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Northeast Ohio sensors industry gets $17-million boost

The Dayton region may be known as Ohio's sensors corridor, but northeast Ohio's capabilities in sensor technology just got a boost -- and a big one at that.

Last week the Wright Center for Sensor Systems Engineering at Cleveland State University, allocating funds from the Ohio Third Frontier initiative, awarded six grants totaling more than $17 million to universities and other organizations for development and commercialization of sensors and sensor technologies.

The largest of the six grants -- 25 percent of which will be matched by recipients -- went to Lorain County Community College, which will receive $5.5 million to work with R.W. Beckett Corp., Acence and Greenfield Solar Corp., to create a center for sensor commercialization.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Learner Research Institute will receive $2.67 million to lead establishment a new center for sensor and microdevices for biomedical applications, and the Austen BioInnovation Institute is getting $2.6 million to lead development of an advanced instrumentation platform for product development in biomedical areas.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State University is slated to receive $3 million to lead commercialization of terahertz sensors for applications such as medical imaging and homeland security, and the University of Akron will receive $1.66 million to lead commercialization of sensor technologies for clean energy products.

Youngstown State University will also receive $1.66 million, for a collaboration with the Youngstown Business Incubator and M-7 Technologies to create systems for next generation manufacturing and inspection systems.

Some recipients are already predicting new jobs due to the awards.

"Our principal commercial partner, M-7 technologies, is looking to hire an additional 70 employees over five years," says Julie Michael Smith, the Youngstown incubator's chief development officer. "That is the direct employment, and then of course there will hopefully be downstream employment by companies employing this technologies."

She says the grants are good for northeast Ohio and for the Youngstown area, where old-line industries like steel have been battered in recent years.

Sources: The Wright Center for Sensor Systems Engineering and Julie Michael Smith, Youngstown Business Incubator
Writer: Gene Monteith

IR Diagnostyx looking for new ways to identify functional diseases

IR Diagnostyx is working to develop fast, accurate and painless diagnosis techniques for a variety of functional diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Formed last year and based at TechColumbus, the company grew out of Ohio State University's Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Institute at the Fisher College of Business.

Company founders -- OSU graduate students in OSU's Fisher College -- won third place in the 2008 Fisher business plan competition, says president and CEO Gary Smith. Since then, IR Diagnostyx has received a $50,000 TechGenesis grant and is currently under consideration for an additional $250,000 in funding through the TechColumbus Pre-Seed Fund.

While the company is looking for new diagnostic techniques for a variety of ailments, "we're really focused on interstitial cystitis," Smith says. "The technology's based on work done in Tony Buffington's laboratory in veterinary medicine, and that of Luis E. Rodriguez-Saona. Ironically, Luis is a food scientist, but his competency, his research area, is in infrared micro-spectroscopy."

How does that relate to the diagnosis of functional ailments?

"We take a blood sample and we're developing an algorithm, and using some complicated software we can take a look at a serum sample and see a characteristic signal generated from patients with these specific diseases," Smith explains. "And we take that diagnostic information and compare it with others and provide the physician with some feedback on the health of the patient."

The company is still in the early stages of its product development, having completed feasibility work and now preparing to launch regulatory research, Smith says.

"We're going to collect data from about 500 patients to submit to the FDA later this year," he says.

Source: Gary Smith, IR Diagnostyx
Writer: Gene Monteith

Sensus leverages what's good in food for good of consumer

Sensus President Dan Wampler put his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and a 15-year career in the flavor industry into his own company, which extracts flavors, colors and health properties from natural products for use in food and drinks.

Wampler founded Sensus in 1999 with the goal of delivering high-quality natural flavor ingredients and health benefits from natural products to the food and beverage industry. The Hamilton-based company pulls flavor from raw materials like coffee, tea herbs and tomatoes to deliver extracts, concentrates and essences that other companies use in their products. Sensus employs 35 people in manufacturing, research and development and quality control.

Sensus works with leading tomato ingredient processor The Morning Star Company in Woodland, California to provide industry leading tomato essences.

Sensus is currently working on a joint project with Ohio State and Wyandot Inc. in Marion. The trio is working on a snack chip that will use a purple corn extract made from Ohio-grown corn. It would be a full-grain corn meal snack that is purple in color.

