March 25, 2021
A wheelchair device created by scientists at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center will help prevent injury to Veterans with spinal cord injury. The team developed a sensor that detects the position of a wheelchair user’s feet on the wheelchair footplate. It sends pressure and sensor data to a user’s smartphone in real-time. Patient with spinal cord injury can experience injury when using a wheelchair if they are unaware that their feet are sticking out or dragging on the ground. “Somebody would be operating usually a power wheelchair, although it has happened in manual wheelchairs as well, and their leg or foot might be sticking out from the side of the footrest,” Dr. M. Kristi Henzel, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Cleveland VAMC, explained to TechLink. “As they would pass through a doorway, for example, it would catch and twist the leg out, leading to injury.” To prevent this, Henzel and her colleagues designed the smart, wireless sensor to warn users foot mispositioning. The device is available for commercial licensing through VA’s Technology Transfer Program.
Clear face mask will help improve communication
January 12, 2021
Photo by Megan Kon
A VA-invented mask that could help people communicate more easily during the COVID-19 pandemic is now closer to being available to the public. VA has reached a licensing agreement with Sports Engineering, Inc., for the Clear Talker Mask, invented at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System. The invention is made of clear plastic so that the user’s lips and face are visible. This can improve communication by making it possible to read lips and facial expressions, which cannot be done with the standard surgical masks most often being used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mask is reusable and is designed to fit most faces. It was created by Seth Hills, Brian Burkhardt, Melissa Oliver, and John Miller at the Central Virginia VA. VA applied for a patent on the invention in September through the Technology Transfer Program. Sports Engineering will develop the product for market.
New prosthetic improves hip replacement
December 28, 2020
A new femur prosthetic invented by Dr. Alfred Kuo of the San Francisco VA Medical Center could improve hip replacement surgery and shorten recovery time. Traditional hip replacement surgery often requires a long, painful recovery. The prosthesis designed by Kuo allows for a much shorter segment of the femur bone to be removed than previously required. Conventional hip implants need to be inserted into the femur about five to six inches. But Kuo’s prosthesis only extends into the femur by 90 millimeters, about 3.5 inches. Removing less bone can reduce blood loss during surgery and make the insertion easier for the surgeon. Implantation of the new device also calls for a much smaller incision than for previous prostheses, which makes it easier to redo the surgery if adjustments are needed. VA has filed a patent application for the invention.
TTP Welcomes Harege (Rebecca) Megabiaw
November 10, 2020
Harege (Rebecca) Megabiaw
Ms. Harege (Rebecca) Megabiaw joins the VA’s Technology Transfer Program (TTP) from the private sector where she served as a Customer Service Specialist for Wells Fargo in Bethesda, Maryland.
Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications with a minor in Communications Studies from Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland. Rebecca is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland with expected graduation in December 2021. Rebecca speaks multiple languages including Amharic and Tigrinya.
Ms. Megabiaw has a broad range of experience in the private sector as well as non-profits and academia. At Wells Fargo, Rebecca as technical advisor to the Branch Manager and District Manager regarding customer account establishment and operations for in a strict financial environment. Furthermore, Rebecca was responsible for preparing reports and financial data analysis for administrative and statistical reviews of branch operations to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Further, Rebecca served as the Fundraising Manager at United Campus Ministry, Frostburg State University, whereby she independently led fundraising events as well as implemented innovative processes for effective resource mobilization such as use of social media for marketing and donation processing with linkage to automated tracking and record keeping. Additionally, Ms. Megabiaw worked as a Program Analyst for Miller and Desatnik, in Los Angeles, CA with responsibilities for the management of databases of company information, data, and records as well as the lead customer liaison for phone inquiries, direct calls, and company information.
Rebecca immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia when she was 3 years old and became a United States citizen when she was 14 years old. Rebecca enjoys traveling to her home country as often as she can. Rebecca enjoys fostering dogs and cats, she believes there is nothing more rewarding than helping them find their forever home. Rebecca is a proud pet parent to a 10-year old cat named Sophia and a 3-month old labradoodle named Hope. Sophia and Hope are the love of Rebecca’s life currently.
TTP Welcomes Terri Hunter
October 1, 2020
Terri Hunter, Ph.D.
Terri Hunter, Ph.D. joined the Technology Transfer Program (TTP) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research and Development in September 2020 as a Technology Transfer Specialist to serve VA medical Centers located in Florida.
