FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Board of Research and Commercialization Technology
Montana Department of Commerce
Montana Department of Commerce
Montana Board of Research & Commercialization Technology Announces FY2014 Awards
(HELENA) – The Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology recently announced funding of twelve research grants totaling $1,108,929. The awards are for projects in Havre, Butte, Billings, Missoula, Bozeman and Kalispell.
"It is very important for Montana to support research and commercialization projects that will help to develop the state’s economy," said Meg O’Leary, Director of the Montana Department of Commerce. "These grants will make Montana more competitive in the global marketplace."
The Board supports economic development by investing in research projects that have a clear path to commercialization. It has funded 197 research projects totaling $39,253,141 million since 2001. The Board is administratively attached to the Montana Department of Commerce.
"We are pleased to announce that the Research and Commercialization Technology program has funded twelve new projects," said Dave Desch, Executive Director of the Board. "These, and previously funded projects have the potential to significantly impact Montana’s opportunities for economic growth."
"These newly awarded projects will receive additional matching funds as leverage," said O'Leary. "Since the program’s inception, Board funded projects have leveraged $44 million in matching funds and have attracted $301 million in follow-on funding. These projects are an investment in Montana’s technology future and in the tech companies that develop around this research activity."
The grant awardees are:
Design, Synthesis and Preclinical Characterization of Water Soluble Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) Therapeutics for the Treatment of Cancerous Tumors in the Tissue Transparency Window – Charles W. Spangler, SensoPath Technologies, Inc., Bozeman - $58,596
SensoPath Technologies (SPT), a Bozeman-based company, is developing a laser-based treatment of deep cancerous tumors that are recurring, refractory and resistant to conventional treatment (surgery/radiation/chemo). SPT's goal of starting human clinical trials in the next 2-3 years for the treatment of Head and Neck cancers that have developed mutations and resistance to all currently approved FDA cancer therapeutics would be significantly improved if the solubility of their lead therapeutic, SPT-100-EGFR, could be greatly enhanced so that this therapeutic could be delivered by normal IV injection immediately prior to treatment in an outpatient clinical setting. The goal of this project is to modify the current drug design to greatly improve water and serum solubility. This can be accomplished by a simple alteration of the synthesis at a very early stage, such that water solubility can be incorporated without having to alter the main drug design that has shown outstanding preclinical efficacy. This approach will preserve SPT’s goal of making targeted PDT a one-day outpatient cancer treatment, with no side effects, rapid healing, and little, or no scarring.
Tracer Monitored Titration: A Novel, Low-Cost Titration System for Automated Chemical Analysis - Michael DeGrandpre, University of Montana, Missoula - $144,607
Industrial Partner: Sunburst Sensors, Missoula
The project will develop a novel, low-cost, titration analyzer for industrial process control and environmental monitoring. The lab has discovered that placing a tracer in the titrant or sample eliminates the need to measure the titrant and sample volume, a method named "Tracer Monitored Titration", or TMT. This innovation offers a considerable simplification over conventional titration technology, a technology that is widely used by industry for chemical analysis. The project will design, fabricate and test an analyzer based on the TMT methodology in collaboration with Sunburst Sensors, a Missoula instrument manufacturing company. The analyzer will significantly advance the science in process monitoring, making titrations more affordable and easier to use, thereby reducing industrial waste and resource consumption and maximizing energy efficiency.
Investigating the Therapeutic Potential of BH3I-1, a Small Molecule Inhibitor of Fungal Morphogenesis – Kurt Toenjes, Montana State University-Billings - $99,400
Human fungal infections are commonly caused by C. albicans. This organism is a major fungal pathogen. Studies indicate that up to 75 percent of women suffer from infections tied to C. albicans. Approximately 10,000 people die each year from such infections. In many healthy humans, C. albicans exists in our bodies in a balanced state that does us no harm. One important aspect of infections by C. albicans is that it forms tubes that spread out like unchecked urban sprawl and eventually lead to tissue destruction. This project involves using a drug (BH3I-1) to block the "sprawl" and potentially stop the infection. BH3I, and it derivatives, is being developed into a commercial laboratory reagent for understanding the path to "sprawl" and exploring its potential as a novel drug to treat infections.
