Wyss Institute’s Technology Translation Model Launches “Organs on a Chip” for Commercialization


Organ on a chip organx250The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced that its human “Organs-on-Chips” technology will be commercialized by a newly formed private company to accelerate development of pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetic and personalized medicine products. The announcement follows a worldwide license agreement between Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) and the start-up Emulate Inc., relating to the use of the Institute’s automated human Organs-on-Chips platform.

“This is a big win towards achieving our Institute’s mission of transforming medicine and the environment by developing breakthrough technologies and facilitating their translation from the benchtop to the marketplace,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, MD, PhD and leader of the Wyss Institute’s Organs-on-Chips effort.

Created with microchip manufacturing methods, an Organ-on-a-Chip is a cell culture device, the size of a computer memory stick, that contains hollow channels lined by living cells and tissues that mimic organ-level physiology. These devices produce levels of tissue and organ functionality not possible with conventional culture systems, while permitting real-time analysis of biochemical, genetic and metabolic activities within individual cells.

The Wyss Institute team also has developed an instrument to automate the Organs-on-Chips, and to link them together by flowing medium that mimics blood to create a “Human-Body-on-Chips” and better replicate whole body-level responses. This automated human Organ-on-Chip platform could represent an important step towards more predictive and useful measures of the efficacy and safety of potential new drugs, chemicals and cosmetics, while reducing the need for traditional animal testing. Human Organs-on-Chips lined by patient-derived stem cells also could potentially provide a way to develop personalized therapies in the future.

Organ on a chip organx250

The Wyss Institute’s human “Organs-on-Chips” team has used the lung-on-a-chip shown here to study drug toxicity and potential new therapies. The technology will be commercialized to accelerate development of pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetic and personalized medicine products. Image: Harvard’s Wyss Institute

The technology’s rapid development from demonstration of the first functional prototypes to multiple human Organs-on-Chips that can be integrated on a common instrument platform also speaks to the Institute’s ability to translate academic innovation into commercially valuable technologies in a big and meaningful way.

“We took a game-changing advance in microengineering made in our academic lab, and in just a handful of years, turned it into a technology that is now poised to have a major impact on society. The Wyss Institute is the only place this could happen,” added Ingber, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Since their 2010 publication on the human breathing lung-on-a-chip in Science, and with grant support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), Ingber and his team have developed more than ten different Organs-on-Chip models, including chips that mimic liver, gut, kidney and bone marrow. The DARPA effort also has supported the engineering of the instrument that automates chip operations and fluidically links the different organs-on-chips together to more closely mimic whole body physiology, while permitting high-resolution imaging and molecular analysis.

The transition of the Organs-on-Chips technology to a startup was enabled by the Wyss Institute’s unique technology translation model, which takes lead high-value technologies that emerge from Wyss faculty efforts, and de-risks them both technically and commercially to increase their likelihood for commercial success.

Through numerous collaborations with industry, the Wyss Institute team refined their technology, and validated it for market need and impact by testing existing drugs and modeling various human diseases on-chip. And with an eye towards creating a technology that can be mass-manufactured cost effectively outside the lab, they formed industrial partnerships to achieve this goal and increase the likelihood of success in the marketplace.

Mature Institute projects are led by teams that include the lead faculty member, a technical champion with industrial experience on the Institute’s Advanced Technology Team, and a Wyss business development lead, working closely with Harvard OTD.

The Organs-on-Chips project leaders included Don Ingber, Geraldine Hamilton, PhD, Lead Senior Scientist on the Wyss Institute Biomimetics Microsystems Platform, and James Coon, a Wyss Institute Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Hamilton and Coon will be moving to take senior leadership positions at Emulate, along with multiple members of the research team, smoothing the transition from academia to industry.

“The ‘Organs-on-Chips’ story is a great example of how the Wyss Institute brings researchers with industrial experience into the heart of our research community and effectively bridges academia and industry,” said Alan Garber, Provost of Harvard University and Chair of the Institute’s Board of Directors.