"We want to develop the corn so it can be grown in Ohio and it can be put into a healthful snack. There is a big demand by consumers who still want to snack but want snacks with more health benefits," Wampler says. "It's a research project that we hope leads to commercial product."

Source: Dan Wampler, Sensus
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

Predicting chance of power outages energizes Exacter's growth

An electric utility's biggest bane, John Lauletta says, is the power outage. It makes sense that if utilities could predict outages -- or at least when parts of the system were about to fail -- they'd jump at the chance.

Enter Exacter, which over the past four years has grown rapidly by helping to predict how and where overhead power distribution systems might fail.

Lauletta, Exacter's CEO, says the company began to gel in 2004, when he and fellow utilities veteran Larry Anderson (Exacter's vice president of international business) "started talking about this idea of predictive technologies. We started our work with the Ohio State University High Voltage Laboratory, and we opened our company on July 1, 2006."

Today, Exacter has 100 utility customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and the U.K.

In a nutshell, here's Exacter's approach: As a vehicle drives along the distribution route at regular speeds, a patented sensor in the car detects radio emissions from damaged components. Exacter sends a person into the field to confirm which component is damaged or failing. A digital photograph is taken, latitude and longitude confirmed, and reported to the utility so the problem can be fixed.

While there are other methods for finding bad components, none is as accurate, fast or as comprehensive as the method Exacter uses, Lauletta says.

Lauletta says another growing service for Exacter is helping utilities understand the feasibility of laying "smartgrid" networks over their distribution lines.

Exacter has received support from the Ohio TechAngel Funds and the Ohio Third Frontier Innovation Ohio Loan Fund. Last year, the company received Outstanding Startup and Outstanding Service awards from TechColumbus, and, more recently, a statewide professional engineering award for innovation for small companies.

Source: John Lauletta, Exacter
Writer: Gene Monteith

Ohio State Commercialization Center seen as unique model

Ohio State University has announced a new commercialization center that it calls a unique model for collaboration between university researchers and business -- one that will strengthen the state and national economies and increase university revenues.

The Technology Commercialization Center, which Ohio State says departs from typical university commercialization models, will emphasize partnerships between the colleges of engineering, food agricultural and environmental sciences, health sciences, business, law, and the Office of Research.

In a news release, OSU said the center will be housed within the Fisher College of Business and will "bring together, in one unified organization, new-technology evaluation, license negotiation, company-formation mentorship and undergraduate and graduate education on entrepreneurship and commercialization."

In addition, a Proof of Concept Center will be established to ensure inventions with the greatest potential for the commercial market will receive the most attention.

Caroline Whitacre, vice president for research, told hiVelocity in May that the center was in development.

"We need to prioritize these technologies and develop the most promising ones further within the university," she said at the time. "So the idea here is twofold: to do a thorough evaluation of these technologies, and that involves bringing in some people from outside as well, bringing in some market experts, both local and national. And using the expertise within the university to look at what's really valuable."

OSU says the strategy presents a significant opportunity to generate new revenue for the university, which is recruiting a chief commercialization officer to lead the effort. Ohio State, based in Columbus, ranks in the top ten nationally with $716 million in research expenditures in 2009 and is second in industry-sponsored research. The university's 2009 licensing revenue was $1.7 million.

Source: Ohio State University
Writer: Gene Monteith

Traycer's T-ray potential gets Columbus firm noticed

Imagine an imaging technology that can identify TNT or anthrax beneath a terrorist's clothes. That's exactly the kind of capability the Columbus startup Traycer wants the world to have.

Conceived in an Ohio State University lab, incorporated in 2007 and housed in the TechColumbus incubator, Traycer is already attracting attention for its promising terahertz -- or "T-ray" -- technology.

"Terahertz is just a different wavelength of light," explains Don J. Burdette, director of scientific research. "It falls between infrared and microwave, so there are a lot of applications for infrared technology -- you know, catching the bad guys running from the cops."

But many materials that aren't easily detected using infrared or microwave can be readily identified using T-rays. "So this has a lot of applications for spectroscopy, food quality control, chemical detection under people's clothing, detection of breast cancer -- the applications abound."

That potential has attracted the attention of TechColumbus, which in early 2008 awarded it $500,000 in pre-seed funds. And it's caught the eye of the U.S. Air Force.

"We're in our third contract with the Air Force to prove out the technology," says CEO Brad Beasecker. "And there certainly are numerous applications within the department of defense."