Development and Characterization of Novel Variants to Improve Milling and Dough Quality of Wheat – J. M. Martin, Montana State University, Bozeman - $119,900
Milling of wheat grain into flour involves the separation of bran and germ from the endosperm and grinding and sifting endosperm particles into flour. Since flour is the basic ingredient for wheat based products, flour quality dictates end product quality. Important measures of flour quality include yield, protein, ash, water absorption, and dough mixing properties. Wheat breeders have selected varieties with improved milling and flour quality properties, but breeding programs can only choose from available variation, and for some important genes that impact milling and flour properties the natural variation has already been exploited. Two genes that have major impacts on the amount and quality of flour are the Puroindolines, which influence grain texture and milling efficiency, and Glutenins, which impact the protein quality in the flour and subsequent dough mixing and handling qualities. New variants for the Puroindoline and Glutenin genes have been created. The Puroindoline variants can give a specific level of grain hardness and the Glutenin variants potentially offer unique dough resistance and extensibility properties. This project will characterize the impact of new variants of Puroindoline genes on milling and bread quality and of new variants of Glutenin genes on dough mixing and bread quality.
In-Vivo Testing of a Novel Compound, WT13-12, as a Treatment for Infected Wounds – Thomas F. Rau, Wintermute Biomedical, Missoula - $42,786
The primary goal of this project is the pre-clinical in-vivo testing of a novel anti-bacterial, anti-fungal compound to decrease both traumatic and surgical wound infections. In preliminary in-vitro studies project researchers have found a lead compound, WT13-12, that completely inhibited the growth of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Group A beta strep, and Group B beta strep. WT13-12 also exhibits complete inhibition of the anaerobic bacteria Bacteroides fragilis and the yeast, Candida albicans. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that hospital acquired (nosocomial) infections occur in approximately 2 million (10%) patients each year. Of these patients, 99,000 will die from the infection. The financial cost of treating patients with active nosocomial infections is estimated at $8-$11 billion a year. Surgical site infections comprise 20% of all infections and account for $1.6-$2.2 billion a year in treatment costs and extended hospitalization. One of the primary microbial agents for hospital acquired infections is MRSA, which is resistant to every commercially available anti-biotic with the exception of vancomyocin. Clinically, vancomyocin is a toxic antibiotic that must be closely regulated to avoid liver damage. Furthermore, many health care providers fear that, at some point in the near future, vancomyocin resistant enterococcus (VRE) will transmit genetic components to MRSA and thus enable MRSA to become resistant to vancomyocin. Once this occurs, there will be no compound available to treat MRSA wound infections. Thus, there is a clear need to develop novel treatments that are effective against anti-biotic resistant bacteria. WT13-12 is non-toxic, and does not utilize traditional antibiotics and thus may circumvent the development of antibiotic resistance. This project will test the efficacy of WT13-12 at stopping bacterial and fungal wound infections. If successful this project will provide the necessary data to file an investigational new drug with the FDA and proceed into phase I human clinical trials.
New Technology for Determining the Abundance and Ratios of Biologically Important Metabolites in Live Cells – Mensur Dlakic, Montana State University, Bozeman - $117,297
This project will develop novel technology to determine the abundances and ratios of biologically important metabolites in live cells. In complex eukaryotic cells, such as in human cells, the metabolic state may be quite different in different subcellular compartments, such as the nucleus, the mitochondria or the cytoplasm. It has been essentially impossible to obtain accurate information on the levels of metabolites in the subcellular compartments, since the levels can change rapidly relative to the extended times that it takes to separate the cellular organelles for analysis. It is also clear that the ratios of certain metabolites and changes in these ratios in different states of health and disease are even more important than accurate values for one of the components of the ratios of the metabolite concentrations. This project will be able to monitor the metabolite levels and ratios of metabolites in live cells, in real time, without cell extraction, which appear to be extremely valuable for diagnosis of the health and biochemical state of the cells.
