Solving sludge with smart solutions

on November 12, 2020

Sludge management is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks of wastewater treatment plants due to high water content and increasingly strict regulations for sludge reuse and disposal. A possible solution is to transform this sludge into bio-oil or biogas using hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) creating a renewable energy source. HTL is a thermo-chemical process where raw sludge of a high water content can be heat treated directly in the absence of oxygen at specific temperatures and pressure. Depending on adjustments, the process will yield biogas, bio-oil or bio-char at different stages.

Like natural gas or propane, biogas can be compressed to power motor vehicles or construction equipment and can even be used as a heat source fuel. Bio-oil can be further refined to become a fuel source and bio-char can be used to enrich soil. With climate change and the transition away from fossil fuels, solutions like these will see increased interest and demand.

A team of researchers led by Charles Xu, a Chemical Engineering Professor and Director of the Industrial Bioproduct Laboratory at Western University, have developed a functional continuous system for the hydrothermal liquefaction of combined wastewater sludge and other organic biomass to yield bio-oil, biogas or both simultaneously. It can treat the combined sludge and the lignocellulose of waste biomass all at once. The efficiency of this process is improved further by the addition of inexpensive catalysts. The result is a low carbon footprint and an environmentally friendly process that yields higher amounts of biogas and bio-oil than current processes.

The technology holds patents in Canada, the United States and China. It was recently licensed to a Chinese research institution that will explores its use to produce biogas and bio-oil on a commercial scale.

Read more
ecommSolving sludge with smart solutions

Moving medical imaging to market

on November 12, 2020

Medical imaging has become an essential part of patient care from the invention of the X-ray to the advancement of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Billions of medical imaging studies have been conducted worldwide with impactful research coming from teams here in London. The first human MRI in Canada was conducted by Frank Prato, Western Professor in Medical Biophysics and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute. Prato’s research continues to focus on the use of combing MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) to study neuro-degenerative disease.

Building on the foundation of research excellence that has emerged from Western and Lawson, a team of professors and imaging scientists, including Robert Stodilka, Jean Theberge, Benoit Lewden, Terry Thompson and Frank Prato, developed a new system and method that advances the use of medical imaging technologies making use of the strengths of one technology to offset the weakness of another.

This latest development uses a hybrid medical imaging system combining nuclear medicine imaging (using radioactive substances to visualize physiology) such as a PET scan and an MRI to create clearer images for medical imaging research or diagnosis in patients. By combining these two systems and this novel method the MRI is able to estimate attenuation (the reduction strength of the PET scan through the body) within the target region and uses the estimated attenuation to correct the image captured by the PET scan resulting in superior images for study.

Implementing this technology has enabled new discoveries in dementia, being led by Keith St. Lawrence with neurologist Elizabeth Finger, in epilepsy with Udunna Anazodo and neurosurgeon and in improved safety of dialysis led by David Steven and Jonathan Thiessen with nephrologist Christopher McIntyre – with many more research projects underway.

The technology is patented in the United States and Europe and has recently been licensed by Cubresa, a leading Canadian manufacturer of PET scan equipment and the Sino-Canadian Health Engineering Research Institute, a research consortium focused on research and development of advanced neuroimaging systems and brain rehabilitation. This new system and method could assist in any number of the countless medical imaging studies taking place around the world and improve patient outcomes by providing clear and actionable insight into physiological conditions.

Read more
ecommMoving medical imaging to market


on November 12, 2020

It certainly has been a year of changes and challenges for our office, our institutions and the world around us. Nevertheless, something that will never change for WORLDiscoveries is our commitment in bringing research to market, especially when and where it is needed most.

This brings me to the theme of our 2020 annual report, where we highlight how our team is going the distance to reach our vision of achieving a mutually beneficial market-focused partnership for every innovation in the WORLDiscoveries portfolio.

Despite the demands brought on by a dynamic political landscape and the uncertainties we face due to the global pandemic, WORLDiscoveries saw another record-breaking year in terms of revenue and number of license agreements signed.

A rise in revenue to $6.35 million paved the way for $4.8 million to be distributed to our dedicated and hardworking researchers while our number of license agreements signed grew to 44, adding to the total number of active licenses managed by our office to 207.

At the Annual Vanguard Awards, we celebrated the accomplishments of over 60 individuals, another new record, by recognizing various market-readiness milestones. The Proteus Innovation Competition, once again partnering with both McMaster University and the University of Windsor, encouraged over 100 individuals to learn about and create viable commercialization strategies for innovations developed by our partners.

The Graduate Student Innovation Scholars program has supported 51 students and gave them hands-on training in entrepreneurship, knowledge mobilization and commercialization. The Western Medical Innovation Fellows saw a number of wins by participating in pitch competitions undeterred by the transition from a hands-on curriculum to a remote one.

We are also seeing the outcomes of our hard work in developing new strategies to expand our local and global footprint. WORLDiscoveries Asia has expanded to Japan and Quebec and oversaw the development of a new matchmaking application, InnoVenture, to help match small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with potential partners from around the world.

Thank you for taking time to learn about our accomplishments and what inspires us to keep going the distance.

Read more