Cook Medical, Purdue partnership drives life-improving innovations to the public

March 15 2017

A $12 million partnership between Cook Medical and Purdue Research Foundation has already infused $3.2 million in startups that support the commercialization of life-improving innovations developed at Purdue University.

The not-for-profit Foundry Investment Fund, established in 2014, is designed to feed a “garden plot” of emerging biomedical and life sciences technologies and moving such innovations to the public at an accelerated pace.

Already benefiting from the fund is Symic Bio Inc., a life sciences company that originated from Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and received nearly $450,000. Symic is developing new therapeutics for multiple diseases including cancer and osteoarthritis. Some are already in clinical trials. SpeechVive Inc., a company that developed a device to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve communication, received $225,000. Spensa Technologies Inc., an agronomic company with pest management platforms and a hardware device designed to reduce manual crop scouting, received $515,000.

For Cook Medical and Cook Biotech, one of the Cook companies based in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, the fund is another way to give back. Cook worked with Dan Hasler, president of Purdue Research Foundation, to establish the Foundry Investment Fund.


Specialized compound could lead to chronic pain relief without the use of opioids

March 14 2017

Purdue researchers have discovered a compound that could lead to the treatment of chronic pain without the need for patients to rely on opioids.

A team led by Val Watts, associate


and professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, said the compound shows unparalleled selectivity in inhibiting the adenylyl cyclase 1 (AC1).

Adenylyl cyclases are enzymes that organize the production of cyclic adenosine monophosphate, an important biological messenger in numerous organisms. There are 10 isoforms of adenylyl cyclases found in humans. Numerous studies have suggested that AC1 could be used as a drug target for chronic pain.

The compound identified at Purdue has shown selectivity for inhibiting AC1 versus the other nine isoforms.

“With the AC1 technology, there’s a chance to treat chronic pain directly or through reducing the side effects of the opioids,” said team member Richard van Rijn, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy. “There’s an issue with misuse of opioids used to treat chronic pain. They are good as a short-term analgesic for acute pain, but don’t address the underlying issues of chronic pain.”


Breakthrough discovery may make blood test feasible for detecting cancer

March 07 2017

Doctors may soon be able to detect and monitor a patient’s cancer with a simple blood test, reducing or eliminating the need for more invasive procedures, according to Purdue University research.

W. Andy Tao, a professor of biochemistry and member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research and colleagues identified a series of proteins in blood plasma that, when elevated, signify that the patient has cancer. Their findings were published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tao’s work was done with samples from breast cancer patients, but it is possible the method could work for any type of cancer and other types of diseases. The work relies on analysis of microvesicles and exosomes in blood plasma.

Protein phosphorylation, the addition of a phosphate group to a protein can lead to cancer cell formation. So phosphorylated proteins, known as phosphoproteins, have been seen as prime candidates for cancer biomarkers. Until now, however, scientists weren’t sure identification of phosphoproteins in blood was possible because the liver releases phosphatase into the bloodstream, which dephosphorylates proteins.


People with visual impairments could identify scientific images on a computer screen through STEM-designed assistive technology

March 07 2017

Purdue University researchers are developing software in a “haptic device” that could give people with visual impairments the ability to identify scientific images on a computer screen using their other senses.

Ting Zhang, a graduate student in the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering, is developing a system that involves a specially designed joystick attached to a computer. The joystick controls a cursor. When the cursor moves across an object on the screen, force feedback,

vibrations and sound cues give the user information about the object’s size, shape, texture and color to help them identify the information displayed on a computer screen. A YouTube video is available at:

Working under the guidance of Brad Duerstock, associate professor of engineering practice in the School of Industrial Engineering and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and Juan Wachs, associate professor in the School of Industrial Engineering, Zhang is trying to address the number of students with visual impairments who become involved in STEM studies. A 2014 National Science Foundation publication reports that no more than 1 percent of people who are visually impaired are involved in advanced science and engineering research and receive doctoral degrees.

“How science is conducted and how findings are typically represented is usually quite visual, making it difficult for students with visual impairments,” Duerstock said.

“We’re hoping this technology can be used by schools in the future to assist students with visual impairments study science,” Zhang said

Conventional methods to assist such students include printing tactile representations of computerized images on expensive 3-D sheets of material.


Discovery Park announces Big Idea Challenge winners

March 09 2017

Following oral presentations on Feb. 23, a panel of judges and Discovery Park administration have reviewed the proposals and determined the winners of the Big Idea Challenge, a program that will provide resources to interdisciplinary teams of Purdue faculty and students pursuing bold proposals that address global challenges.

The winning proposals and principal investigators of the Big Idea Challenge competition that will receive funding are:

* Affordable Net Zero Housing and Transportation Solutions—Leigh Raymond (Liberal Arts).

* Revolutionizing Control of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases—Catherine Hill (Agriculture).

* Harnessing Technology and Info Fusion to Enable Resilient and Sustainable Food-Water Balance—Dave Ebert (Engineering).

* Photonics Science and Technologies for Security, Energy and Healthcare Apps—Yong Chen (Science).

* Realizing Next-Generation Smart Manufacturing—Nate Hartman (Polytechnic).

