An Eye On: Renix

on May 27, 2019

Five years into existence, Renix is finding value in fluids.

Spun off from research at Western with a $650 thousand seed investment, the company’s core technology, UIX – uninterrupted ion exchange – remains the world’s only steady-state ion exchange process for purifying valuable materials and decontaminating waste streams. The technology provides companies with cost savings and other operating benefits over traditional ion exchange as it removes dissolved compounds from process fluids and during water purification.

Over its first three years, Renix scaled-up, industrialized and pilot tested the lab-based concept for UIX with industrial partners and clients in a variety of industries, including food and beverage, mining and industrial water treatment. In May 2015, the company shipped its first automated commercial demonstration unit to a client in Europe, where it will be deployed for live production in a large ingredient manufacturing facility.

The company is currently expanding investment and business development opportunities in key market segments, and was awarded an Embedded Executive through the MaRS Business Acceleration Program this year.

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ecommAn Eye On: Renix

Expanding the toolbox for Parkinson’s disease research

on May 27, 2019

It often begins with a tremor. Then, a steady decline in motor skills. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a progressive neurological impairment that also produces slowness of movement, impaired balance, muscle rigidity, cognitive decline and other medical disturbances. Affecting approximately 7-10 million people, it’s the world’s second-most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease.

These symptoms are caused by death of cells in the nervous system, including those generating dopamine, which is a chemical neurotransmitter that sends signals between nerve cells. While specific gene mutations have been identified in a minority of patients, there is no known cause for most individuals. As such, there is currently no cure.

A team led by Dr. Matthew Hebb – a neurosurgeonresearcher at Lawson and in Western’s world-renowned department of Clinical Neurological Sciences – has been developing innovative strategies to study Parkinson’s, which has resulted in new tools he anticipates will provide unique insights into the disease process. As importantly, he hopes these findings will ultimately lead to better treatment options.

To take the next step, he chose to move the research beyond his lab. Lawson recently signed a licensing agreement with STEMCELL Technologies Inc. that provides the company with global rights to commercialize the tools Hebb and his team develop. Both are optimistic the partnership will benefit Parkinson’s research around the world and, ultimately, those afflicted by the disease.

“The partnership with STEMCELL Technologies greatly expands the expertise focused on moving this technology forward and providing critical access to researchers worldwide,” Hebb says.

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ecommExpanding the toolbox for Parkinson’s disease research

Western innovation funds (WIF) awarded

on May 27, 2019

Supported by the office of the Vice-President (Research), the Western Innovation Fund (WIF) awards are intended to support projects that will advance innovative research development towards application and commercialization. This competition is for one-time projects based on existing research initiatives.

Touch point finger digitizer
Louis Ferreira
Amount: $25,000

The Touch Point Finger Pad Digitizer, developed by assistant professor Louis Ferreira, allows users to quantify and map the shape and topography of any rigid or semi-rigid object by touching it with one or more fingers to build a full 3-D virtual surface map. By measuring grip, point pressures, movement and finger position throughout a task, it also allows trainees to objectively compare their performance with an expert’s, which is particularly valuable for tasks requiring a very high degree of motor control – like surgery, physiotherapy or massage.

Stimuli-responsive polyglyoxylates/ biodegradable polymers
Elizabeth Gillies
Amount: $100,000

As they can break down into natural byproducts once they have fulfilled their intended purposes, biodegradable polymers find wide use in fields like medicine, agriculture and packaging industries. Despite a $3.5 billion market for them, however, high production costs and under performing properties have limited their uptake. Assistant professor Elizabeth Gillies hopes to address these issues by examining a new class of polymers that break down in response to a variety of triggers, like light, enzymes or pH balance. Once transformed, the polymers become environmentally friendly, nontoxic products that are readily processed by plants and bacteria.

Robust 3D printing approach
Jun Yang
Amount: $100,000

Over the past decade, there have been rapid developments to the $5 billion market for three-dimensional printing hardware and software, but little related to the materials themselves. By adding functional properties – including metalization, water resistance and magnetism – engineering professor Jun Yang is developing the next generation of 3-D printing materials with tunable properties. These new material properties off er a host of creative applications that are impossible with traditional resins possessing common plastic properties.

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ecommWestern innovation funds (WIF) awarded

Smarter architecture

on May 27, 2019

You’d like seven offices with windows, a corner boardroom and a kitchen in an old loft space in an up-and-coming commercial district? With a few keystrokes, new software developed at Western will ‘intelligently’ help real estate developers imagine future commercial spaces and dream homes – and their anticipated costs.

While computer-assisted design (CAD) tools are nothing new to the industry, they haven’t previously been ‘smart’ enough to automatically generate floor plans according to a user’s specifications, building codes or aesthetic constraints. Instead, input from multiple designers has consumed a large – and expensive – part of the process.

By improving procedural building generation algorithms developed at Western, engineering professor Abdallah Shami and post-doctoral fellow Maysam Mirahmadi have developed software that reduces time spent in the design stage of a construction project. The most basic version of the technology, which has already been implemented as an AutoCAD plug-in, creates functional layouts by analyzing criteria and constraints users provide, while automatically searching for the best floor plan arrangement.

