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Geron, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, SparkIP, Imperial College-UK, University of Utah, Trevena, Advanced Cancer Therapeutics, University of Louisville, Vermillion, Stanford University, NuView Pharmaceuticals, University of Southern California, USP

USPTO Upholds Key WARF, Geron Stem Cell Patent
Geron and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation said last week that the US Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the validity of a key stem cell patent owned by WARF and exclusively licensed to Geron for commercializing therapies from neural cells, cardiomyocytes, and pancreatic islet cells.
The decision specifically affects the patent for primate and human embryonic stem cells, US Patent No. 7,029,913. This patent is one of three that were challenged last year by the Public Patent Foundation and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (see BTW, 3/5/2007 and 4/9/2007).
The ‘913 patent follows a different process than US Patent Nos. 5,843,780 and 6,200,806, the re-examination of which by the USPTO are still pending.
In communicating its decision, the USPTO issued an 82-page Action Closing Prosecution in the inter-parties re-examination of the ‘913 patent, Geron said. The USPTO rejected the arguments made by the requesting parties and found the expert declarations they submitted to be “flawed by hindsight reasoning,” Geron said.

SparkIP Announces New Contributors, Features for Online IP Database
SparkIP, an online intellectual property network for the scientific community, announced last week that Imperial College in the UK and the University of Utah have begun posting licensable technologies to the site.
SparkIP, based in Atlanta, said that it now has 5,900 total IP listings on the site. The company made the announcement at the Association of University Technology Managers annual meeting, held last week in San Diego.
The company also said at the conference that it has added new site features with more “user-friendly tools” for researching IP.
SparkIP was founded in October by Kristina Johnson, vice president of academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University; Rob Clark, dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering; and Tim Lenoir, chair of new technology and society at Duke.

Duke Spinout Trevena Closes $24M Financing Round to Advance GPCR Tech
Trevena, a drug-development spinout of Duke University, said this week that it has closed a $24 million series A financing round to progress its G-protein coupled receptor-based drug-discovery efforts.
Alta Partners and Healthcare Ventures led the financing round as part of an investor syndicate that included New Enterprise Associates and Polaris Venture Partners.
Trevena’s drug-discovery platform, licensed from Duke University Medical Center, is based on research conducted in the laboratories of Robert Lefkowitz, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of medicine and biochemistry at DUMC; and Howard Rockman, chief of cardiovascular medicine at DUMC.
Lefkowicz and Rockman will consult for Trevena.
“Pharmaceutical products that target GPCRs represent over 40 percent of marketed drugs today, and these targets provide an attractive starting point for new pharmaceutical agents,” Maxine Gowen, president and CEO of Trevena, said in a statement.

Advanced Cancer Therapeutics Licenses Anti-Cancer Compounds from U of Louisville
Advanced Cancer Therapeutics has signed an exclusive license to develop and market a dual-mechanism anti-cancer therapeutic from the University of Louisville’s Brown Cancer Center, the company said this week.
Under the agreement, ACT has commercial rights to further develop and market 3PO and its related compounds from the school.
Discovered by Brown Cancer Center researchers Jason Chesney and John Trent, 3PO inhibits a key enzyme, PFKFB3, which suppresses both sugar metabolism and cell proliferation in cancer cells.
The researchers have shown in the laboratory that 3PO could be a promising anti-cancer therapeutic against leukemia and solid tumors.
Financial terms were not disclosed.

Molecular Dx Firm Vermillion Licenses PAD Biomarkers from Stanford
Molecular diagnostics firm Vermillion said this week that it has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Stanford University to develop and commercialize a biomarker panel used to assess the risk of peripheral artery disease.
Under the terms of the agreement, Vermillion has exclusive rights to develop and commercialize a PAD blood test based on the biomarker panel.
The biomarker panel was discovered and developed by John Cooke, professor of medicine at Stanford. Cooke will serve as a member of a clinical steering committee to support registration of the PAD test with the US Food and Drug Administration.
In collaboration with Stanford, Vermillion, based in Fremont, Calif., recently completed a 540-patient clinical study evaluating the ability of the biomarker panel to classify individuals into high- and low-risk groups for PAD. These results will be published in a peer-reviewed clinical journal in the coming months, the company said.

NuView Pharma to Develop USC Tech Into Cardiac PET Dx
NuView Pharmaceuticals has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the University of Southern California for commercialization rights to a tagged derivative of the naturally found biological molecule adenosine F-18 FXA.
NuView plans to develop the molecule into a diagnostic cardiac Positron Emission Tomography radiopharmaceutical and advance the diagnostic to clinical trials.
Peter Conti, professor of radiology at USC Keck School of Medicine and NuView medical director is the co-inventor of the patented F-18 FXA technology. The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation facilitated the transaction, NuView said.

