An Eye On: Grenetek

on May 24, 2019

Built from the collaboration between Professor Kamran Siddiqui and Hassan Hassan, Grenetek Inc. is a green energy company dedicated to providing efficient, reliable and cost-effective technologies for the renewable energy sector; with a specific focus on solar energy.

Professor Siddiqui conducts research and teaches out of Western’s Faculty of Engineering, while Hassan, once a graduate student studying under Siddiqui, is currently a professor at Humber College in Toronto and serves as the company’s CEO.

Established in 2012, working with WORLDiscoveries® to patent and market their innovations, Grenetek has developed several novel solutions to improve solar panel efficiency including solar tracking systems, a tracking controller, and a thermal receiver. The plug-and-play solar tracking system can increase the power yield of standard photovoltaic (PV) solar panels by up to 45 per cent. Not only do the systems promote more efficient solar energy gathering, the system offers a reduction in both installation time and cost. The company has recently signed a sublicensing agreement with a Chinese company to manufacture and market these solar tracking systems in China and is currently working on innovative designs for trackable PV installation in parking lots.

As the solar energy industry continues to see rapid and enormous growth, the inventions provided by Grenetek offer to play a vital role.

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Biochemistry Award

on May 24, 2019

Charles Ishak, PhD

Basic research plays a significant role in discovering how cancerous cells disrupt the normal DNA ‘landscape’ of healthy cells. Nearly half of all human DNA content consists of repetitive DNA elements that are supressed to prevent pervasive mutations.

Charles Ishak, a biochemistry PhD student working in the lab of Fred Dick, PhD, at Lawson Health Research Institute, conducted research that focused on molecular changes associated with the loss of a tumour suppressor protein. “Our investigation yielded the surprising result that one of the most frequently targeted ‘tumor suppressor’ proteins in human cancer cooperates with several other proteins to silence repetitive DNA” says Ishak, “This discovery represents the first evidence to suggest that the silencing of repetitive DNA sequences likely contributes to the tumor suppressive properties of this particular tumor suppressor protein.” Ishak expressed that this discovery may aid in uncovering the cause of a given tumor at the molecular level and also help determine the most effective treatment out of a lineup of therapies.

The project proposed and later led by Ishak was funded in part by the WORLDiscoveries Scholarship for Commercialization/Entrepreneurship. This annual award is granted to an up-and-coming researcher  in Western’s  Department  of  Biochemistry whose research has promising commercialization or entrepreneurship potential. “I am grateful for the generous funding from WORLDiscoveries that contributed towards the completion of our basic investigation, but more importantly, challenged me to consider viable approaches towards the translation of our basic research discoveries. These translational approaches have formed the core of my postdoctoral research endeavors.” Ishak said of his award.

Ishak, successfully completed his PhD program at Western University and has published  two journal articles on his work in this project.  He is currently pursuing  a postdoctoral fellowship at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. He intends to focus his research on how to leverage repetitive DNA activity to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses, and whether chemical modifications at repetitive DNA sequences might serve as a viable diagnostic target for emerging liquid biopsies.

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ecommBiochemistry Award

Graduate Student Innovation Scholars

on May 24, 2019

A program that promotes and champions skills development for graduate students, Western’s Graduate Student Innovation Scholars (GSIS) program equips grad students with improved career skills both in and outside of academia. Awarded to those students who have exhibited the creation and development of new ideas, personal entrepreneurship, promising career growth, and a solid work ethic, the GSIS offers not only a financial award but a learning opportunity as well.

Consisting of a series of lectures on topics ranging from intellectual property and patents to technology assessment and entrepreneurship, the program aims to broaden the minds of grad students and show them a glimpse into the world of commercialization and knowledge mobilization. The four-month program ends with a pitch event where scholars have the opportunity to showcase what they have learned and are given a certificate of completion. With over 40 applications received this year, nine were selected to receive the $1500 award and complete the program.

2017 Scholars

Chanakya Gupta
Business Administration

AbdulWahab Kabani
Computer Science

Gillian Mandich
Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Farid Madhani
Business Administration

Tomi Nano
Medical Biophysics

Adam Paish
Medical Biophyics

Claire Vannelli
Biomedical Engineering

Megan Wambolt
Business Administration

Sheri Williams
Library & Information Sciences

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ecommGraduate Student Innovation Scholars

Western Innovation Fund awarded

on May 24, 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.