The company is working with a variety of partners -- including IDCAST (Institute for the Development and Commercialization of Advanced Sensor Technology) in Dayton, where it has lab space -- and numerous Ohio and out-of-state universities.

Beasecker says the three-person company was expected to close this week on an investment round led by Ohio Techangels. But it's most important next step lies ahead.

"We've got to finish the camera. It's pretty simple."

If all goes as planned, Traycer could be in the marketplace early next year and "generate a new industry based here in Ohio," Beasecker says.

Sources: Brad Beasecker and Don J. Burdette, Traycer
Writer: Gene Monteith

HyperTech rides superconducting material toward new MRI markets

Michael Tomsic calls his Columbus-based HyperTech "a poster child" for how the Ohio Third Frontier should work. Not only has his company benefited from numerous state and federal grants, but since 2005 has increased employment from two to 25.

Tomsic says HyperTech is one of two companies in the world working to commercialize magnesium diboride wires, a superconducting material that could eliminate the need for high-cost helium baths needed to keep magnetic resonance imagers cool. The other is located in Genoa, Italy, and named, ironically, Columbus Superconducting.

In 2001, the company won an $800,000 grant from the Ohio Technology Action Fund to demonstrate that the magnesium-boron compound could be made into a useful wire.

"That was first major funding anywhere around the world to actually try to commercialize this magnesium diboride," says Tomsic, HyperTech's president.

That project helped paved the way for a three-year, $5-million Third Frontier research and commercialization grant in 2009, which in turn has helped HyperTech strengthen its collaboration with Siemens, Philips and General Electric -- who Tomsic says "have 95 percent of the MRI magnet market" -- as well as with the Ohio State University Wright Center of Innnovation in Biomedical Imaging and the OSU Center for Superconducting and Magnetic Materials.

Along the way, the company has garnered more than $18 million in federal funds to continue to improve the performance of magnesium diboride wire for MRI companies.

While most of HyperTech's focus today is on MRIs, Tomsic says the wires have great potential for upgrading and protecting electric power grids. In anticipation of further growth, the company moved into a 45,000 square foot facility in February.

Source: Michael Tomsic, HyperTech
Writer: Gene Monteith

Browner to headline all-star cast at OSU's national transportation conference

Is there a sustainable fuel alternative in our transportation future? If so, what will it look like and who will lead the way? Can alternative energy cars save the U.S. automotive industry? And what is "clean" energy and how should it best be used in our transportation systems?

Those and other questions will be discussed May 2-4 at "Moving Ahead 2010: Sustainable Transportation Solutions for the 21st Century."

The national conference, to be held at Ohio State University's Ohio Union Conference Center in Columbus, is expected to draw nearly 1,000 people, including "more than 500 industry leaders; federal, state and local policymakers; researchers; investors; students; and media representatives to join the event." The conference is designed to advance federal, state and local policies that will help reduce our dependence on petroleum for transportation and promote economic development.

Speakers and panelists will look at how new innovations impact jobs, the environment and national security and include headliner Carol Browner, assistant to the President for energy and climate change and former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton.

Among the dozens of other confirmed speakers are: John Viera, director of sustainable business strategies at Ford Motor Company; Jolene Molitoris, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation; Tom Murphy, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute; and Robert E. Martinez, vice president for business development at Norfolk Southern Corp.

For more information or to register, go here:

Source: Melinda T. Swan, Associate Vice President, Ohio State University Office of Communications
Writer: Gene Monteith

Quasar cuts through the manure, forging ahead on biomass

Quasar Energy Group is banking on the promise of alternative energies and an abundance of farm, food processing and other biomass that can be converted to electricity, gas and heat.

The Cleveland company is developing that potential at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, where a bio-digester is currently supplying a third of the center's electricity needs. But the potential extends beyond the demonstration stage, Quasar says. Its commercial digester in Zanesville is nearing completion and the company plans to break ground on a Franklin County facility in spring or summer.

Digesters heat biomass like manure, crop waste, food waste, or fats and greases to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows bacteria to turn the mixture into methane. The gas can then be used as fuel to generate electricity -- which in turn can then be sold to the local power company or used on site -- for example, on a farm. Farmers can also use the processed biomass as clean animal bedding or fertilzer. While farmers aren't widely adopting the technology today, Ohio produces enough biomass to support at least 7,000 digesters large and small, says Clemens Halene, vice president of engineering.

