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September 2015, UR Venture Technology Review - Issue 4
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Welcome to the UR Ventures Technology Review

Your Guide to What's Happening at UR Ventures and the University of Rochester


The UR Ventures Technology Review is your monthly look at innovation and technology commercialization at the University of Rochester. In this issue, you will learn about a method to heal and regenerate cartilage, a startup taking vision correction to new levels, and the most influential patent of recent years. Meliora!
 
Clerio Vision Revolutionizing Vision Correction
Just as LASIK revolutionized vision correction in the 1990s, a new technology arising from research conducted by Wayne Knox, Professor of Optics and Physics, Krystel Huxlin, Professor of Opthalmology, and Jonathan Ellis, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering is working to change the paradigm of vision correction. Known as “LIRIC” (Laser Induced Refractive Index Change), this ground-breaking method also uses a laser to correct the optical properties of the eye, but there the similarities to LASIK end.

The older technology uses two lasers and includes cutting the cornea to create a flap and then pulling that flap back to expose the inner cornea. A laser is then applied to ablate and reshape the corneal tissue in such a way as to acheive the desired focus. The corneal flap is repositioned and the healing process begins. Complications are rare, but as with any surgery, they are a real concern. Fear of complications and of having one’s eye cut are big reasons why less than 2% of people who are eligible for LASIK ever get the procedure done.

The LIRIC method uses a laser at a much lower power and does not cut or remove any tissue. Instead, it is a non-invasive procedure that alters the refractive index of the corneal tissue to correct vision. Since the procedure doesn’t thin the cornea like LASIK, it may be repeated many times over the course of a patient’s lifetime as the eye grows and changes.

This remarkable technology has been licensed to Clerio Vision, Inc. a local startup poised to bring this new treatment to market. Clerio was started by a team of entrepreneurs with proven track records – Mikael Totterman (VirtualScopics, iCardiac), Alex Zapesochny (Lenel, iCardiac), Scott Catlin (AMO, Abbott Medical Optics – and now with UR Ventures), and Sasha Latypova (VirtualScopics, iCardiac). The company successfully concluded an oversubscribed Series A round of fundraising with participation from three venture capital firms, and is considering a Series B round to further accelerate product and clinical development. They have proven efficacy in animal models and hydro-gels (contact lenses), and plan to conduct human studies early in 2016.
Doing the Impossible: Healing Cartilage
“Articular cartilage is avascular & is prevented from mounting a vascular response when there is isolated cartilage injury. The absence of vessels within the cartilage imposes limitations on healing potential. Indeed, some traumatic defects in cartilage apparently never heal.”
– paraphrasing Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopaedics
 
What this means in plain English is that the lack of blood vessels in cartilaginous tissues makes repairs quite difficult, causing severe injuries to never heal fully. Current methods of treatment consist of pain management and total joint replacement.

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Randy Rosier, M.D., Ph.D. and Michael Zuscik, Ph.D. have developed a promising, and potentially disease modifying, method to halt deterioration and promote regeneration of cartilage lost or  damaged in an injury or through osteoarthritis. The treatment is based on a parathyroid hormone (PTH) or a parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) receptor agonist. The introduction of PTH/PTHrP stimulates proteoglycan synthesis, as well as attracting and activating mesenchymal stem cells to enhance tissue repair.

Early studies in animal models have been very promising. Injuries, such as meniscus tears, and damage mimicking the effects of osteoarthritis have been successfully mitigated, and in some cases, reversed. Clinical testing in human patients has begun.

There is also evidence demonstrating that these methods are effective in treating other types of musculoskeletal soft tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and inter-vertebral discs.

UR Ventures is actively seeking a partner to develop this technology to obtain FDA approval. For more information, contact Weimin Kaufman.
In FY 2015, UR Ventures received 151 disclosures from 253 inventors from 56 University departments and units. Those disclosures also named 58 external collaborators from 31 universities, agencies, and companies.
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
  -- Isaac Newton
Giants Walk among Us
Science does not happen in a vacuum. Today’s advances are achieved by understanding and leveraging yesterday’s accomplishments. Quantifying and tracking that leverage can be a little tricky, but fortunately, citations in scientific journals and patent applications offer serious insight into truly influential research.

Thompson Reuters IP & Science recently compiled a list of the World’s Most Innovative Universities (more on that in a future issue). One of the measures of innovation was the number of times the subject of a patent application has been cited as a reference on subsequent patent applications. Large numbers of such references are suggestive of the groundbreaking nature of the referenced patent. After examining tens of thousands of patent applications from around the world filed in 2008 - 2012, Reuters concluded that the most cited patent in the world belongs to the University of Rochester

U.S. Patent #8,642,660, “Method for Altering the Lifespan of Eukaryotic Organisms,” covers a discovery by David Goldfarb, Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester. According to Reuters, this patent has been cited as prior art in 108 subsequent global patent filings during the period of interest.

The patent reveals the chemical structures of scores of small drug-like molecules that affect yeast lifespan. The discovery of these molecules was possible using a novel assay that allowed the lifespan effects of tens of thousands of compounds to be quantified in a single rapid, inexpensive screen.

When asked about what makes this patent so significant, Goldfarb said, “Aging research has the real potential to improve the health of millions by identifying molecular probes that target cellular aging mechanisms. Ours remains the largest phenotypic screen for drug-like compounds that affect cellular lifespan. A subsequent patent of ours described the activities of some of these compounds in human tissue culture cells and mice, thereby validating the hypothesis that some of the compounds that affected yeast lifespan could be biomedically active in mammals. I imagine other researchers, seeing both patents, have been combing through the list of active hits in #8,642,660 and have found some worth improving and patenting.”

UR Ventures is currently seeking a partner to develop this important discovery.