician assistant programs, and other educational systems are incorporating these video into their curriculum to support students in the medical field. The main goal of this initiative is to provide a full and comprehensive educational platform that allows medical students the opportunity to experience and learn from a variety of clinical cases. Videos uploaded into the ReelDx Education library are filmed by teachers and trainers at participating academic medical centers, private practices, ambulatory agencies, and hospitals. Since its inception, ReelDx Education has been rapidly expanding its library, adding to their neurology, pediatrics, pre-emergency room, and eating disorder cases, to name a few. The ReelDx Education model hopes to improve upon traditional in-person medical rounds by offering supplementary case study videos in the classroom to cover situations students may need further reinforcement or exposure to during their medical training.
Industry spotlight: GE Healthcare and OHSU
OHSU continues to collaborate with industry giants, pushing the boundaries of medicine and health care forward. In 2013, OHSU partnered with Intel to create computer architectures for sequencing cancer genomes and personalizing cancer care. In 2015, OHSU joined with Apple, Inc. to create a technology that detects the warning signs of melanoma through photographs taken with an iPhone. This year, OHSU and GE Healthcare are finalizing collaborations on numerous health care projects, including cardiovascular research, imaging, and big data.
One particular project that attracted GE Healthcare to OHSU was the development of a new technology to improve heart attack detection. Invented by Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, the Myocardial Contrast Echocardiography (MCE) technology has been used on over 5 million patients around the world and has since attracted many prospective industry partners to OHSU. For example, GE Healthcare has expressed interest in collaborative studies including, but not limited to, the investigation of ultrasounds as a health care tool in rural and underserved communities as well as the testing of magnetic resonance pulse sequences to enhance neurovascular studies. Inspired by the MCE technology, GE Healthcare's pursuit of partnership with OHSU is just one example of how innovative discoveries continue to bring industry partners to OHSU's doorstep.
Innovator spotlight: Xiangshu Xiao, Ph.D.
Xiangshu Xiao, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and pharmacology in OHSU’s School of Medicine, has been at the forefront in the field of cancer chemical biology. The goal of his research is to develop novel cancer therapeutics, using a combination of chemistry and biology, to create new compounds that target deregulated proteins in cancer cells. In his two main cancer-related projects, Dr. Xiao has developed first-in-class compounds that show significant anti-cancer effects in various preclinical cancer models.
His first project involves chemical inhibitors of CREB (cAMP-response element-binding protein)-mediated gene transcription, a nuclear transcription factor that is regulated by dynamic phosphorylation and de-phosphorylation events. Dr. Xiao has been working on this project for nearly eight years, testing the chemical optimization to enhance the potency and selectivity of the lead compound. Ultimately, he created potent inhibitors, seeing dramatic anti-cancer activity in both in vitro and in vivo models. Dr. Xiao and his team have hypothesized that small molecule inhibitors of CREB could represent potential novel cancer therapeutics against multiple types of cancers. These compounds are unique, as no one else has reportedly created cell-permeable CREB inhibitors.
Startup spotlight: GoBiquity Mobile Health
Of the 25 million children between the ages of six months and six years old, more than 15 percent show risk factors for amblyopia, the leading cause of visual impairment in children. In addition, only 20 percent of children receive proper vision screenings. Gobiquity Mobile Health, Inc., an OHSU startup company founded in 2010, specializes in prescribed mobile health diagnostics. Gobiquity is on a mission to end amblyopia through early screening and diagnosis. Its flagship technology, GoCheck Kids, is a smartphone application that provides specialty testing in primary care, turning a standard smartphone into an optical photo screening device.
Since the company's creation, GoCheck Kids has screened more than 50,000 children. Using an integrated photo screener, a highly engaging approach to derive visual acuity measurements, and recommended screening protocols, physicians can detect amblyopia risk factors in children as young as six months old. By helping pediatricians detect amblyopia risk factors in patients at such a young age, children can receive treatment early when it is most effective.
Industry spotlight: CORI software and Due North Innovation
Of the millions of colonoscopies and endoscopic procedures performed in the U.S., there is very little information on the cause and result of the procedures once they are performed. To figure out which patient is likely to experience side effects from the procedure, David Lieberman, M.D., head of OHSU's Division of Gastroenterology, led the initiative in 1994 to create a national endoscopic database repository to learn more about patients receiving gastrointestinal procedures. With help from Cynthia Morris, Ph.D., vice chair, and Judy Logan, M.D., associate professor, both in the OHSU Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology department, they spent several years creating the Clinical Outcomes Research Initiative (CORI) software with the intent of studying gastrointestinal endoscopies, esophagogastroduodenoscopy, and colonoscopies more closely.
