May, 2020. Brown Technology Innovations executed a contract with an industry sponsor for a clinical trial to be overseen by Dr. Stefan Gravenstein, Professor of Medicine and Director, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care. The trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate whether prophylaxis with the industry sponsor’s therapeutic compound reduces the incidence of COVID-19 among residents of nursing home facilities. The name of the company is being kept confidential for now.
May, 2020. Brown Technology Innovations, the commercialization arm of the university, will showcase several life science inventions from Brown at the 2020 Biotechnology Industry Organization conference (BIO). Normally one of the largest fixtures of the life sciences international conference trail each year, this year’s event will be online. BIO will feature partnering/networking opportunities for Brown to connect with potential investors and collaborators from life science and pharma companies. Please contact Betsy Stubblefield Loucks and David Potter if you have interesting news or company connections related to BIO 2020. https://www.bio.org/events/bio-digital
May, 2020. We have officially changed our name to Brown Technology Innovations. You formerly knew us as the Office of Industry Engagement and Commercial Venturing, and some may recall the predecessor of IECV, known as the Tech Ventures Office (T-VO). Under new leadership from Neil Veloso but with the same staff, our team will pursue a new strategy to bring inventions from Brown research teams to have an impact through commercial channels. More about us: new strategy, same team.
April, 2020. With the concurrent rise of cryptocurrency and quantum computing, an inevitable collision will occur, as quantum computing will break existing cryptocurrency/blockchain security measures. Jeffrey Hoffstein and Joseph Silverman, professors in the Brown Mathematics Department, are working on solutions that compress quantum safe signatures and utilize lattice technology to provide safe and effective blockchain security solutions. The project is attracting venture capital interest.
With existing quantum safe signatures, a direct transition to blockchains will decrease the "transactions per second" by orders of magnitude. This is because these quantum safe signatures are orders of magnitude larger than non-quantum safe signatures, and transactions per second is inversely proportional to the size of the signature. For both crypto assets and exchanges, $2 trillion and $19 trillion markets respectively, if this transition is not made, existing crypto secure technology will be broken in seconds. Any solution to protect blockchains against quantum threats needs to be both secure and efficient to maintain and improve blockchain performance.
The Lattice Based approach for blockchain security developed by Hoffstein and his colleagues is intended as an improvement over existing methods. Technologies such as ECDSA, the one presently in primary in use for protecting blockchains, have excellent Public Key and Signature Sizes, but will be broken by quantum computers. Existing Lattice Based quantum safe approaches have such large signature sizes that they would be impractical if used.
For these reasons Brown researchers, and collaborators Berk Sunar and Yarkin Doraz at Worcester Polytechnic, believe developing a secure blockchain methodology in a post quantum computing world has both academic and practical applications. It furthers Brown's contributions to mathematics knowledge and in practical terms could help protect the future of finance for years to come.
Jeffrey Hoffstein Joseph Silverman
March, 2020. Imagine a tool that looks like a small projector that can scan your water bottle and tell you what you need to know to build it from scratch...or a rare part for your old car...or a piece of machinery for which you need to figure out a new supplier. Dr. Gabriel Taubin (Engineering and Computer Science) has identified algorithms that enable the capture of information about 3-D objects that would help designers understand how they are made.
Dr. Taubin’s breakthrough means that scans could be done using commercially available hardware that is much less expensive than current solutions.
This month, Brown was issued a patent for Dr. Taubin’s work. The intellectual property in the patent has been licensed to an early stage startup called Riven, who raised $2 million in seed capital last year, and is on track to raise $10 million this year to get to the next stage.
Dr. Taubin’s current research projects emphasize low cost precise 3D scanning systems, 3D scanning for 3D printing, industrial applications of 3D scanning systems, and more generally digital fabrication. A demonstration video can be found here.
March, 2020. Each month, our office will share the latest patents that Brown is awarded for inventions by our faculty. This month, we are glad to share that Brown was issued a U.S. patent for an invention by Dr. Gilead Barnea called "Methods for Labeling and Manipulating a Cellular Circuit" (Allowed U.S. Utility Patent, application no. 15/558/90). This invention for understanding the brain adds another important component to the Carney Brain Science Center's innovation platform for leadership in neurological cellular technology.
January, 2020. Neil Veloso is the new Executive Director of Brown’s Office of Industry Engagement and Commercial Venturing. The Executive Director is the most senior officer in the University focused on commercializing Brown innovations through new venture creation, industry collaborations and licensing with strategic partners.