“There is currently no commercially available software for automatic floor plan generation,” Shami says. “The goal is to find the best possible location for diff erent types of room.”

The software, which received support from the Western Innovation Fund, offers real estate developers a tool that provides cost savings from shorter and more agile design processes for both new developments and redevelopments. By managing prescriptive tasks, for example, architects are then freed to focus on aesthetic and creative considerations.

It also has applications in a variety of other fields, including video game design, where it can be used to geo-map entire cities. The researchers are now working to extend the level of detail to that required by architects.

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ecommSmarter architecture

Hearing results

on May 27, 2019

Innovator Of The Year, Susan Scollie

DSL has been licensed to more than 25 companies around the world – including Inventis S.R.L. and Intricon Corporation last year – and generated $250,000 to $350,000 annually in licensing income over the past 5 years.

Over the years, countless children have fallen behind in speech, language and skill development because they could not hear properly. Years ago, it was simply that their hearing aids did not fit correctly.

Hoping to address these issues, associate professor Susan Scollie and colleagues at Western’s world-renowned National Centre for Audiology pioneered, and continue to develop, the Desired Sensation Level (DSL). With the now-widespread implementation of early intervention programs, clinicians the world over use DSL to fit hearing devices.

“All of a sudden, audiologists had to fit hearing aids on babies and the only known and accepted clinical procedure was our work,” says Scollie, who is the inaugural recipient of the WORLDiscoveries Vanguard Innovator of the Year award. When fitting hearing aids to children, she adds, it is critical to meet the challenge of fitting a normal range of sound into a child’s area of residual hearing. This requires a rationale – a set of rules for amplification and compression – which ensures sound, particularly speech, is audible and comfortable for hearing aid users.

The release of DSL v5.0 is based on years of continued research on paediatric hearing aid fi tting. How successful has it been? Dr. Sheila Moodie’s research has shown that today, more than 85 per cent of hearing aids on the market employ the DSL fi tting algorithm for both children and adults.

Disclosed to WORLDiscoveries in 2004, and supported by Western Innovation Fund commercialization funding, the technology has been licensed to more than 25 companies around the world – including Inventis S.R.L. and Intricon Corporation last year – and generated $250,000-$350,000 annually in licensing income over the past five years.

For parents and children alike, it’s music to the ears.

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ecommHearing results

Leading the way

on May 27, 2019

As the technology transfer and business development office for Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute and Robarts Research Institute, WORLDiscoveries® is pleased to present the annual Vanguard Awards.

This celebration recognizes local researchers, who, through partnership with WORLDiscoveries, have achieved various market-readiness milestones.

2015 Vanguard Award winners

Innovator of the Year

Susan Scollie
Carole Orchard (Nominee)
Qingping Feng (Nominee)

First Patent Issued Award

J. Geoffrey Pickering, Zengxuan Nong, Matthew Frontini, Miodrag Grbic, Vojislava Grbic, Blaine Chronik, Hisham Hafez, Hesham El Naggar, Jayshri Sabarinathan, Aref Bakhtazad, Jeff Hutter, Rajni Patel, Anand Prakash, Qingping Feng, Xiangru (Sharon) Lu, Paul Arnold, Christopher Schlachta, Ana Luisa Trejos, Michael Naish

First Innovation Disclosure

Mahta Khoshnam Tehrani, Douglas Fraser, Yi Wen Xu, Amy McMillan, Eddie Liu, Bryan Muscedere, Bekim Sadikovic, Alp Sener, Jeremy Cepek, Parsa Azizi, Gordon Osinski, Jean Filion, George Gadanidis, Bing Li, Seyyed Hesabgar, Abbas Samani

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ecommLeading the way

Industry partnership

on May 27, 2019

Translating research to products

“Receptor for Hyaluronan-Mediated Motility” (RHAMM) may be a mouthful to pronounce, but this protein is at the forefront of a partnership between Lawson and Boston-based Novare Pharmaceuticals.

Discovered, characterized and cloned during the early 1980s by current Lawson scientist and Western professor Eva Turley, RHAMM regulates cell movement and stem cell differentiation. Turley has established that, by controlling the body’s natural regenerative processes, treatments blocking RHAMM may moderate inflammation, reduce scarring and provide the most efficient manner of stimulating subcutaneous fat growth.

These findings offer options for promoting healing after burns and post-surgical wounds, and for treating a variety of tissue-related ailments, including osteoarthritis, lung fibrosis and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Such advancements in tissue engineering and disease control also hold promise for regenerating and reconstructing breast tissue by stimulating the body’s own stem cells following a mastectomy.

The partnership with Novare Pharmaceuticals has led to the creation of a research and validation centre within the London Regional Cancer Program, which is developing RHAMM-based treatments for various forms of cancer. Turley, who is also the company’s chief scientist, leads the incubator, which has grown to six employees. Lawson scientist and Western professor Leonard Luyt, who is currently developing proprietary peptides for Novare’s drug development program, is also a principal investigator.

