New quarterly feature highlights what's new in UO innovation

Researcher at microscope

Welcome to Innovation Beat, a quarterly feature in Around the O that tells small stories about UO discoveries with big results.

Whether it’s the famous story of Nike’s founding by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight or the story of how George Streisinger pioneered zebrafish research at the UO, innovation stories are all around. Other, lesser-known narratives also abound, like the one about UO chemist Orin Stafford, who invented the charcoal briquette nearly a century ago.

Stories will also focus on research innovations that do more to change lives than generate dollars, like the education tools and behavior interventions generated by the College of Education, which help more than 8 million students annually in more than 20,000 school districts nationally and in 19 countries.

Innovation is in the UO’s DNA. The university’s research mission doesn’t end with discovery. UO researchers and scholars are taking their ideas from the lab to the marketplace, and they are more active than ever in the innovation space.

Last year, the UO filed twice as many patents as the year before and the rate of reported research innovations — inventions, copyrighted works, biological materials, software and related trademarks — was up by 50 percent.

And UO innovation experts predict even more activity as the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact recruits key new faculty members, opens its new facilities and commences its interdisciplinary research programs, training and entrepreneurship.

Which is where Innovation Beat comes in. Each installment will feature new narratives about innovation from all corners of campus — big ideas that improve the lives of the people in the state, country and world — and hopefully make for some good stories.

And here’s the first one: Three companies with UO roots have received supporting funds to help them take their research out of the lab and into the marketplace. Sedia Biosciences, Cogmetric and the UO spinout mAbDx will receive support from the latest round of Small Business Innovation Research Matching grants. Administered by Business Oregon, the awards fill funding gaps for entrepreneurial businesses with existing federal funding.

All told, these UO spinouts will receive more than $239,000 to translate their research into real-world outcomes that together will pave the way for faster, more efficient HIV testing, aid clinicians in cognitive assessments and lead to production of a cutting-edge diagnostic test for the Zika virus. Check them out:

Portland-based Sedia Biosciences to receive $146,630 for pilot production of a rapid-results HIV test

Sedia Biosciences purchased the UO spinout Floragenex in 2016, going on to become a leading innovator in the field of HIV treatments and testing. Small business funds will support its latest contribution: a hand-held HIV diagnostic test that can produce results in 20 minutes and provide an estimated time frame identifying when the disease was contracted, a development that could dramatically improve the accuracy and usability of HIV tests deployed globally.

“Their impact has expanded beyond Eugene to other universities and companies,” said Jim Deane, associate director of UO’s Innovation Partnership Services. “They are a strength for the UO, providing inspiration for future inventions and demonstrating the potential of translational research.”

More info: Sedia Biosciences, Portland Biotech Startup Foresees Rapid Growth, Oregon biotech companies merge in quest for diagnostics bonanza, Sedia Biosciences Awarded Additional $1.8 M NIH Grant for Novel Rapid HIV Test for Recent Infections.

Recent spinout Cogmetric awarded $43,469 to help launch a new tool for assessing cognitive ability

Launched in 2016 by UO research associate professor Catrin Rode and UO psychology department head Ulrich Mayr, Cogmetric specializes in cognitive assessment and learning, and its mission is to bridge the gap between research and application.

Cogmetric’s flagship effort is the development of a cognitive assessment that will help clinicians reliably measure changes in cognitive ability and performance, a key development that could help clinicians diagnose ability and impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD,  with more accuracy, while allowing clinicians to meet new mandates in Medicare and Medicaid requiring research-backed assessment techniques.

Small business funds will support a new project Rode is undertaking titled “TRACK: Tools for Reading and Acquisition of Content Knowledge,” which aims to provide tools for high school students with ADHD and other learning disabilities that improve their ability to learn from reading and written materials.

“Our goal is to use new developments and basic cognitive research to solve clinical problems,” Rode said.

More info: About Catrin Rode, About Ulrich Mayr, About Cogmet.

Biotech company mAbDx receives $50,000 to develop a new, portable and quick Zika virus diagnostic test

Founded in 2011 by former UO researcher Michael F. Marusich, mAbDx specializes in immunodiagnostics, research that uses new technologies to improve how diseases such as that caused by the Zika virus are diagnosed. Currently, there are no FDA-approved tests for the Zika virus that can be used outside of authorized clinical reference labs, so mAbDx’s efforts to create an easy-to-use rapid test suitable for point-of-care applications, similar to home-use pregnancy tests, will fulfill a vital need. If approved, the test will be used in South America, Central America, Southeast Asia and other hot spots for Zika.

“A rapid-results test that can be easily carried and deployed could be a game-changer in global efforts to combat the disease,” Marusich said.

More info: Rep. Peter DeFazio Applauds Federal Investment Awarded to Local Small Business.

A new partnership between the UO’s Center on Teaching and Learning and Catapult will change the way teachers across the country teach reading.

In another tech development, the UO’s Center on Teaching and Learning has struck up a partnership with Catapult Learning, a leading provider of special education and instructional interventions that generate demonstrable academic achievement and better life outcomes for students. The center has developed a dozen programs and products for academic interventions, assessments, curriculum and other areas and is well known for having developed DIBELS, a literacy assessment tool that is used in grades K-8.

The new collaboration will allow the center to scale and support the implementation of its research and evidence-based products. 

“Historically, universities haven’t successfully scaled evidence-based programs widely in schools” said Hank Fien, director of the Center on Teaching and Learning. “Having partnership between researchers and industry is our attempt at bridging this knowledge and dissemination gap so we can get scientifically based programs in the hands of teachers.”

This new public-private collaboration is laying the foundations for future partnerships that can improve curriculums and teaching approaches in schools across the country. Their first effort will deliver the UO center’s literacy intervention program, the Enhanced Core Reading Instruction, into the hands of more than 6,000 teachers across the U.S.

The partnership has generated so much interest there is a backlog in requests for trainings. Currently, Catapult and the Center on Teaching and Learning are working toward establishing the reading program in public schools. 

More info: New Evidence-Based Education Program Focuses on Reading Instruction, COE emerges as a leader in the growing edutech field, Catapult Learning and the University of Oregon's Center on Teaching and Learning Partner to Create the Institute for Scaling Evidence Based Education.

National Academy of Inventors Oregon Chapter to host Speaker Series

And finally, the UO invites the community to get inspired, network and learn tricks of the trade from entrepreneurs and innovators in a new monthly speaker series. The series will feature inventors, creators, entrepreneurs and investors who will share their stories, knowledge and insights to inform and inspire those in the UO ecosystem to take similar leaps

The series kicked off March 13 with “Fundraising from Eugene,” a talk from Jake Weatherly, co-founder of the company SheerID. Since UO grad Weatherly co- founded SheerID in 2011, the digital verification company has secured more than $20 million in funding and has signed deals with everyone from Microsoft to Costco, Amazon and Expedia. Free tickets for future speakers are available at http://uoinnovates.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Vanessa Ringgold in UO’s Innovation Partnership Services unit at vrr@uoregon.edu

By Lewis Taylor, University Communications