Hand-held medical device for breast cancer screening

Abbas Samani
Amount: $69.5K

Conventional breast scanners typically use high-energy X-rays to image the breast, which can interfere with and alter the natural structure of tissues, especially if used frequently. As a result, these scanners are not recommended for vulnerable patients such as children or pregnant women, and their frequency of use is limited.

Professor Abbas Samani, who holds a joint faculty position in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Medical Biophysics at Western, has developed a low-cost, safe and highly portable medical scanner for detecting breast cancer. The hand-held scanner uses an ultra-low energy electric field to scan tissue – meaning there is little risk to the patient and no limit to the frequency of scans.

Spread-spectrum beamforming for ultrafast colour doppler ultrasound imaging

James Lacefield
Amount: $23.6k

Ultrafast colour Doppler is a recent advance in non-invasive ultrasound technology that produces video of blood flow at more than 100 frames per second. Existing implementations of ultrafast colour Doppler are hindered by limitations including image quality (spatial resolution and contrast), frame rate, and maximum measurable blood velocity.

Professor James Lacefield and Dr. Omar Mansour have invented a new ultrafast colour Doppler imaging method – spread spectrum Doppler – that eliminates these limitations allowing for high-speed acquisition with high resolution imaging. Current work supported by the WIF grant focuses on demonstrating the benefits of the spread spectrum technique in an artificial beating heart phantom that provides complex flow patterns by modelling the chamber sizes, anatomical defects, and heart rates of fetal and newborn hearts.

Software for psychoacoustic measurements with children and adults

Prudence Allen and Vijay Parsa
Amount: $49.8k

Through their combined efforts, Professors Prudy Allen and Vijay Parsa have developed a software to conduct efficient and thorough assessments of children’s psychoacoustic abilities.

The software, using graphic animation sequences, guides the child through listening trials. Animations show the child when to listen and allows them an opportunity to select the sound that is different from the others. Further animation sequences indicate the child’s success in their discrimination for each trial and marks the child’s progress.

Presently used as a research tool, there has been interest in using the software clinically due to its ability to measure a variety of auditory skills. Thanks to the WIF, Allen and Parsa have been able to team up with an industry partner to further develop the software into one more widely applicable to clinical use.

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ecommWestern Innovation Fund awarded

Innovator of the year

on May 24, 2019

Matthew Hebb, MD, PhD, FRCSC

There is currently no cure or effectual treatment for Parkinson’s Disease or glioblastoma brain cancer. Research led by Dr. Mathew Hebb seeks to change that.

For his development of two breakthrough treatments for these degenerative diseases and his other extraordinary accomplishments, Dr. Hebb, Lawson Scientist and Western University Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, has been named the winner of the third-annual WORLDiscoveries® Vanguard Innovator of the Year award.

In addition to his clinical practice focusing on the treatment of patients who suffer from movement disorders and neuro-oncology indications, Hebb maintains an active and productive research program at University Hospital. In 2016, Hebb published two peer reviewed papers describing the revolutionary treatments his work has produced for both Parkinson’s and glioblastoma.

Dr. Hebb and his team were the first to isolate and characterize unique neuroprogenitor cells from living Parkinson’s Disease patients that express neurotrophic factors and are stably expandable in cell culture holding great promise as research tools and for autologous cellular therapy. Seeing such promising potential in Hebb’s work, STEMCELL Technologies has formed a partnership with Lawson. A leading Canadian biotechnology company, STEMCELL will invest significant resources into building upon Hebb’s research on Parkinson’s Disease. “The partnership with STEMCELL Technologies greatly expands the expertise focused on moving this technology forward and providing critical access to researchers worldwide” remarked Hebb.

To combat glioblastoma, Dr. Hebb, working alongside fellow researchers, has been pioneering a new technique titled “Intratumoral Modulation Therapy” (IMT) using electrodes connected to the tumor to deliver non-ablative current and/or electric field stimulation which has shown to disrupt tumor cell division, resulting in tumor cell death. The IMT technology has garnered interest from several biomedical companies including Medtronic and Synaptive Medical, both offering up resources in order to help develop the technology further.