Prior to joining the VA. Dr. Hunter was a Sr. Licensing Manager in the University of South Florida (USF) Technology Transfer Office for ten years. At USF she was responsible for managing the life sciences technology portfolio from initial disclosure through licensing and the maintenance of the licenses. She has expertise in the areas of patent prosecution, license negotiations, start-up business development, capital raises, and marketing. Before becoming a technology transfer professional, Dr. Hunter worked as a Research Scientist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. At Moffitt Dr. Hunter performed translational research focused on cancer vaccines and combination therapies for cancer. She has also served as a DNA expert witness for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Dr. Hunter received a B.S. in Biology from Palm Beach Atlantic University, a M.S. in Medical Sciences from the University of South Florida, College of Medicine, and a Ph.D. in Medical Sciences from the University of South Florida, College of Medicine (Medical Microbiology and Immunology Program). Her post-doctoral training was conducted at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Hunter’s research interests included microbial genetics, viral tumorigenesis, cell signaling, immunobiology of cancer, gene-modified tumor cell vaccines and combination immune/chemotherapies for cancer. Her research spanned pre-clinical in vitro development through Phase II clinical trials.
Terri is a long time Scout Master in the BSA and enjoys camping, white water rafting and canoeing, fishing, and many other outdoor activities.
VA doctor invents new mask to protect clinicians from COVID-19 infection
August 21, 2020
(Photo by Scott Fuller)
A new mask design invented by Dr. Scott Fuller of the VA Northern California Health Care System could significantly improve safety during procedures of the head and neck. Fuller created a surgical mask with a nasal tube and transparent window for patients to wear. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the creation of the new mask. When performing an endoscopy, in which a fiber-optic camera is inserted into the nose or mouth of a patient, clinicians are at risk of airborne droplets that may contain the virus. Fuller’s invention blocks any droplets or particles from leaving the patient while still allowing the clinician to perform the procedure. He is working with VA’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories to develop prototypes. The Tech Transfer Program has submitted a patent application on Fuller’s behalf and is working to identify companies that can produce the masks for widespread use.
Adjustable walker moves closer to market
July 17, 2020
Stephanie Nogan Bailey displays the self-leveling walker her team developed. (VA photo)
An adjustable walker that will help users travel over uneven surfaces is one step closer to reaching people who need it. The Self-Leveling Walker was developed by the Advanced Platform Technology Center at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University. On level ground, it works like a regular walker. But the user can press a button to shorten the front legs and lengthen the back legs when going up a slope or steps—or vice versa when going down. The walker uses a hydraulic system built into its legs. VA and the university, which co-own the technology, have licensed it to the start-up company LevelMed Technologies to bring the walker to market. “Because there’s no safe way to use standard walkers on stairs or inclines,” explains project manager Stephanie Nogan Bailey, “we saw an unmet need for a walker that can be adjusted at any time.” The hope is that this device will give back freedom of mobility to people with injuries or movement difficulties.
TTP Welcomes Stefan Susta
June 8, 2020
Stefan Susta joined the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Technology Transfer Program (TTP), in June of 2020 to serve VA medical centers located in Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Ohio (except Cleveland).
Stefan has been involved in tech transfer for many years and has supported government tech transfer, led the tech transfer programs for the Wright Brothers Institute and the Edison Materials Technology Center, and participated in a variety of economic development efforts in Ohio.
Over the last 20+ years, Stefan has worked in various technology-based industries, successfully built start-up teams, led technology commercialization initiatives, managed and executed new product launches, and led business development efforts (private and government sector). Stefan also helped a small business, formed to commercialize an Air Force technology, to grow and list on Australian stock exchange. Just before joining the VA TTP, Stefan served as a technology transfer lead and small business liaison at the Air Force Research Laboratory. In this capacity, he supported the marketing and commercialization of the Aerospace Systems directorate’s patent portfolio, and technology transfer activities to support synergistic collaborations between the Air Force, academia, and industry.
Stefan earned undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and German from Virginia Tech, and an MBA from Wright State University. He enjoys tennis, sailing, skiing, home renovations, outdoor activities, and is an active member of the Oakwood Rotary Club.
TTP Welcomes Dr. Jenish Patel
June 3, 2020
Dr. Jenish Patel
Dr. Jenish Patel joined the Technology Transfer Program (TTP) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research and Development in Washington DC, in May 2020, as a Technology Transfer Specialist.
Jenish received his Bachelors of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he also conducted undergraduate laboratory research in immunology. Then, Jenish was a post-baccalaureate research fellow for the Association of Public Health Laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two years conducting laboratory research on pandemic influenza viruses. Jenish has a PhD from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York in Microbiology with a research focus on immunology and infectious diseases, where he also conducted his post-doctoral research in innate immunity to pathogens. Jenish has authored over 25 publications throughout his academic research career.