The company had its beginnings three years ago when Schmack BioEnergy of Germany built a digester to help KB Compost Services process bio-solids generated at the Akron wastewater treatment plant. Later, Quasar spun off.

A recent $2-million Ohio Third Frontier grant is allowing Quasar and the OARDC to research and develop next generation technology and new possibilities, such as auto or home heating fuel. The company recently added five positions, giving it 20 employees. 

Sources: Clemens Halene and Caroline Henry, Quasar Energy Group
Writer: Gene Monteith

SciTech aims for tech-savvy synergies -- all under one roof

Science and Technology Campus Corp., the state-of-the-art research and office complex at The Ohio State University, is counting on creative synergy, investing in an $7.3 million ElectroScience lab and wireless communication building that housing university researchers and private tech-savvy firms under one roof.

The innovative 40,000-square-foot Wireless Communication Building allows for quick collaboration, making the research-to-commercialization process more dynamic and smooth, says SciTech President Doug Aschenbach.

"A lot of research ideas really do begin in a brainstorming process where people will be talking at lunch. There is a creative process that works better if people are together than if people are working by phone 1,000 miles away," Aschenbach says.

SciTech, a non-profit that partners with state, local and university partners to attract high-tech companies to its research park, is the developer of the Wireless Communication Building. The OSU ElectroScience Lab will occupy half of the new building. SciTech hasn't announced any official private clients yet, but said the companies in the ElectroScience field, like aviation companies, are targeted tenants.

"In many cases (researchers and private industry) are already collaborating. It makes the process more efficient if someone can walk down the hall and talk to the person conducting research on their behalf," Aschenbach says.

The building is expected to be ready for occupancy late this year.

Source: SciTech President Doug Aschenbach
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

UT has both feet planted as it helps build solar industry cluster

Arising from expertise within the glass industry and the abundance of cheap natural gas needed to melt silica for solar modules, the Toledo area has long been recognized for incubating advanced and alternative energy players.

In the thick of things has been the University of Toledo. So, it's only fitting that when it came time for the State of Ohio to establish a new Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization (PVIC), UT was a logical choice.

PVIC was founded in January 2007 with $18.6 million in Ohio Third Frontier funding and matching contributions of $30 million from federal agencies and university and industrial partners. The center -- which also has hubs Ohio State University, and Bowling Green State University -- has become a state of the art laboratory with three purposes, says Robert Collins, professor of physics and co-director of the PVIC: to help new companies commercialize their products, to help existing companies improve their products and expand product lines, and to build a large solar cluster in northwest Ohio.

The PVIC serves as both a testing ground for new applications and a resource for commercialization of those techniques. The center is now working with 30 companies from around the country -- including a start-up from Silicon Valley, Collins says.

The center has led the way in development of new thin-film technologies that can be produced more quickly and less expensively than traditional solar films. Meanwhile, UT is working on next-generation films using nanostructures, recently hiring two experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to lead the work.

Source: Robert Collins, University of Toledo
Writer: Gene Monteith

New institute plans to link manufacturers with needed resources

Manufacturers have been forced to go "lean," meaning they must take cost out of the parts they make or lose their customers. The resulting focus on internal efficiencies has often hamstrung their ability to develop new processes, new technology and new products.

That's one of the catalysts behind the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, based at Ohio State University's College of Engineering. Another is that universities -- which have the resources to do what manufacturers increasingly can't do in house -- haven't always been good at interfacing with manufacturers, says OMI Director Glenn Daehn.

OMI is just getting its legs. Daehn describes the institute's formation as a "soft launch," with a website, some initial partnerships and some big plans.

OMI views one of its important roles right now as "priming the pump" with short-term projects as a bridge to long-term relationships. It also is acting as broker to bring manufacturers together with needed expertise.

"What I'm hoping is five years from now we have faculty engaged from across the state, bringing along their expertise and local physical resources. Faculty from the University System of Ohio will work with other state resources like Battelle, EWI, MAGNET and TechSolve, who network together," Daehn says. "When projects come in we have project managers and others who assess what (manufacturers) need, we align them with the right resources and they are able to generate new technology to generate more efficient manufacturing processes. A small professional staff will assure that these projects take place at the 'speed of business.'"

In the meantime, OMI has also launched a light structures initiative geared toward the next generation of lightweight vehicles.