“The Lawson and Novare partnership serves as an inspiring and much-needed model for development of early-stage technologies from academic health research organizations,” Turley says. “The partnership with Novare helps Lawson fulfill its mandate to translate health-care discoveries from the lab to the patient.” In recognition of their outstanding support of research Novare was the recipient of the 2015 Lawson Industry Partner of the Year Award celebrated in May at the annual Lawson Impact Awards ceremony.

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ecommIndustry partnership

Going direct

on May 27, 2019

In building Innoverify, WORLDiscoveries has created a new, efficient, repeatable path to market for creative works. With extensive web expertise and this new toolset, WORLDiscoveries can now take these creative works to market directly – as it has already done with a number of projects:

Western psychology professors Natalie Allen and John Meyer (photo top) have shown through their research that positively committed employees are happier, more productive, stay with an organization longer and contribute in many other ways. In 1997 they developed the Three-Component Model (TCM) Employee Commitment Survey, which measures how much employees feel they want to, need to or ought to stay with an organization. “The most powerful thing an organization can do to increase emotional attachment is to provide support,” Allen says. In worldwide use for nearly two decades, TCM is made available under either an academic or commercial use license.

Western nursing professor Carole Orchard and colleagues in the office of Interprofessional Health Education Research have released two evidence-based tools to help organizations deliver patientcentred care. “An interprofessional team-based approach can maximize the strengths of each health professional to improve patient care, decrease medical errors and optimize efficiency,” says Orchard (photo bottom-left). The first tool, Circles of Care, is an online game for interprofessional teams to work through patient/client cases. The second, TEAMc, is a workshop program to help organizations develop client-centred teams, licensed annually for either single team or multiple team use.

Western education professor George Gadanidis (photo bottom-right) has created an activity resource book for schools, called Coding for Young Mathematicians. Coding makes math concepts tangible, models them dynamically and gives students more control over the learning process. He hopes it will increase digital literacy, helping children interact with and create the technology that surrounds them, instead of simply consuming it. “There’s talk of coding all over the place these days, with calls for children to learn it as soon as possible,” he says. “But it doesn’t appear anywhere in the school curriculum before high school.” The book helps educators provide a low-floor, highceiling, hands-on learning environment that better prepares students to succeed in a rapidly changing digital world. It is available to individual teachers, schools and entire school boards.

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ecommGoing direct

One-stop shop

on May 27, 2019

While WORLDiscoveries is normally in the business of commercializing technologies – not creating them – business development manager Jonathan Deeks and digital marketing manager Fabian Folias saw an opportunity. And a market need.

Wanting to ease delivery and access to digital innovations like documents, music, e-books, software and toolkits, they spent 18 months developing a unique, proprietary e-commerce portal they named InnoVerify. The software brings together registration, payment, download and secured online accessible processes into one platform that will serve the needs of those producing creative works at Western.

“The concept arose from a conscious eff ort to reach faculties and departments who didn’t traditionally have patentable intellectual property and hadn’t worked much with WORLDiscoveries,” Deeks says.

InnoVerify allows content creators to review who registers, trials and buys their content, allowing them to monitor consumer interest and further develop their work. Easy to manage and integrate into any other website, the portal also supports free transactions so authors can give content away – in full, as a trial or for demonstration purposes.

Deeks and Folias have recently completed version 2.0, which will allow multiple merchants to commercialize their own products. The latest version will be available to license within, and outside, the university, and charge merchants a small percentage of the value of the transaction to utilize the service.

“A single Western author is likely best served by still coming to WORLDiscoveries, but some faculties will choose to establish their own sets of products in their storefront,” Deeks adds. “In the end, it allows innovators to have control of their work – all at their fingertips.

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ecommOne-stop shop


on May 27, 2019

Clients, colleagues and supporters, 2014-2015 has been another banner year for WORLDiscoveries, but in ways that extend beyond numbers.

Sure, as we prepare the seventh edition of our annual report, we have enjoyed our highest-ever revenue-generating year – $5.9 million, with 17 license/option agreements and 57 patents issued. We have also increased the percentage of active technologies partnered from 40 per cent to greater than 45 per cent.

But we have also introduced, and continued to develop, our proprietary e-commerce platform, Innoverify. By providing a new vehicle for directto- market technologies, the software allows us to broaden our client base and to better serve researchers at Western, Robarts and Lawson. Better yet, as we develop the platform in-house, we envision licensing it to other organizations in the very near future. You can read more about Innoverify, which is our feature story, on page 6.

This year, we also introduced the Vanguard Awards to better recognize researchers who continue to work hard to bring discoveries to market and to transfer knowledge in a variety of other ways. Research at our partner organizations has impact and we are proud of the role WORLDiscoveries plays in improving access to it. For more about the Vanguard Awards, I invite you to visit pages 12-15.

By bringing people, organizations and intellectual property together, these two examples demonstrate the theme of this year’s annual report, ‘Interfuse’ – to combine by fusing together. WORLDiscoveries continues to take creative approaches to make connections and to build relationships with clients across the city and beyond. We couldn’t do that without you.

Thank you for continuing to support and partner with us.

Lisa Cechetto
Executive Director

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