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Medical College creates endowed biophysics chair

The Medical College of Wisconsin has established the James S. Hyde Chair in Biophysics, honoring James Hyde for his accomplishments and contributions in biomedical research, mentorship and technical innovation.

Hyde will be the first person to hold the endowed chair that bears his name.

Hyde is internationally recognized for his research in the development, enhancement and application of electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) instrumentation and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies and applications. He has received more than $47 million in direct federal grant support and is the principal investigator of five National Institutes of Health grants, including the grant that funds the College’s National Biomedical EPR Center.

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Nano-magnets guide stem cells to damaged tissue

Microscopic magnetic particles have been used to bring stem cells to sites of cardiovascular injury in a new method designed to increase the capacity of cells to repair damaged tissue, UCL scientists announced today.

The cross disciplinary research, published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions, demonstrates a technique where endothelial progenitor cells – a type of stem cell shown to be important in vascular healing processes – have been magnetically tagged with a tiny iron-containing clinical agent, then successfully targeted to a site of arterial injury using a magnet positioned outside the body.

Following magnetic targeting, there was a five-fold increase in cell localisation at a site of vascular injury in rats. The team also demonstrated a six-fold increase in cell capture in an in-vitro flow system (where microscopic particles are suspended in a stream of fluid and examined to see how they behave).

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Organic electronics a two-way street, thanks to new plastic semiconductor

Plastic that conducts electricity holds promise for cheaper, thinner and more flexible electronics. This technology is already available in some gadgets -- the new Sony walkman that was introduced earlier this summer and the Microsoft Zune HD music player released last week both incorporate organic light-emitting electronic displays.

Until now, however, circuits built with organic materials have allowed only one type of charge to move through them. New research from the University of Washington makes charges flow both ways. The cover article in an upcoming issue of the journal Advanced Materials describes an approach to organic electronics that allows transport of both positive and negative charges.

"The organic semiconductors developed over the past 20 years have one important drawback. It's very difficult to get electrons to move through," said lead author Samson Jenekhe, a UW professor of chemical engineering. "By now having polymer semiconductors that can transmit both positive and negative charges, it broadens the available approaches. This would certainly change the way we do things."

Co-authors are Felix Kim, a doctoral student working with Jenekhe, and graduate student Xugang Guo and assistant professor Mark Watson at the University of Kentucky. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Ford Foundation.

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Patent backlog clogs recovery

Agency’s inability to keep pace undermines American innovation, competitiveness

First of two parts

Alexandria, Va. — On a campus of boxy office buildings nine miles outside Washington, D.C., some 6,300 patent examiners hold the nation's economic future in their hands.

The next Google. The next iPhone. The next Viagra.

All could be fueled by inventions awaiting the 20 years of protection afforded by a U.S. patent - if only the patent examiners could catch up.

But they can't. The federal system of granting patents to businesses and entrepreneurs has become overwhelmed by the growing volume and complexity of the applications it receives, creating a massive backlog that by its own reckoning could take at least six years to get under control, the Journal Sentinel has found.

Amid the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could be seen as a way to jump-start the economy. Instead, it sits on applications for years, placing inventors at risk of losing their ideas to savvy competitors at home and abroad.

The agency took 3.5 years, on average, for each patent it issued in 2008, a Journal Sentinel analysis of patent data shows. That's more than twice the agency's benchmark of 18 months to deal with a patent request.

The total number of applications waiting for approval, more than 1.2 million, nearly tripled from 10 years earlier.

The Journal Sentinel also found:

• Under a practice that Congress authorized a decade ago, the Patent Office publishes applications on its Web site 18 months after the inventor files them, outlining each innovation in detail regardless of whether an examiner has begun considering the application. The system invites competitors anywhere in the world to steal ideas.

• For more than a dozen years starting in 1992, Congress siphoned off a total of $752 million in fees from the Patent Office to pay for unrelated federal projects, decimating the agency's ability to hire and train new examiners.

• As its backlog grew, the Patent Office began rejecting applications at an unprecedented pace. Where seven of 10 applications led to patents less than a decade ago, fewer than half are approved today - a shift that a federal appeals judge termed "suspicious." The same judge calls the agency "practically dysfunctional."

• Staff turnover has become epidemic. Experts say it takes at least three years for a patent examiner to gain competence, and yet one examiner has been quitting on average for every two the agency hires.

• Patent activity, a widely accepted barometer of innovation, is showing exponential growth in increasingly competitive economies such as China, South Korea and India. As developing economies strive to commercialize and protect their technologies throughout the world, they add tremendously to the U.S. Patent Office's workload.

• In many cases, applications languish so long that the technology they seek to protect becomes obsolete, or a product loses the interest of investors who could give it a chance at commercial success. "Patents are becoming commercially irrelevant to product life cycles," said John White, a patent attorney and former examiner.

For an American start-up company, a patent application is often the only asset, which creates a Catch-22: Start-ups often need a patent in order to get funding; yet without that funding, entrepreneurs can't afford the mounting fees and legal costs to keep the patent application alive or to fend off infringers.

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Biotech company raises venture capital, will move to Madison

By Guy Boulton of the Journal Sentinel

Flex Biomedical Inc., a privately held company developing treatments for orthopedic diseases, said it has raised $985,000 in Wisconsin, including a $150,000 loan from the state's Technology Venture Fund, and will move its operations to Madison from Boston.

Three of the state's early-stage investment groups - Wisconsin Investment Partners in Madison, NEW Capital Fund in Appleton and Marquette University Golden Angels Network in Milwaukee - have invested in the company.

Flex Biomedical, which employs three people, plans to begin clinical trials late next year or in early 2011 on a synthetic polymer to treat osteoarthritis, said Sal Braico, the company's chief executive, who has moved to Madison.

The polymer, based on technology licensed from Boston University, is designed to lubricate and cushion arthritic joints, such as knees.

Flex Biomedical is the second company this summer lured from the Boston area to Madison, partly because of a loan from the state Department of Commerce. In June, Exact Sciences Corp., which is developing a non-invasive DNA test to screen for colon cancer, announced that it would move from Marlborough, Mass., to Madison.

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