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March 05, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Nine technologies presented during “IP Parade”

Thursday night's event officially kicked off the first-ever combined "Scipreneur Challenge" and "Smart Mobility Challenge" for college students, postdocs, and others. The focus was on helping find the best pathway to commercialization.

It was an insightful two hours on Thursday night as six enterprises – research universities, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a couple of private businesses – offered nine different technologies for the first-ever combined “Scipreneur Challenge” and “Smart Mobility Challenge.”

For the BioTN Foundation, it was a continuation of a program launched several years ago for undergraduate and graduate students, Post Docs, and others to learn about taking intellectual property (IP) from the bench to the marketplace in the life science sector. In the case of TennSMART, it was the organization’s first-ever effort along the same lines but, as the name implies, in the smart mobility sector.

With common administrative staff serving both organizations, it made sense for the two to combine the experience that BioTN has gained offering the “Scipreneur Challenge” with what TennSMART wants to do with its new mentor program. And it helped that Bryan Barringer, Managing Partner at Flow Venture Labs, was willing to add the mobility program to his long-standing relationship as facilitator for the “Scipreneur Challenge.”

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) contributed three technologies – two in smart mobility, although only one was presented during Thursday night’s “IP Parade,” and one in the life sciences. Vanderbilt University offered two, and one each came from the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Yna Kenya, and a partnership between Cumberland Emerging Technologies (CET) and Auburn University.

By the end of today, undergraduate and graduate students, Post Docs and others will rank order their favorite technologies around which they are interested in developing a commercialization plan. Then, teams will be formed, and they will meet every Thursday evening through April 20 where the focus will be on topics like founder basics, problem-market identification, customer-solution segmentation, IP protection and regulatory concerns, financial projection and funding, and narrative and pitching.

The finale, where the teams present their work, will be held on April 27, both in-person in Nashville and virtually. The location will be announced later.

The “IP Parade” included three technologies related to the detection and/or treatment of cancer.

  • Jim Stefansic, well known in the technology entrepreneurial community and CET’s Director of Corporate Development, outlined an Auburn-patented technology that encapsulates disulfiram, a drug used to treat chronic alcoholism but has been found to reduce cancers, with copper. He said the partners are seeking a team to help them make a “go or no go decision” on moving forward and, if so, how.
  • ORNL’s Kuntal De presented an opportunity titled “Methods for Immunoregulation by Modulating Plasminogen-Apple-Nematode (PAM) Domain-Containing Proteins” that he said has been found to block cancer progression.
  • St. Jude’s Chad Riggs, Marketing Associate, and Alessandra d’Azzo, Endowed Chair in Genetics and Gene Therapy, described her research focused on the lysosomal system in normal cellular metabolism and in pathological conditions associated with lysosomal storage disorders (LSD). St. Jude is interested in two licensing opportunities: (1) companies that will develop diagnostic tests to predict chemotherapy resistance, cancer aggressiveness, and disease prognosis; and (2) companies that seek to improve current cancer treatments by developing new therapeutics.

Another technology from Vanderbilt that was presented as an opportunity in the life science sector could also apply to mobility, according to Barringer. The “Tamper-aware anti-counterfeiting container” was described by Graduate Research Assistant Michael Sandborn as focused on “high-value items (that) are ideal targets for counterfeiting.” He said that QR codes and stickers are unreliable, and the need is for a digitally enabled, tamper-evident packaging solution. The device has a provisional patent, and Sandborn suggested that it would be a good solution for everything from medical devices to national defense items and consumer goods. Barringer added the mobility area because of the ever-increasing concerns about supply chain reliability.

Other technologies included:

  • Nick Chadwick, a Radiologist at Vanderbilt, described the challenge of teaching students how to do bone biopsies without involving a live human being. “We need to make it as easy as possible and cost-effective,” Chadwick said, and described a device called the Bone Biopsy Phantom. The team has developed two prototypes and needs market analysis as it develops the third version of the prototype.
  • ORNL’s Mostak Mohammad described a system for wireless power transfer that he said would “significantly accelerate EV (electric vehicle) adoption” once the technology is in the marketplace. He said it is rated a four on the technology readiness level scale meaning it has been validated in the lab. Ideal users would include ride-sharing drivers of EVs.
  • Nadeem Shafi, an Associate Professor at the UT Health Science Center and Medical Director for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, presented a way to “save babies from further abuse by using AI (artificial intelligence) for image analysis.” He described how AI-based retinal hemorrhage detection can be greatly enhanced during a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.
  • Sebastian Mwaura, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Yna Kenya, who outlined a system named Teletonika (TF100) that enables smart tracking of electric vehicles.

ORNL also offered a technology named “Wireless Power System,” but no one was available to present it.

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