* Towards Cyber-Physical Vetting of Critical Infrastructures— Dongyan Xu (Science).

* Managing the Global Commons: Sustainable Ag and Use of World’s Land and Water Resources—Tom Hertel (Agriculture).


Purdue student teams accepted for Rice Business Plan Competition

March 06 2017

Two groups of students from Purdue University will participate in the annual Rice Business Plan Competition in April.

PathVis, a graduate student team from the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and Tri-D Dynamics LLC, a startup founded by two graduate students from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will compete in the three-day contest beginning April 6.

Both teams are among only 42 from around the world accepted to this year’s competition. Teams compete for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes.

PathVis was accepted after submitting a one-minute video pitch. They are developing a smartphone technology that will monitor and track pathogen outbreaks. The technology aims to provide real-time data on disease detection so that health care resources can be more efficiently targeted to areas of need.

Tri-D Dynamics co-founders Alex Finch and Deepak Atyam were behind the first 3-D-printed and tested rocket engine from a university group in the world. The Purdue students want to establish their engines as a less costly alternative than traditional methods to small satellite companies.


Tri-D Dynamics, Hydro Grow win top honors at 30th Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition

March 02 2017

A more-efficient rocket engine and a food growing system that is partially-inspired by NASA work were the big winners at Purdue’s 30thBurton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition.

Tri-D Dynamics, which aims to make more affordable and efficient rocket engines won in the graduate student/open Gold Division and took home the $30,000 top prize. Tri-D’s patent-pending process will allow engine manufacturers to be more efficient, lower weight, and produce their products more quickly. Highlighting the importance and effectiveness of the university’s Zucrow Laboratories, this is the second straight year the Gold Division has been won by a team creating rocket propulsion technology.

“Our next steps should be very exciting! We have our first signed contract underway that we will be working to complete as well as hearing back from our proposals to the NASA SBIR/STTR program,” Alex Finch,
PathVis, a diagnostics company using smartphones to track pathogen outbreaks, won $15,000 for its second-place finish, followed by vaccine company ZeaVaxx ($7,500), Sustainable Plastics Products SP2 ($3,750) and Expimetrics ($3,750), which has created a platform intended to improve online surveys.

COO and co-founder said after Tuesday’s competition. “Following graduation from Purdue, we will also be moving to a full-time capacity and setting up our operations near our customer base in the Los Angeles area. We have a couple of other student business plan competitions approaching that we hope to do well in, as well as moving to an aerospace-focused accelerator to improve our connections within the industry.”Ice Miller LLP will provide free legal and consulting services and cash awards in the form of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 to the top three finishers in the Gold Division. The top three will also receive a one-year free membership to the Anvil Co-working Space, which is valued at $2,100.


Language learning robot could advance autonomous vehicles, help emergency responders in the future

February 28 2017

A Purdue University researcher and his team are developing technology to give robots the ability to learn language.

A team led by Jeffrey Mark Siskind, associate professor in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has developed three algorithms that allow a wheeled robot to learn the meanings of words from example sentences that describe example paths taken by the robot, to use the words to generate a sentence to describe a path of movement, and to comprehend the sentence in order to produce a new path of movement.

“It’s our hope that this technology can be applied to a host of applications in the future, potentially including autonomous vehicles,” Siskind said.

The team took a small-wheeled robot outfitted with several cameras and ran numerous trials on an enclosed course containing several objects such as a chair, a traffic cone and a table. The sentences describing the path for the robot to take were provided by anonymous online sources. An operator then steered the robot to follow the paths described by the sentences.

Using the algorithms, the robot was able to recognize words associated with objects within the course and words associated with directions of travel based on its sensory data.


Purdue technology showcase highlights leading-edge technologies ready to license

February 27 2017

About 250 people packed the Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center for the recent Purdue Technology Showcase that featured dozens of pioneering innovations. The technology ranged from medical devices including a hands-free crutch design and an advanced wheelchair that converts to a walker, to analytical tools including an application that can interpret gang graffiti for law enforcement officials.

The event featured 37 Purdue University innovators describing their innovations in four minutes or less before international company representatives, investors and entrepreneurs. They also had booth spaces where they could present their technologies to interested attendees in a more private fashion. All technologies presented are available for licensing through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

“This event is allowing investors and business officials a chance to see just some examples of the wealth of Purdue-affiliated, novel technologies available for licensing,” said Brooke Beier, assistant director of the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, who organized the event. “It’s our goal to match these technologies with the appropriate corporate experts to make sure they can one day be made available to benefit the general public.”

Michael Ladisch, distinguished professor of agricultural biological engineering, promoted his continuous cell concentration device that could make it possible to easily screen food or liquid samples for pathogens at food processing facilities.


Purdue entrepreneurs, startups among Mira Award nominees

February 22 2017

Numerous Purdue-affiliated companies, entrepreneurs and departments have been nominated in several categories for the 18th annual TechPoint Mira Awards.

Based in Indianapolis, TechPoint is the growth initiative for Indiana’s technology ecosystem. The organization utilizes talent acquisition and development programs, community programs and scale-up programs to promote and accelerate the growth of Indiana’s tech community.

Winners will be announced during a black-tie ceremony April 29 at the Westin Indianapolis.