Source: Glenn Daehn, Ohio Manufacturing Institute
Writer: Gene Monteith

Stem research center moves needle on medical discovery

Stem cell research is a hot topic, both scientifically and politically, and nowhere is it hotter than at the Center for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine in Cleveland.

Founded in 2003 with a $19.4-millon Ohio Third Frontier grant as a Wright Center of Innovation, CSCRM now conducts research that may someday lead to new treatments for cancer and all sorts of blood, neurodegenerative, musculoskeletal, orthopedic and cardiovascular disorders.

"The center has a huge amount of intelligence behind it," says Director Stan Gerson. "We have about 90 investigators with funding. It's fair to argue that we have as many different types of stem cells in clinical trials as anywhere in the world."

The center is not one entity, but a collaboration of six: Case Western Reserve University, The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, The Ohio State University and Athersys, Inc., a leading company in development of therapeutic stem cell treatments.

CSCRM has continually received support for its work from the State of Ohio, including an additional $8-million award in 2006 from Ohio's Biomedical Research and Commercialization Program and a $5-million award last June from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission.

Despite progress being made, Gerson cautions that cures arising from stem cell research may not come as quickly as some would like.

"If you've heard of early phase technology, this is it," he says. Creating new drugs from stem cells "is a 25-year process."

In early December, the National Institutes of Health announced approval of 13 new cell lines for study using tax dollars.

"It's going to be very helpful to us to have access to additional cell lines," Gerson says.

Source: Stan Gerson, Center for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine
Writer: Gene Monteith

Mutant butanol bugs could transform your choice of motor fuel

Home brewers know that fermentation stops when the yeast produce so much alcohol they can no longer survive. If you want a higher alcohol content, you'd better find a different yeast strain that can survive in a more toxic soup.

That, in essence, is what Ohio State University researchers have done in developing a new strain of bacterium (clostridium beijerinckii) that produces twice the amount of alcohol -- in this case butanol -- before kicking the bucket. The potential payoff is a motor fuel that has many advantages over ethanol -- America's current biofuel of choice.

Shang-Tian Yang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, says butanol, which is used widely as a solvent, now sells for $3.50 to $5 a gallon. Because much of the cost is in production, getting twice the amount of butanol from the same amount of bacteria could reduce the cost by half.

"Ethanol has severe limits," Yang says. "It is corrosive and can't be shipped through a pipeline, you have to ship using trucks. And it must be mixed with gasoline to be used as a fuel in current automobiles."

He says ethanol alone has around a third less energy content than gasoline and gets only 65 percent of the mileage. It is highly volatile and explosive. Yang says butanol is superior to ethanol in every way but one: its price.

Boosted by a $1-million grant from the Ohio Third Frontier, Yang is leading work to develop the technology needed for commercial production. In the meantime, his team has applied for a patent on the new bacterium and production process.

Source: Shang-Tian Yang, Ohio State University
Writer: Gene Monteith

Cleveland firm develops new cardiac disease treatment, plans to hire 30-50

There's a glimmer of hope for "no-option" cardiovascular patients, thanks to the work being done by a Cleveland-based medical device company.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in America. For many sufferers, traditional treatments prove ineffective, leaving the patient with no practical options.

Now, advances in stem cell research and innovations developed by Arteriocyte Medical Systems, Inc., promise to give these so-called "no-option" patients a new lease on life. Arteriocyte is currently testing proprietary adult-derived stem cell therapies for use in surgery. The technology will allow a surgeon to harvest stem cells and platelets from a patient's own body for immediate use.

"Our bodies naturally build all the cells and tissues necessary to repair injury," explains CEO Don Brown. "By harvesting and redelivering therapeutically derived cells, we can affect repair of tissues damaged by poor blood flow."

In April, the company announced the receipt of a $4.99-million award courtesy of Ohio's Third Frontier Research Commercialization Program. Brown says that the state funding will allow the company to conduct efficacy studies of its bedside blood fractionation device for treatment of cardiac disease and also amputation prevention. Research partners within the state include The Cleveland Clinic, The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo.

Brown anticipates that the grant will lead to the generation of 30 new jobs during the next three years, and 50 during the next six. Success of the technologies could lead to $150 million in revenue within six years, he adds.

Source: Don Brown
Writer: Douglas Trattner

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