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Interthyr targets tough-to-treat diseases from Athens headquarters

Approaching retirement after 36 years at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Leonard Kohn decided he wasn't quite finished with his goal to improve life for people suffering from tough-to-treat diseases.

That's why he founded Interthyr Corporation in Athens to develop tests and medicines for endocrine diseases, autoimmune-inflammatory diseases and cancer. The company got its start with a $900,000 Ohio Technology Action Fund grant. He moved from Maryland to Athens, Ohio to set up a research laboratory at Ohio University. There he continued the work he'd started at a nonprofit research foundation he helped start in Maryland.

"I had reached the possibility of retirement at NIH, and wanted to do something useful in terms of development of a product for translational medicine," or turning research into something that could make a difference in patient's lives, Kohn said. "I decided the Edison Biotechnology Institute and the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine afforded me an opportunity to pursue those goals."

Interthyr Corporation specializes in research related to dozens of endocrine and autoimmune-inflammatory diseases including diabetes, Graves' Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cancer. The company is also conducting research in certain equine diseases.

In 2008, the nine-person company moved to the Ohio University Innovation Center.

Interthyr Corporation, along with Athens-based Diagnostic Hybrids, recently developed Thyretian, which detects the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism directly linked to Graves' disease.

"(Thyretian) is a gold standard, and is commercialized within the United States and now moving abroad," Kohn said.

The company's work has drawn a $2.6 million grant to develop a new drug that could treat pancreatic cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Source: Leonard Kohn, Interthyr Corp.
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Proton beam pioneer bringing therapy center to Ohio

The company that pioneered proton beam therapy is bringing its technology to Ohio.

Loma Linda, Calif.-based Optivus Proton Therapy, Inc., along with partner American Cancer Treatment System, soon will begin building a $170-million research and treatment campus in near Dayton that could initially put 2,000 Ohioans to work.

Late last year, the State of Ohio announced a seven-year, $600,000 tax credit for the project. It will be the first Ohio facility for Optivus and one of only eight such treatment centers in the nation, says Jenny Camper, Optivus' Columbus-based spokeswoman.

Camper says the company plans first to build a research/development and production center on the 23-acre campus near the new Austin Interchange in Miami Township. That facility will be followed by a treatment center at which patients will receive radiation therapy using the proton beam technology, she says. Construction, which has not yet begun, will be completed over the next two to three years, she says.

Proton beam therapy was pioneered by Dr. James Slater, whose son Jon heads the company. Because it can pinpoint cancer cells more accurately than some other forms of radiation therapy, it is sometimes used to fight tumors in sensitive areas like the spinal cord, eyes and the brain. While the company says the campus will primarily serve those in the Cincinnati-Dayton corridor, it will draw patients from outlying regions as well.

Optivus estimates that 2,000 temporary jobs will be created between now and 2013, with 800 jobs from 2014 forward.

The day after Optivus and its partners announced the project last May, Kettering Medical Center announced a collaboration with American Shared Hospital Services to build an $80-million proton beam center near Dayton.  While some have questioned the need for two such centers where none existed before, Camper says Optivus believes the two centers will, in the long run, complement one another.

Source: Jenny Camper, Optivus Proton Therapy
Writer: Gene Monteith

BioOhio expo goes virtual

When sign-ups started out slowly for BioOhio's 2011 Service Provider's Expo, the organization decided to get creative. The result: an online version of the expo, which began March 1, runs through April 28 and which at last count had nearly 60 virtual exhibitors.

Matt Schutte, director of communications for Columbus-based BioOhio -- the Ohio Edison Center charged with accelerating biosciences discovery, innovation and commercialization -- says the expo is a chance for shoppers and browsers in the biosciences to connect with product and service providers from within the state of Ohio.

"This is an outgrowth of a live expo that we held last year in March," Schutte says. "That event went well as a first year. This year, it was not hitting critical mass at the time that we needed to sign some facility agreements."

So, BioOhio partnered with online conferencing expert JuJaMa to build a virtual exhibition site. All exhibitors must be biosciences-based and have an Ohio presence, Schutte says. BioOhio members pay $50 and non-members $80 for the privilege of showcasing their companies.

As exhibitors, companies are able to send meeting requests to other expo participants, can send system generated messages and see the entire content of the site, Schutte says.

Shoppers can only see the exhibitors, but can register at no cost. The online aspects of the event have one big advantage over the live event, Shutte notes -- customers can come from all over the world. Earlier this week, nearly 170 shoppers or browsers were signed in to view online exhibits.

If the online expo goes well, BioOhio may extend the format to other focus areas, Schutte says.

"Maybe we'll extend this to some summits or some geographic or foreign partner sites -- who knows where that goes."

Participants can still register for the expo by going here.