Neil has spent two decades at the intersection of academic research, healthcare and commercialization. As a consultant and advisor, he worked with leading academic medical centers and institutions, private and public universities, and investors. Neil has held senior roles in commercialization as the Executive Director of technology transfer at Johns Hopkins University and a Senior Director at Cleveland Clinic Innovations. He has transactional experience in the fields of therapeutics, information technology, engineering and diagnostics with both established companies and venture-backed startups.
February 2020. Brown has been issued two patents this month. The first is for a possible breakthrough tool for cancer therapeutics. Dr. Karl Kelsey and his colleague, John Wienecke, at the University of California San Francisco, have invented a new methodology for understanding cellular response to cancer diagnostics and treatment. The current state of the art methods were developed in 2004, and are widely understood to be insufficient.
Dr. Kelsey’s method provides information about cellular activity using a process that is much faster, more reliable, and cost efficient. Understanding the response of the immune system to disease, injury and therapy can significantly impact health care outcomes. The patent will make it easier for Dr. Kelsey to attract proof of concept funding from industry and other research partners.
Brown also received a patent for a novel material for use in chromatography called metal thiolate chromatographic material, or MTCM. Discovered by a research team led by Dr. Yongsong Huang, Professor of Geological Sciences, MTCM will improve upon a process developed half a century ago. Chromatography is used to separate organic compounds. Beyond applications in academic and pharmaceutical research, chromatography is used most frequently for quality control and research in the food industry.
The current approach to chromatography involves silver nitrate, which is notorious for its limitations. Challenges include material instability, unwanted staining, silver ion bleeding and leaching into resulting compounds, and incompatibility with mass spectrometry. Silver nitrate has a short shelf life, and is not reusable.
MTCM solves all those problems and is superior to silver nitrate in every respect. Because it acts on carbon-carbon double bonds (pi bonds), it can be used in every separation application where silver nitrate was formerly used--and more--but without any of the problems associated with silver nitrate. Currently, silver nitrate is the only stationary phase media available on the market that targets pi bonds for separation, which means there is a ready need and opportunity to introduce MTCM to the market.
RIHub launches new accelerator: Innovations in Urban Living
January 2020. RIHub has partnered with The CoWrks Foundry to launch the Innovations in Urban Living Accelerator (IULA).
IULA is a 24-week startup accelerator designed to help entrepreneurs improve the urban infrastructure and systems in India and in other emerging economies by leveraging a combination of technology, policy and local ingenuity. Teams will receive up to $40,000 and must have an incorporated company by the time the program starts. Anyone may apply (no need to be affiliated with Brown). Apply here by January 31, 2020.
January 2020. Starting Phase III of the Brown-Hyundai Research Collaboration, Hyundai awarded $200,000 to a research team jointly led by Dr. Kenny Breuer in Engineering and Dr. Sharon Swartz in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Their collaborative team will develop an enhanced understanding of bat flight and apply it to the modeling and design of flying robots.
This award comes at the end of a 1.5 year process which began with the Hyundai Visionary Challenge. Led by Alberto Bortoni and Xiaozhou Fan, PhD candidates in EEB and Engineering respectively, and undergrad neuroscience and biology concentrator Undergrad Alexander (Sascha) Morris - the team, successfully competed in the fall of 2018, and presented at the Hyundai Mobility Innovators Challenge that November. This past fall, Alberto and Xiaozhou returned to San Francisco to share the team's vision for how bat flight can inform the future of drone technology.
December, 2019. On December 5, fourteen companies from the UK visited Brown to learn about our research on graphene and its commercial potential. Although it has many applications, one exciting aspect of graphene is that it can be used to make a stretchable, breathable micro-barrier that allows you to keep tiny, unwanted molecules out, or keep precious ones in. This highly versatile material has a wide array of applications including packaging, textiles and flexible devices, multi-functional fabrics (chemical protection, sensing and actuation). The technology can also be used to create selective barriers, membranes, stretchable electronics or soft robotics. Other applications could include food/drug packaging, protective fabrics, wearable electronics, packaging/encapsulation of complex shapes or mechanically dynamic devices, or lightweight inflatables.
Dean Larry Larson, Professor Robert Hurt and Professor Nitin Padture provided a strategic overview of the School's direction along with details on specific graphene related research programs. The visit was made possible through collaboration with the RI Commerce Corporation, Innovate UK, the School of Engineering and the office of Industry Engagement and Commercial Venturing at Brown.
December, 2019. A Danish renewable energy company, Ørsted, visited Brown in October to learn about our research capacities in engineering, data science and materials research related to wind energy. Ørsted is ranked seventh on the HBR’s list of “Top 20 Business Transformations of the Last Decade”. With their acquisition of Deepwater Wind in 2018, the company now has an RI presence, and is looking to expand their operational excellence in off-shore wind energy.