USPTO Issues Biochip Patent to WARF, Licensee GWC Technologies
GWC Technologies said this week that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued US Patent No. 7,332,329, relating to technology that GWC licenses exclusively from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Using this technology, GWC has developed the SpotReady line of biochips for use with the company’s label-free analysis instruments. SpotReady allows researchers to prepare arrays of proteins and other molecules without the spotting equipment typically required by array systems, GWC said.
The biochip technology resulted from a collaboration between GWC and the laboratory of Robert Corn, a GWC co-founder and current professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. Corn developed the underlying technology while he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Canada Names 11 New Centers of Excellence for Commercialization and Research
Canada’s national government will spend CA $195 million ($163 million) to establish 11 new Centers of Excellence for Commercialization and Research nationwide, in hopes of bringing new technologies, therapies, services and products to market faster through public-private collaborations, the Ontario Centres of Excellence said last month.
The 11 CECRs and their funding amounts, in Canadian dollars, are:
  • Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Vancouver, BC, $14.95 million.
  • Bioindustrial Innovation Center, Sarnia, Ont., $14.95 million.
  • Center for the Commercialization of Research, Ottawa, Ont., $14.95 million.
  • Center for Drug Research and Development, Vancouver, $14.95 million.
  • Center of Excellence in Personalized Medicine, Montreal, Quebec, $13.8 million.
  • Center for Probe Development and Commercialization, Hamilton, Ont., $14.95 million.
  • Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer/CECR in Therapeutics Discovery, Montreal, $14.95 million.
  • MaRS Innovation, Toronto, $14.95 million.
  • The Prostate Center's Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development, Vancouver, $14.95 million.
  • Pan-Provincial Vaccine Enterprise, Saskatoon, Sask., $14.95 million.
  • CECR in the Prevention of Epidemic Organ Failure, Vancouver, $14.95 million.
Canada’s 2007 budget set aside $195 million over the next two years to create new
Centers of Excellence for Commercialization and Research in health and the life sciences, and three other priority areas: Environmental science and technologies, natural resources and energy, and information and communication technologies.
The CECR program is a cornerstone of Canada's Science and Technology Strategy, launched in May 2007 to encourage more private sector R&D investment.

UK’s BBSRC, Royal Society of Edinburgh Announce Tech-Development Fellowships
The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Royal Society of Edinburgh are seeking proposals for the Enterprise Fellowships program, which supports researchers who wish to play a role in commercializing their research, the organizations said this week.
The Fellowships are available to academic staff, research staff, and postgraduates with relevant experience employed by a UK higher education institution or a BBSRC-sponsored research institute.
The business idea may be in any area within BBSRC’s scope, provided the original research was primarily funded through the council. Fellowships provide salary and formal business training, allowing the fellows to focus on developing the commercial potential of their research over the course of a year.
The closing date for applications is April 4. Interviews for selected applicants will take place in Edinburgh on June 3, with fellowships expected to commence in October.

Exactech Gains Rights to Cartilage-Repair Tech from Taiwanese Institute
Medical product firm Exactech said this week that its Taiwanese subsidiary, Exactech Taiwan, has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the Industrial Technology Research Institute and the National Taiwan University Hospital for the rights to technology and patents related to the repair of cartilage lesions.
Using this technology, Exactech plans to launch a cartilage repair program that will include a device and method for treating and repairing cartilage in the knee joint.
Exactech, based in Gainesville, Fla., develops bone- and joint-restoration products for hip, knee, shoulder, spine, and other biologic materials.

Japan’s Nagoya University Opens Tech-Transfer Office in North Carolina
The office of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley last week announced the opening of Nagoya University Technology Transfer Office, a project designed to facilitate innovation and business ties between North Carolina and Japan.
As part of the initiative, Nagoya University Tech will provide information on new technologies and patents from Japan and work to find North Carolina companies for joint research projects. Nagoya will pay an undisclosed sum to fund the center.
The office will also explore the possibility of creating startup companies in the state. Project partners include NC State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nagoya University, and the NC Department of Commerce, which will host the first office of NU Tech. A permanent office is expected to open in April in Research Triangle Park.
Nagoya University, located in the Tokai region of Japan, is noted for its biotechnology, nanotechnology, environmental, and information communications technology research.

Alnylam Granted Key RNAi Patent in Japan
Alnylam said this week that the Japanese Patent Office has sent notification of intent to grant a patent for the Tuschl II patent series, entitled “RNA interference mediating small RNA molecules.”
The newly granted patent includes 39 claims broadly covering compositions, methods, uses, and systems for small interfering RNAs, the molecules that mediate RNAi.
According to Alnylam, the grant of claims in the Japanese Tuschl II patent extends the issuance of the Tuschl II patent in the US and its grant in the European Union, among other jurisdictions.
The Tuschl II patent family is exclusively licensed to Alnylam for RNAi therapeutics on a worldwide basis through an agreement with Max Planck Innovation, the licensing agent for the Max Planck Society.

Tech-Commercialization Firm 5iTech Partners with Akron General
Technology commercialization firm 5iTech and the Akron General Technology Transfer, Commercialization, and Innovation Office have signed an agreement to jointly identify, validate, and commercialize biomedical projects, 5iTech said recently.
The parties will collaborate on the initial review of novel medical technologies in the 5iTech pipeline that possess strong potential for commercial success in the US, and will subsequently conduct validation and testing at Akron General.
The first joint program will focus on wound care and infection prevention, in particular using a micro “cold plasma” device developed at the Petrozavodsk State University in Russia. Sterionics, a recent 5iTech startup company, is bringing the technology to market.
Based in Cleveland, 5iTech identifies and commercializes technologies developed by scientists from research laboratories in the former Soviet Union.

Canadian Tech-Transfer Consortium Develops Joint NDA
The members of C4, a Canadian technology transfer consortium linking universities in Southwest Ontario, have released a jointly developed non-disclosure agreement.
The new NDA will be used at McMaster, Guelph, Waterloo, Western, Windsor, and Wilfrid Laurier universities, C4 said.
The members of the consortium said that the NDA would make it easier for businesses to interact with the member universities, particularly when licensing technology or sponsoring research at more than one institution.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.