Source: Harvard Univ.

Nano-Antioxidant With Longer Shelf Life For Better Anti-Aging Cremes and Food


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Scientists from ETH Zurich have developed a nanomaterial  that protects other molecules from oxidation. Unlike many such active  substances in the past, the ETH-Zurich researchers’ antioxidant has a  long shelf life, which makes it just the ticket for industrial  applications.

There is a lot of talk about antioxidants. These chemical compounds are found in many fruit and vegetable varieties, coffee, tea and red wine, and are generally regarded as healthy. After all, antioxidants protect the body’s own proteins and the genetic substance from oxidation. Antioxidants are also used in industry, including as food additives to preserve items for longer or exploit the health aspect as a selling point. They are in food packaging or car tires to prevent the synthetic material or rubber from becoming brittle. And in the cosmetics industry creams with antioxidants are advertised as anti-aging products.

The problem in using antioxidants, however, is that many of these molecules are not actually very stable in themselves. For instance, they are oxidized in the presence oxygen and gradually lose their antioxidant effect. Researchers under Yiannis Deligiannakis, a visiting professor at the Institute of Process Engineering, have now developed a special nanoantioxidant that is considerably more stable than its conventional counterparts, which means it can be stored more easily and is effective in smaller amounts.

Nanoparticles prevent interaction

The ETH-Zurich scientists’ nanoantioxidant is composed of a silicon dioxide nanoparticle and the naturally occurring antioxidant gallic acid, whereby the two parts are firmly bonded. “Gallic acid is one of the molecules with the best antioxidant activity,” explains Georgios Sotiriou, who was involved in the project as a postdoc at the Institute of Process Engineering before moving to Harvard University. However, as with other antioxidants, gallic acid molecules soon lose their effect, especially since they like to latch onto other gallic acid molecules and thus deactivate each other. By combining them with the silicon dioxide, however, the researchers were able to suppress this process. After all, the large nanoparticles compared to the gallic acid molecules prevent the latter from interacting with each other: for reasons of space, they are no more capable of doing so than passengers in two hot-air balloons are of reaching out and touching each other.

ETH Zurich's researchers coupled gallic acid with silicon dioxide nanoparticles to stabilize the antioxidant.
(Photo : Edisa Balje / ETH Zurich) ETH Zurich’s researchers coupled gallic acid with silicon dioxide nanoparticles to stabilize the antioxidant.

“Our nanoantioxidant has the same outstanding effect as gallic acid, but can be sold as a product with a long shelf life for industry,” says Deligiannakis. Moreover, the nanoantioxidant is temperature-resistant and could thus protect food that is pasteurised or polymers that are produced at high temperatures. Conventional antioxidants become inactive at these temperatures.

A safe combination

The researchers have now patented their new product and are currently in talks with industrial partners with regard to licensing. The scientists do not expect any major hurdles as far as the safety of the molecule is concerned: both gallic acid and the silicon dioxide nanoparticles are deemed harmless, have been approved by the authorities – including for use in food – and are in active usage. The scientists thus expect tests to confirm that the combination molecule is also safe for cosmetics and food. — Source: Fabio Bergamin, ©2013 ETH Zurich (Federal Institute of Technology Switzerland), posted by Mark Hoffman 

Reference:

Deligiannakis Y, Sotiriou GA, Pratsinis SE: Antioxidant and Antiradical SiO2 Nanoparticles Covalently Functionalized with Gallic Acid. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2012, 4, 6609-6617, doi: 10.1021/am301751s

Cambridge NanoTech assets scheduled for auction


Cambridge NanoTech assets scheduled for auction

Dr. Jill Becker

Dr. Jill Becker: Fortune’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012, Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing List, 2009-2012, and one of Mass High Tech’s Women to Watch in 2009.
The assets of Cambridge NanoTech Inc., which claimed to be the leading provider of atomic layer deposition solutions, are scheduled to be auctioned off in December. Cambridge NanoTech makes equipment for performing atomic layer deposition (ALD) – a method of very finely, at a nanoscale level, coating surfaces with a material. The company’s assets and intellectual property are being auctioned on Dec. 14, according to Paul E. Saperstein Co. Auctioneers and Appraisers. Atomic layer deposition intellectual property, patents, trademarks, labs, offices, equipment and fixtures are up for auction and will be sold from the offices of Riemer & Braunstein in Boston.