The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, bioenergy plants and provides energy products to its customers. Headquartered in Denmark, Ørsted employs 6,300 people. Ørsted’s shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Ørsted). In 2018, the group’s revenue was DKK 76.9 billion (EUR 10.3 billion).
Along with RI Commerce, Jill Pipher, Larry Larson, Björn Sandstede and Nitin Padture discussed Brown's research at South Street Landing on October 17th.
November, 2019. Brown took the stage in San Francisco on November 7 at the Hyundai Mobility Innovator’s Forum. The forum showcased moonshots for all kinds of transport: from kickboards, cars, and buses to drones and flying taxis, with about 650 in the audience.
Speakers shared ideas not just about electric vehicles but new ways of thinking about where we will travel—rethinking urban developments of single-story buildings on obsolete highways and creating new freeways in the sky. Along with speakers like Mate Rimac of Croatia--the innovator, entrepreneur, and founder of the electric car company Rimac-- Brown had two faculty members and two graduate students present their visions for the future of smart mobility.
As the only speakers from an academic institution, Brown researchers were introduced using the image shown here:
In the upper left corner, the red trace is from a bat in flight. Doctoral student Alberto Bortoni, shared how bats—some of the world’s best fliers—could transform how we think about flying robots—and one day—flying cars. Bertoni spoke for his lab team, fellow student Xiaozhou Fan and professors Kenny Breuer (Engineering) and Sharon Swartz (Evolutionary Biology).
The brain indicates Professor David Sheinberg’s neuroscience lab and the Carney Institute for Brain Science. Sheinberg described how he and his students, Diana Burk and Aarit Ahuja, are working to understand how machines—not known for their high emotional intelligence—could learn to read and react to human perceptions.
Eric Rosen, a doctoral student in Professor Stefanie Tellex’s computer science lab, described how robots—even cars—could be operated by the casual language we use with other humans to get the help we need every day.
In the final image, a person stands in virtual reality, connected to Professor Bill Warren’s Virtual Environmental Navigation (VEN) Lab, where his graduate students Brittany Baxter (PhD ‘20) and Meghan Willcoxon (PhD ‘21) are working on the Hyundai project. Warren presented how his lab models pedestrian behavior so that vehicles—from kickboards and cars to personal airplanes—can safely navigate crowds, possibly in three dimensions.
Brown’s collaboration with Hyundai, coordinated by the Office of Industry Engagement and Commercial Venturing, began with a student competition last fall, the Hyundai Visionary Challenge, in which student teams from these labs won cash awards totaling $45,000 and presented at the Mobility Innovator’s Forum last year. Brown’s presentations at the 2019 Forum closed the second phase of the collaboration between Brown and Hyundai, Idea Incubation, where each of these four labs received $50,000 for a six-month pilot project. The third phase is in design; with details to be announced in January.
Brown-Hyundai Research Collaboration
November, 2019. Brown’s relationship with Hyundai Motor Group is quickly becoming a model for University-Industry partnerships that deepen understandings between scientists, and expands Hyundai’s investment in Brown over time. We completed the Hyundai Visionary Challenge last fall, and have funded four pilot research projects ($50,000) for Drs. Kenny Breuer and Sharon Swartz, David Sheinberg, Stefanie Tellex and William Warren. These teams will present at the Hyundai Mobility Innovator’s Forum in San Francisco in November. The next phase will be announced later this fall (roughly $200,000 for four projects for 1 year, with potential for additional year).
October, 2019. Leading life sciences venture capital firms Canaan Partners and Domain Ventures visited Brown with Dr. John Sedivy and IECV team members in October. Next up: IECV will facilitate a scientific and commercial exploration to license and fund a company based upon Dr. Sedivy’s patent-pending intellectual property for compositions and methods for preventing and reversing age-associated inflammation.
October, 2019. IECV is working with licensee Theromics Inc. to source a $1.2 million seed equity investment from Launchpad Ventures, New England’s largest angel investment organization. With anticipated follow-on syndicated investment from two other angel groups of up to $800,000, Theromics is now expected to be able to complete FDA “smart device” regulatory approval and enter the cancer thermal ablation marketplace in early 2022. Brown faculty founders include Dr. Damian Dupuy, Dr. Ed Walsh, and Dr. William Park (emeritus). Launchpad Chairman Hambleton Lord, Brown ’83, has expressed continued interest in having Brown-licensed start-ups join the Launchpad portfolio.
October, 2019. Ocean Spray Inc. has agreed to send a team to further develop collaborative research plans with Brown’s Microbiome Consortium and Biomed faculty specializing in nutrition. Ocean Spray has committed to developing a major new product line of nutritionally enhanced food and beverage products, based upon rigorous evidence-based experimentation and testing. They will be back for more later in November.