Compact Compressive Laser Ranging System – Zeb W. Barber, Montana State University, Bozeman - $139,144
This research and technology development project will advance an innovative laser ranging technique invented and first demonstrated by The Spectrum Lab at Montana State University called Compressive Laser Ranging (CLR). The CLR method utilizes concepts from Compressive Sensing, a relatively new and burgeoning field, which is rethinking traditional measurement paradigms by using prior knowledge to reduce the number of samplings needed to obtain a good measurement. This is particularly helpful for sensing tasks with reduced or constrained resources. The CLR technique employs efficient high bandwidth digital modulation common to fiber optic communications with low bandwidth (high sensitivity) optical detection, which enables high precision (sub-cm) multi-target ranging over large range windows. This approach provides reductions of the system size and weight, and also relieves issues associated with high bandwidth detection and digitization, such as excess noise, scaling, high data-rates, and high data loads. This effort includes development of a compact CLR system and research to extend and improve CLR, including innovative compressive sensing capabilities, such as change and velocity detection. Successful development of this technique will enable a new class of high precision one-dimensional (1D) time-of-flight laser ranging and three-dimensional (3D) laser imaging sensors for applications such as navigation and obstacle avoidance sensors for manned or autonomous vehicles and imagers for robots designed to operate in hazardous environments, such as fire-fighting, bomb disposal, or deep-sea exploration. The research project will train graduate students and undergraduate students in the field of optics and photonics and prepare them for a career in the growing optics industry in Montana.
Enhancement of Applied Research in Biomedicine – Richard J. Bridges, University of Montana, Missoula - $149,078
The goal of the MBRCT project: "Enhancement of Applied/Translational Research in Biomedicine" is to continue building an applied/translational biomedical research enterprise in the study and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. This effort is intended to directly promote interactions between university researchers and private sector biotech/biomedical companies in a manner that positively impacts the state’s economy. The project leverages federal grant support provided for basic neuroscience research to the University of Montana's Center of Structural and Functional Neuroscience. Scientists participating include those affiliated with the Center, emerging Biotech companies in Montana and other private sector research entities, such as the Montana Neuroscience Institute at St. Patrick Hospital. An additional collaborative effort is now in place involving the UM Technology Transfer Office, as well as faculty and students from the UM School of Business Administration. A strong emphasis is placed on the development of novel diagnostics, devices and/or therapeutic agents related to the treatment of brain injury or disease. In the past few years, these efforts have led to the development of numerous patents and the establishment of a number of biotech spin-off companies in Montana. The award will be used to support a number of endeavors, including: seed projects to develop, refine, and protect intellectual property that will be commercialized in the private sector, the development of incubator space for SBIR projects, the maintenance of high-tech, high-cost shared instrumentation as a statewide research resource, the training of students, and the continued promotion of collaborative projects between Center researchers and biotech/biomedical companies in Montana.
Production of Aviation Fuels from Camelina sativa Oil through Heterogeneous Catalysis – Md Joyanl Abedin, Montana State University Northern, Havre - $30,607
The prospects for implementing advanced transportation fuels in the aviation industry have been ever increasing, compelled primarily by the need to reduce the environmental impact of air transportation and increase U.S. energy independence. To address these needs, MSU-Northern Bio-energy Center has deployed bio-energy related research with a focus on Montana-sourced biomass. The Center has been working on developing bio-jet fuel from camelina as a viable alternative to traditional petro-jet fuel. This project focuses primarily on the problem of lowering the high cost of bio-energy production that the bio-fuel industry is facing. This will be achieved by developing a novel heterogeneous catalyst and robust chemical conversion methods to convert camelina into aviation fuel. Performance and emission analysis of camelina derived jet fuels will be conducted as part of the research. Aviation fuel is made up of approximately 30% aromatic components in its hydrocarbon composition. To date there are no bio-jet fuels derived from biomass that contain aromatic compounds, a component necessary for jet fuel. This project will produce jet fuel from camelina containing aromatics as part of its hydrocarbon composition.