Prior to joining the VA, Jenish was a Senior Technology Transfer and Patent Specialist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), for more than five years. Jenish managed collaboration agreement, intellectual property and licensing portfolios of infectious diseases related research and development involving NIAID intramural researchers, NIAID extramural programs, US and international academic and biopharmaceutical company partners for the development of medical countermeasures against a number of different viral diseases impacting public health, including influenza, Zika, and COVID-19. Jenish has also demonstrated strong leadership skills by successfully leading NIAID and NIH level teams to support and improve technology transfer functions. Jenish was also selected to participate in the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative fellowship by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, further enhancing his technical expertise and leadership skills.
Jenish was born and brought up in India and moved to the United States during high school. He has interests in music and dancing and is a dance instructor for Indian classical dance.
Jenish looks forward to contributing to the great work that the VA does for the Veterans and the public and hopes that the diversity, expertise, knowledge and skills he brings will serve the mission of the TTP and VA well.
VA-invented exercise device to enter production
May 1, 2020
An upper-limb exercise device invented by VA researchers will soon become available to patients and health care systems. The Multi-Purpose Arm Cycle Ergometer for Rehabilitation (M-PACE) allows patients with conditions such as spinal cord injury to participate in a wider range of exercise and rehab activities. Action Manufacturing Inc. and VA have reached an exclusive patent license agreement on the device. The M-PACE was created by researchers at VA’s Minneapolis Adaptive Design and Engineering Program. Prolonged bed rest due to medical treatments or conditions can lead to muscle loss and other problems. With the M-PACE, patients can exercise while lying in bed. It can also be used from a wheelchair or while standing. The device features pedals that can be used with the arms, along with several other configurations. “The M-PACE’s ability to deploy over a bed is particularly important,” explained Dr. Gary Goldish, one of the inventors, to TechLink, “because prolonged bedrest without exercise can lead to rapid deconditioning and can negatively affect many systems of the human body, including the central nervous system, digestive system, and endocrine system.”
VA researchers develop new treatment for liver disease
March 31, 2020
A VA research team led by Dr. Gianfranco Alpinini of the Richard L. Roudebush Indianapolis VA Medical Center created a new treatment for liver disease. Using mouse studies, the researchers found a compound that improves liver damage linked to several forms of liver disease. The drug could be used as a treatment for liver diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, biliary atresia, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is the most common type of liver disease in the Western world. VA has filed a patent for the treatment. Through Tech Transfer agreements, private businesses can now obtain rights to develop this research into life-saving medicines.
Drug shows promise in reducing deadly brain swelling after stroke
March 24, 2020
A new drug developed by VA and international partners could reduce deadly brain damage from stroke. The drug, ZT-1a, has proved effective at reducing brain swelling after stroke in animal models. It targets a pathway in the brain that controls how ions and water move in and out of brain cells. After stroke, malfunctioning proteins can allow too much water into the brain and cause dangerous swelling. ZT-1a stops these proteins from activating. Currently, invasive brain surgery is needed to alleviate this swelling. The drug was developed by an international consortium, including Dr. Dandan Sun of the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System. The consortium was made up of inventors from Xiamen University in China, Exeter University in the United Kingdom, and the VA and University of Pittsburgh. VA has filed a patent for the drug’s use as a stroke treatment.
Chip-based test for bleeding or clotting risk earns FDA ‘Breakthrough Device’ status
March 12, 2020
An experimental portable blood-clotting sensor called ClotChip, co-owned by VA and Case Western Reserve University and licensed to the private company XaTek, now has FDA “Breakthrough Device” status. The designation speeds the development of technologies that outperform current products in treating or diagnosing serious conditions. Investigators with VA’s Advanced Platform Technology Center and CWRU developed and tested the technology. It can assess a patient’s clotting ability—based on a single drop of blood—in about 15 minutes, compared with a day or longer for existing methods. “ClotChip is designed to minimize the time and effort for blood-sample preparation. [It can] be used at the doctor’s office or other points of care for patients on anticoagulation therapy [or] antiplatelet therapy, or who have suffered a traumatic injury causing bleeding,” said Dr. Pedram Mohseni in a 2016 CWRU article.
Patent for new way to treat dangerous hospital infection
February 25, 2020
(Photo courtesy of CDC)
VA and the University of Maryland are joint owners of a newly issued patent (US 10,537,609 B2) for a peptide-based treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. P. aeruginosa can cause infections in the blood, lungs, or other parts of the body after surgery. At highest risk are hospital patients on breathing machines, those with catheters, and those with wounds from surgery or burns. The new potential treatment has been tested successfully in mice and is pending further study. The approach is promising because it uses a specific peptide, or a piece of a protein, to defeat the bacteria and does not rely on antibiotics. P. aeruginosa is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. In 2017, multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa caused an estimated 32,6000 infections and 2,700 deaths in the U.S. Visit VA’s partner TechLink to read more about this and other available technologies based on VA inventions and discoveries.