Details of the auction were included in a blog post by Stephen Gerbsman, managing principal at Gerbsman Partners, the firm retained by Silicon Valley Bank, the senior lender to Cambrdige NanoTech.

It is unclear whether the company is still operational, but the company renewed its incorporation with the state in September. In addition, access to multiple links on the company’s website is denied.

Requests for comment made to the company,  Jill S. Becker, the founder and CEO, Saperstein Co., and Riemer & Braunstein were not returned.

While a company typically files for bankruptcy prior to auctioning off its assets, it is not unusual to begin the process of auctioning assets if the plan is to liquidate the company, according to Ilan Barzilay, a partner in the IP practice group of Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Boston.

Companies will sometimes auction off assets in order to have better control over the auctioning off of their assets. “Once they file and are under the jurisdiction of bankruptcy court, there are restrictions,” Barzilay said. “Once you are in bankruptcy court your hands are tied.”
Becker founded Cambridge NanoTech Inc. out of her basement in 2003 just after completing her Ph.D. at Harvard University. Her doctoral thesis was on atomic layer deposition and she said she knew that was what she wanted to base a company on. Within the first three months of starting Cambridge Nanotech, she launched the company’s first product, then developed three more before officially setting up shop.

The 35-person company was one of the fastest growing companies in the area based on its 202.6 percent growth from 2008 to 2011, according to Boston Business Journal research. In 2011 it reported $18.7 million in revenue, up from the $6.1 million it reported in 2008.

In fact, the entrepreneur and single mother of two said she hand-built the first 13 tools for the company.
Becker, who holds 10 patents, has received numerous awards including Fortune’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012, Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing List, 2009-2012, and one of Mass High Tech’s Women to Watch in 2009.

By Patricia Resende

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Harvard’s Robobee learning to fly


By 

October 9, 2012

Harvard researchers are developing a feedback controller that should allow the Robobee to ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvard researchers are developing a feedback controller that should allow the Robobee to hover and perform controlled fligh

Harvard researchers are getting closer to their goal of developing a controllable micro air vehicle called the Robobee. The tiny robot was already capable of taking off under its own power, but until now it was completely out of control. By adding two control actuators beneath its wings, the robot can be programmed to pitch and roll.

The team is now working on a feedback controller that will allow the robot to yaw, which when combined with pitch and roll should allow it to hover. Until then, the Robobee is still just crashing, albeit in more spectacular fashion than it did before. Eventually, it could be mass-produced to perform pollination or assist in search and rescue operations (along with a variety of other things).

Harvard's micro aerial vehicle could be used to artificially pollinate crops, assist searc...

Meanwhile, the Green Brain project underway at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in England may provide the necessary artificial intelligence for such a robot. The ambitious project seeks to build a working simulation of a bee’s brain by mapping the complex neural connections that process the bee’s senses. This simulation could then be harnessed, enabling a robot to make navigational decisions on its own.

“Because the honey bee brain is smaller and more accessible than any vertebrate brain, we hope to eventually be able to produce an accurate and complete model that we can test within a flying robot,” said Dr James Marshall, a computer scientist at the University of Sheffield.

However, it seems unlikely that the two projects will be compatible any time soon. Simulating even an insect’s brain requires some intense hardware – in this case, the researchers are working with NVIDIA graphics cards normally reserved for the latest video games. It will be awhile before that kind of processing power can be carried on Robobee’s miniscule frame. You can see it performing some in-flight maneuvers in the video below.

Sources: Harvard Robobees and University of Sussex via IEEE Spectrumand BBC