With two groundbreaking medical innovations offering to one day alleviate the suffering of numerous patients facing these debilitating conditions, Hebb’s work has already begun to develop citations and is spurring the research efforts of others, definitively leading the way in innovation and discovery.

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ecommInnovator of the year

Recognizing those who lead the way

on May 24, 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.

2017 Vanguard Award winners

Innovator of the Year

Matthew Hebb
Hesham El Naggar (Nominee)
Kamran Siddiqui (Nominee)

Patent Issued Award

Bradley Berven
Colin Bonduelle
Gediminas Cepinskas
Christopher Corkery
Zhifeng Ding
Elizabeth Gillies
Ryan Guterman
Hassan Hassan
Solmaz Karamdoust
Merhdad Kermani
Leo Lau
Abdel-Rahman Lawendy
David Love
Ruth Martin
Paul Ragogna
David Sanders
Alex Shafer
Kamran Siddiqui
Amy Tapley
Daniel Vaccarello
Jun Yang

License Agreement Signed

Steve Beaulac
Xiaobing Cai
Tobi Flanagan
Qiuquan Guo
Bill Hodgetts
Jin Jiang
Carole Orchard
Tom Ross
Susan Scollie
Xiaolong Wang
Quan Wang
Jun Yang
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ecommRecognizing those who lead the way

Proteus Innovation Competition

on May 24, 2019

Winning commercialization plans abound

After an intense four-month journey, the Proteus Innovation Competition ended with a pitch finale. Out of the 39 registered teams, comprised of 110 individuals, three would go on to win a prize of $7500 and the opportunity to license their selected technology and launch a startup company.

The 2016/17 Proteus Competition was led by a partnership between WORLDiscoveries®, Propel Entrepreneurship, Western Research Parks, TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Fanshawe College’s LEAP Junction. The competition brought together a diverse group of individuals from the community and challenged them to create a viable strategy for taking their choice of innovation to market.

Competitors could choose from one of three inventions: a cloud-based data collection app, a hand-held breast scanner, and a mirror box for lower-extremity therapy. Each innovation would ultimately see a successful commercialization plan developed by the three winning teams.

Apex, a team consisting of Alexander Moszczynski, Andrew Kope, and Patrick McCunn, created the winning commercialization plan for the cloud-based data collection app. The team elected to target the mining industry by pitching their innovation as a big data solution that could combine all mining data into one platform, which in turn, would minimize costly mistakes made from bad data.

The hand-held breast scanner would see an innovative plan developed by team ePalp. Team members, Tomi Nano, Justin Michael, Maya Kumar, and Terenz Escartin, would pitch commercializing the device as a subscription service. Their plan proposed the device be sent to women quarterly and then sent back to ePalp to analyze and communicate results, providing an affordable and convenient supplement to mammograms.

Esther Lau, Ashley Hannon, and Solmaz Karamdoust, the trio being part of Western’s Medical Innovation Fellowship program, partnered up to take on the four-month challenge. Choosing to develop a commercialization plan for the mirror box for lower-extremity therapy, their team would successfully snag one of the final top spots. “The whole year, our mindset has been how to bring medical technology to the market,” said Lau. “We were excited to have a chance to work on this. It was a great learning opportunity as they guided us through how to create a business plan and how to do a business pitch.”

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Inside Innovation

on May 24, 2019

Western Medical Innovation Fellowship Program

Moving into its second year, the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship (WMIF) program again saw a number of impressive triumphs, including a generous commitment of $3.5 million from Western’s BrainsCAN initiative to the program. This offer of funding only bolsters the initiative’s mandate to diversify Canada’s economy and foster an entrepreneurial spirit in a generation of trainees. Not only does this provide future fellows a location for clinical immersion, BrainsCAN sees it as an opportunity for its researchers to leverage and collaborate with the fellows in developing technologies to address clinical needs in cognitive neuroscience.

The intense 10.5-month program immerses talented young scientists, engineers and clinicians in training and research environments that build innovation leaders and create novel medical technologies.