The CORI software serves as an easy-to-use specialty electronic health record system for clinicians to learn more about their patients to help screen, diagnose, and treat patients with gastrointestinal diseases. Information that can be found in this software can include the patient's medical history, the cause and result of present and past gastrointestinal procedures, information about the clinical site, and so on. As this software includes additional information that standard electronic health records omit, it serves as an important tool for clinicians to diagnose and treat their patients, ultimately improving patient care. The CORI software has received major funding from the NIH (U01 DK057132) through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases since 1999 to support this work.
Innovator spotlight: Yali Jia, Ph.D.
Yali Jia, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at OHSU's School of Medicine, has been making great strides to create breakthrough optical imaging technologies that may transform the way clinicians diagnose and care for patients. As a study investigator in Center for Ophthalmic Optics and Lasers (COOL) lab of Casey Eye Institute, Jia has spent the last several years helping develop the split-spectrum amplitude-decorrelation angiography (SSADA) algorithm, which is most efficient within current available optical coherence tomography (OCT) angiography methods, and allows physicians to map out the ocular circulation down to capillary level.
Physicians currently use fluorescein angiography to test for abnormal vasculature or to view vessel leakage, which are the signs of severe macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. This method requires intravenous injection of a contrast dye into the blood vessels and uses infrared light waves to capture detailed cross-sectional images of the retina's layers. However, dye-based angiography has its disadvantages. Fluorescein angiography produces a two-dimensional image and cannot be evaluated quantitatively. It can also cause adverse side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, in up to 25 percent of patients.
Startup spotlight: NeuraMedica
Watertight closure of the dura mater –the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord –is a difficult and time-consuming procedure. It is typically performed using fine suture down narrow working channels using minimally-invasive surgical techniques. Repeatedly experiencing the complexity of this procedure firsthand, neurosurgeon Neil Roundy, M.D., saw an opportunity to address the problem. Roundy developed an innovative bio-absorbable clip used to close durotomy incisions during spinal surgery. But he needed support to bring his invention to market.
While a neurosurgery resident at OHSU, Roundy learned about the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute's Biomedical Innovation Program. He applied for a program grant and partnered with an outside contract engineer, Rachel Dreilinger, who developed the prototypes and applied for additional funding to continue development. Together, they formed NeuraMedica, LLC, in June 2014 when they licensed the technology intellectual property from OHSU. Roundy and Dreilinger were able to achieve proof-of-concept designs that led to two patent applications and additional funding.
Industry spotlight: Welch Allyn
The Welch Allyn-OHSU engineering rounds is a new platform at OHSU that allows medical equipment design engineers the chance to engage with doctors and patients. The long-term goal of this platform is to translate medical needs into focused innovations and eventually products. This platform was designed to allow both parties to utilize their respective expertise. OHSU offers the clinical expertise necessary to identify patient care problems and provide feedback on the practical applications of new innovations, while Welch Allyn offers the engineering expertise necessary to create physical solutions to the identified problems.
Three Welch Allyn engineers – Steve Baker, Ph.D., Rick Weitzel, and Cory Gondek – and Soundharya Nagasubramanian, director of software and systems architecture, participated in the pilot round of this program. They worked closely with OHSU's Matthew Hansen, M.D., M.C.R., assistant professor of emergency medicine, and David Sheridan, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine fellow, to create the current program. The highly successful program stems from a strong partnership between Welch Allyn, TTBD, and the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at OHSU, with essential scientific leadership from OCTRI's past director Eric Orwoll, M.D. It provides evidence of how much can be accomplished when multidisciplinary OHSU teams form working relationships with business partners.
Innovator spotlight: Carmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Like many others before her, Carmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biomaterials & Biomechanics for the OHSU School of Dentistry, earned her "inventor" title in a manner that she had never expected. Dr. Pfeifer says, "when you get removed from your everyday problems, sometimes you can have an idea completely out of the blue."
In 2009, with a suggestion from her postdoc supervisor, Pfeifer attended a UVA/UVB conference to showcase what they were doing in his lab to industries other than dental. During a session on sun protection for outdoor decks of all things, Pfeifer started contemplating alternative applications of the UVA/UVB coatings in the dental field. While the conference applied to the coatings industry, she said the chemistry is the same as what is used in dental materials. Both applications use photo-polymerization. So she asked herself, "How can I harness this technology and translate it into a biomedical application?"
