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June 2009
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August 2009

Seven get UWM Catalyst grants to push science toward its commercial potential

Rebecca Klaper uses tiny creatures to study the safety of some of the world's tiniest particles.

Translucent crustaceans called Daphnia - about four of them would fit on the top of a pencil - are helping Klaper develop a tool to assess the safety of nanomaterials being put into many products, from sunscreen to computer screens to baseball bats.

Her efforts received a boost from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Catalyst grant program, which, for the second consecutive year, is awarding $500,000 to research projects that have scientific promise and strong commercial potential.

The grants are funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the state's largest foundation.

"The grants are feeding promising projects, but also helping us create a culture of innovation," said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation.

The UWM grants won't fund the entire development of a concept, said Frank Langley, president and CEO of MPP Group LLC, a Wauwatosa pharmaceutical development company. Last year, MPP Group licensed a group of compounds from UWM that appear to interact with certain neurotransmitters in the brain to block the euphoric effects of alcohol without inducing anxiety or sedation.

"That's why you're seeing Bradley Foundation and Rockwell behind these grants - they're entities that believe in commercialization," Langley said.

Rockwell Automation Inc. has committed $850,000 over five years to fund similar grants, and the UWM Research Foundation has been awarded $340,000 of that money, Thompson said.

The Bradley Foundation funding this year comes on top of $500,000 it provided for the grants last year. Those laid the groundwork for the licensing agreement with MPP and enabled 33 new invention disclosures, three new patent applications, and applications for federal grants and other funding worth $2 million, Thompson said.

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Minneapolis biotech firm moving to Wisconsin

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Lured by the state's tax credits for investments in high-growth companies, a Minneapolis biotech start-up said Thursday it is moving to Wisconsin.

VitalMedix Inc. is developing a drug that could be used by first responders to potentially keep trauma victims alive longer. The drug, called Tamiasyn, has been tested in animals and could go into human trials as early as a year from now, said Jeffrey M. Williams, the company's president and chief executive officer.

"This sort of deal is better understood by investors in Wisconsin, and angel groups in Wisconsin are not only more aggressive, there are just a lot more of them," Williams said. The state has 22 organized angel investing groups, up from just a handful five years ago, according to the Wisconsin Angel Network.

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Madison company generates stem cells from blood

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Cellular Dynamics International's disclosure Wednesday that its researchers have generated stem cells from ordinary human blood samples holds enormous promise in the emerging field of personalized medicine.

The promise in the long term is that, by giving a vial or two of blood, we could all have our own personal stem cells to deploy in the event of a spinal cord injury or the onset of Parkinson's disease or many other now-incurable diseases.

Cellular Dynamics is the first company to say it can make stem cells from something as readily available, and so representative of human diversity, as blood, Palay said.

"This stuff sounds like science fiction, but it's science fact - and we're doing it in a lab in Madison," said Bob Palay, the Madison biotech company's chairman and chief executive.

The discovery will allow the company in the near term to more easily provide a diverse mix of stem cells to researchers to help them understand the basis of disease and how to treat it, he said.

"It opens up all human tissue cells, in all human diversity, to pharmaceutical and academic researchers. It's so huge, and so few people understand it," Palay said.

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Printable batteries

Research News July 2009 

For a long time, batteries were bulky and heavy. Now, a new cutting-edge battery is revolutionizing the field. It is thinner than a millimeter, lighter than a gram, and can be produced cost-effectively through a printing process.

In the past, it was necessary to race to the bank for every money transfer and every bank statement. Today, bank transactions can be easily carried out at home. Now where is that piece of paper again with the TAN numbers? In the future you can spare yourself the search for the number. Simply touch your EC card and a small integrated display shows the TAN number to be used. Just type in the number and off you go. This is made possible by a printable battery that can be produced cost-effectively on a large scale. It was developed by a research team led by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Baumann of the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS in Chemnitz together with colleagues from TU Chemnitz and Menippos GmbH. “Our goal is to be able to mass produce the batteries at a price of single digit cent range each,” states Dr. Andreas Willert, group manager at ENAS.

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Cellular Dynamics extends agreement with Roche

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Cellular Dynamics International and Roche have expanded their drug development testing agreement, the companies said Wednesday.

For the next two years, Madison-based Cellular Dynamics will supply heart cells to Roche, and the companies will collaborate to perform various tests on the cells. The agreement expands one forged in March 2008, the companies said.

Cellular Dynamics, known as CDI, grows induced pluripotent cells from human tissue. They have all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells, which means they can turn into beating heart cells or liver cells or any other cells in the human body.

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