This project will also catalyze the development of Camelina sativa as an energy crop in Montana. The ability of camelina to grow on marginal lands and its potential for use in crop rotation minimizes the food versus fuel issue typically associated with energy crop development. In a recent Federal Register issued by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biodiesel, renewable diesel, and jet fuel derived from camelina qualified as biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard 2 ruling. The results of this research hope to provide the tools and knowledge necessary to commercialize and put Montana grown camelina at the forefront of American bio-energy production.
Clinical Evaluation of Wavefront-Guided Progressive Multifocal Contact Lens - Stephen Dunn, WaveSource, Inc., Kalispell - $110,000
Commercially available multifocal contact lenses do not correct higher order optical aberrations of the eye and have limited success (typically less than 30% success rate) in providing acceptable distance and near vision correction. WaveSource, Inc. recently developed a proprietary process comprised of both software and a manufacturing system to produce individually optimized contact lenses capable of correcting lower order vision components (sphere and astigmatism) as well as currently uncorrected higher-order aberrations. When combined with WaveSource’s existing patented multifocal lens design and simplified fitting system, this new technology will efficiently solve a wide range of vision problems.
In 2011, WaveSource was successful in securing a grant from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology to complete the development of the manufacturing process for wavefront guided multifocal contact lens. This grant has successfully enabled WaveSource to rapidly advance toward commercialization.
The grant awarded to WaveSource Inc. in June 2013 will allow the company to proceed with and complete the clinical trials required of our wavefront guided multifocal contact lenses prior to commercialization.
Evaluation of a Novel Renewable Bio-Fiber Filter to Remove Mercury from Flue Gas – Kumar Ganesan, Montana Tech, Butte - $90,000
The goal of this research is to develop a marketable and cost-effective device to remove mercury from flue gas including coal-fired power plants. The focus of this research is to evaluate a novel "Bio-fiber" as substrate in place of a previously tested ceramic substrate. The main objectives of this research include: a) to assess the bio-fiber Metallic Nano Particle (MNP) filter for mercury removal efficiency at different mercury concentration levels and at different flow rates in the laboratory; b) to evaluate its performance in a coal fired stack flue gas; c) to design the filter; d) to develop data to support the marketability of the filter relative to current systems; and, e)to study the commercial potential of the filter by producing in Montana vs. licensing to an out-of-state interest. The technology involves incorporating metallic nanoparticles in to a bio-fiber substrate that makes the filtering media. Preliminary tests in the laboratory showed higher than 90 % mercury removal from gas streams. One of the significant advantages of this filter besides its high efficiency is that it removes mercury from the system and eliminates mercury residues in the fly ash and waste streams. The selected bio-fiber substrate provides necessary surface area, has adequate mechanical strength, chemically stable, easy to pack as a filter and effective in holding MNP in place. The bio-fiber MNP filter is a new innovation that already advances the state-of-the-art in its field. Improving the filter further will include developing the needed design data for full-scale system design especially for a coal-fired power plant stack, thereby making it even more attractive for commercialization. Commercializing this filter will have a great economic benefit to Montana and to the coal fired power plants. The market potential for mercury control device is estimated at about 3 billion dollars in US alone. The international market, especially in China and India is significant where 70% of energy is generated from coal fired power plants.
Sustainable Coal Bed Methane (CBM) and Biofuel Production from Algae Grown in CBM Produced Water – Matthew Fields, Montana State University, Bozeman - $140,866
Industrial Partner: Montana Emergent Technologies, Butte
The goal of this project is to conduct research on enhancement of coal bed methane (CBM) production using a mixture of algal extracts and other nutrients. The algae, which can be grown on-site in CBM production water ponds, can be harvested and converted into nutrients capable of stimulating and sustaining in situ coal bed methane production. If the algae are grown in sufficient quantities in CBM produced water storage facilities it may be possible to convert much of the biomass directly into biofuels (and other algae-related products) in addition to producing the extracts needed to stimulate CBM production. Large-scale algal production in CBM ponds will also substantially increase CO2 uptake from the atmosphere, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of conventional CBM operations. Additionally re-injection of amended CBM water reduces the quantity of this non-potable water that needs to be treated and/or discharged.