The 2016-17 cohort, consisting of Ashley Hannon, Esther Lau, and Solmaz Karamdoust, participated in the program’s five-week boot camp at the University of Minnesota Medical Devices Center where they connected with 100+ researchers, clinicians, industry representatives and venture capitalists that offered training on innovation, prototyping, intellectual property and business strategy. After the boot camp the fellows moved on to meet with industry experts, clinicians, and scientists across the program’s group of partners including WORLDiscoveries®, London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London in order to gain a solid understanding of what innovations are needed in the medical field. The team would then turn their focus to the innovations with the highest impact.

The fellows also joined forces to participate in the Proteus Innovation Competition, a four-month event that challenges teams to create a viable commercialization strategy for one of three technologies presented by Proteus’ inventors. Aptly dubbing themselves ‘Team Medical Innovation Fellows’ the trio developed a winning commercialization plan for Dr. Kara Patterson’s mirror box for lower-extremity therapy device, taking home a $7500 prize and the chance to license the invention and form a startup company.

In addition to all their work in the program, the fellows secured funding for one of their projects titled A novel method towards prevention of Propionibacterium acnes surgical site infection using botulinum toxin through Lawson Health Research Institute. The award was for the amount of $13.9k for one year.

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ecommInside Innovation


on May 24, 2019

Financial web app to help clinicians help patients

Financial competence may be the best indicator of the capacity to live independently. Increasingly, clinicians are being called upon to make decisions regarding a patient’s capacity to handle financial matters. Tom Ross, a psychometrist and Tobi Flanagan, an occupational therapist, with guidance from Dr. Ed Black, at Parkwood Institute, piloted a manual instrument – the Financial Assessment & Capacity Test (FACT), to assist clinicians in determining the financial capacity of an aging population where financial abuse is the most common.

In addition to financial capacity, the FACT may be used to identify areas of specific difficulty such as memory, literacy, calculating, general financial knowledge, understanding of assets, financial insight, financial stress, and the presence of irrational beliefs about money. This specific information can assist a clinician in matching intervention strategies with an individual patient’s functional needs.

With the objective to develop a widely accessible and automated online version of the FACT to aid clinicians in making determinations about financial capacity, especially among the geriatric population, Lawson Health Research Institute has granted an exclusive license of the FACT to SoftSim – a Quebec based information technology service company.

Under the terms of the license agreement, SoftSim will develop the automated online version of the FACT, host, support and maintain the FACT software platform along with implementation of necessary procedures for data privacy and protection, and market a commercial license to use the FACT. In mid-2017, SoftSim developed a prototype of the FACT tool and throughout the remainder of the year improved the tool based on feedback from a group of stakeholders led by Lawson associate scientist, Dr. Amer Burhan and Nicole Marlatt, PhD, at Parkwood Institute. Burhan and Marlatt will assist with pilot testing and perform validation of the automated FACT prior to the public launch. It is expected that the automated FACT will reach the market by the Spring of 2018.

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A new dimension

on May 24, 2019

Advanced manufacturing’s future will be printed in three dimensions.

While 3D printing has been around for more than 30 years, it has only begun to take shape in our collective consciousness over the past decade. Often described as the next revolution in industrial manufacturing, the 3D printing industry is expected to quadruple in size – to more than $20 billion annually – by 2020.

Western Engineering professor Jun Yang and his spinoff company, Formi 3DP, hold some of the keys to its success.

Yang has spent much of his career engineering structured materials and surfaces to learn how to modify a material’s properties and make them functional. The work addresses one of the most significant barriers to massive uptake of 3D printing: resins that aren’t functional or customizable. Yang’s team has added several functional, tunable properties – including metallization, water resistance and magnetism – enabling creative applications impossible with traditional resins.

“Until now, 3D printing has only been about structure,” Yang says. “Now, we’re making it so you can also get functions.”

He has created a process called initiator-integrated 3D printing (i3DP), which is a photopolymer that can be shaped with extreme precision, then used as a framework for casting other materials. Formi 3DP has used this expertise to begin developing flexible, 3D-printed electronics.

Such developments will allow users to rapidly develop and revise products before undertaking costly processes associated with traditional manufacturing: “This will allow us to reduce prototype cycles, ultimately reducing production costs,” Yang says.

They also allow higher-quality 3D printing on cheaper machines, making the technology accessible to a greater segment of the population.

The future, it seems, is now.

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