Startup spotlight: Nzumbe
Launched in 2013, Nzumbe, Inc., is an OHSU startup company providing research services to accelerate the development of breakthrough therapies in challenging diseases, such as cancer. Nzumbe focuses on a root cause of cancer known as gene silencing. When critical genes, known as tumor suppressor genes, are silenced, a cancer cell can arise and grow to form a tumor that may spread throughout the body. Mitchell Turker, Ph.D., J.D., whose lab resides in the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at OHSU, created a platform to screen for drugs and compounds that can reactivate and stabilize these silenced genes. This discovery served as the platform from which the company was initially founded.
Nzumbe's goal with this technology is to identify early steps in the gene silencing process, hitting the root cause of disease before and after the disease has occurred. The company was named Nzumbe, zombie in Angolan dialect, because of the company's mission to give permanent life back to the zombie-type genes that would otherwise remain half-alive (i.e. reactivated tumor suppressor genes) through the cell-based screening platform.
Industry spotlight: Michael Cohen and Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Whether it's finding an effective vaccine approach to protect against human pathogens, or developing a technology that allows physicians to detect blood vessel abnormalities in the eye, researchers are constantly pushing the boundaries of science to create new, innovative solutions to problems. In the case of Michael Cohen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at OHSU, he is currently working to develop a method to profile new protein synthesis in a cell-specific manner in mice. In order to help move his research forward, he had to seek out additional funding sources.
While searching for alternative resources, Dr. Cohen came across a funding alert involving Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Upon reading the program's description, he felt that his research was the perfect match. Dr. Cohen contacted Takeda and several meetings were held to discuss both parties' objectives. Ultimately, Takeda agreed to fund his research, thus allowing him to further develop the technology. When asked about the partnership, Dr. Cohen replied, "this is my first experience with industry collaborations, but I have to say, it's been totally amazing. I don't feel like there's any pressure to reach a certain milestone. They just really want to learn about the technology, see where we're at with it, and give some helpful suggestions."
Innovator spotlight: Perry Gliessman
Perry Gliessman has a long, innovative history at OHSU. For over 20 years, he developed technologies for medical research and data acquisition at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). His inventions ranged from unique patient monitoring systems and surgical instruments to multi-channel neurotransmitter infusion and sampling systems designed for neuroendocrine research. He also designed and drove the implementation of the first fiber optic network for the OHSU West Campus. Then during his seven-year tenure as the Director of Technology Services for OHSU's Information Technology Group, he designed a new, state of the art data center located on the university's West Campus in Beaverton, Oregon.
Perry is a truly futuristic thinker. He realized in 2009 that the existing OHSU data center was inefficient and the capacity was insufficient to meet OHSU's burgeoning computing and storage needs. Anticipating "big data" generated by the university, Perry designed the advanced Data Dome that can efficiently accommodate a diverse range of equipment with associated power requirements to meet the current and future needs of OHSU's healthcare, research, academic missions. The unique design of the new data center achieves some of the best efficiencies in the industry while using existing OHSU computing hardware in combination with new state-of-the-art equipment, contrary to the idea that many energy efficient data centers require all legacy hardware to be replaced with identical custom designed central processing units (CPUs).
Startup spotlight: Najit Technologies
Like most academic scientists, Mark Slifka, Ph.D. wears many hats - principle investigator, grant writer, manuscript editor, manager, and administrator to name a few. Perhaps less common is his entrepreneurial "hat". Dr. Slifka is the President and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of Najít Technologies, Inc. Najít Technologies is a clinical stage startup company based on a platform vaccine technology that Mark developed at OHSU's West Campus.
Najít's platform uses a novel, patented approach to inactivate viruses while still maintaining their key immunogenic structures. This technology is unique in comparison to other vaccine technologies, because the inactivation method employed uses oxidation instead of alkylation or cross-linking by formaldehyde. The oxidation method is simple, safe, and more immunogenic than other more outdated vaccine approaches.
Innovator spotlight: Michael P. Hutchens, M.D., M.A.
The office of Technology Transfer & Business Development would like to highlight a particularly innovative or note worthy OHSU inventor and invention at the university. This quarter, our office would like to congratulate Michael P. Hutchens, M.D., M.A., for his work on the “Disinfection device for medical access sites” and the “Anesthetic vapor delivery device” that he has created and submitted to our office.
Dr. Michael Hutchens is an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. He also serves as an attending intensivist in the Cardiac and Surgical Intensive Care Unit. His current research interests involve ischemic renal failure. He is particularly interested in the profound sexual dimorphism in incidence and outcome of ischemic renal failure and the consequential implications for intervention.