Source: Matt Schutte, BioOhio
Writer: Gene Monteith

OVALS conference nears

Cincinnati will be hosting some of the area's leading experts in life science research and entrepreneurship next month, with an eye toward boosting the Ohio Valley's profile in the field.

The ninth annual OVALS (Ohio Valley Affiliates of Life Sciences) conference will bring scientists and research executives from universities of Cincinnati, Kentucky and Louisville, Ohio University and Marshall University together with entrepreneurs and investors to highlight regional initiatives, its success stories and up-and-coming start-ups.

The two-day conference begins April 14 at Cincinnati's Kingsgate Mariott Hotel.

"The conference is a great opportunity to bring together the right mix of scientists and investors," says Dorothy Air, an OVALS chair, associate vice president for entrepreneurial affairs at the University of Cincinnati and vice president of operations with CincyTech. "Networking is a big part of it, but so is just conversation. Scientists and universities don't always know what's going on elsewhere, and how their work relates to others' work."

Speakers include a keynote address from University of Kentucky President Lee F. Todd Jr., a former engineering professor and entrepreneur, along with experts in regulatory issue, clinical trial issues and ushering ideas from the drawing board to the market.

Some of the group's success stories will also be highlighted. David Scholl, president and CEO of Athens-based Diagnostic Hybrids, will talk about those successes as a blueprint for others to follow.

The conference, OVALS' signature event, is expected to draw more than 100 attendees. Since the first conference  was held in 2002, the group has grown from a small network of research and medical universities to include the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, CincyTech, the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership and Cleveland Clinic's Global Cardiovascular Innovation group. Affiliates work together, sharing information and resources and drawing more than $650 million annually in basic and applied research funding to the Ohio Valley.

Source: Dorothy Air, OVALS
Writer: Dave Malaska

Med Mart construction site teems with new jobs

While the verdict is still out on how powerful the Medical Mart and Convention Center will be to Cleveland's economic growth, the construction that's currently going on is definitely bringing jobs to the area. The Medical Mart reports that more than 200 construction workers are currently on site.

The numbers are impressive for small business enterprise (SBE) companies, with more than 25 SBE subcontractors hired for specific jobs thus far.

Job creation for the construction project is being coordinated by MMPI, the Medical Mart management company; Cuyahoga County; Minority Business Solutions; and Turner Construction Company. Together, these entities have hosted five SBE certification and outreach events, the last of which resulted in 175 interview opportunities for SBE contractors.

There is much work to be done for these employees. Demolition of various buildings is ongoing, with more than 100 trucks hauling away concrete to be recycled each day.

Source: Medical Mart and Convention Center
Writer: Diane DiPiero

This story originally appeared in Fresh Water Cleveland.

Cincinnati-area incubators revive TechVenture Program

Following last year's successful launch of the renowned Kauffman FastTrac TechVenture Program in Southwest Ohio, two Cincinnati area incubators are bringing back the high-tech business development program.

FastTrac is an intensive, hands-on program geared toward scientists, inventors, engineers and IT developers. Through this program, Southwest Ohio innovators who want to commercialize a new technology, or grow an existing tech business, can get the specialized help they need.

"We frequently receive requests from entrepreneurs for help in developing a business plan. In TechVentures, the participants learn from the facilitators, entrepreneurial guest speakers and each other. Feedback from our business plan competition judges, who are investors and professional advisors, indicated all the companies had developed a viable business plan. We decided to offer the program again because it works," says BIOSTART President Carol Frankenstein.

The program is sponsored by the Hamilton County Business Center (HCBC) and BIOSTART, a life sciences incubator.

Kauffman FastTrac TechVenture is designed to take businesses from idea through development to commercialization. Among topics that will be covered are: Defining the Target Market, Testing Your Business Concept, Planning for Financial Success and Protecting the Business and Your Intellectual Property.

At the program's end entrepreneurs will have a chance to win one of three early-stage funding prizes of $5,000, $3,000 or $1,000 through a business plan competition.

The upcoming 10-week session starts March 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Wednesday at the Hamilton County Business Center in Cincinnati. The program's cost has been slashed from the usual $895 to $399 per person though a State of Ohio Edison Technology Supplemental Grant awarded to HCBC and BIOSTART. There is a further discount for BIOSTART and HCBC clients.

You can submit an application until Friday, March 11, here

Source: Carol Frankenstein, BIOSTART
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

ViewRay one step closer to distribution of MRI/radiation therapy tech

Last October, Cleveland's ViewRay unveiled a research radiation therapy system to the medical device community. Now comes word that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted ViewRay clearance for its radiotherapy treatment planning and delivery software, a key element of the radiation therapy system.

This is a critical step toward FDA approval of the system, according to Gregory M. Ayers, M.D. and Ph.D., president and CEO of ViewRay. "It's exciting to see such progress with a product we believe will offer an advancement in radiation therapy," he says.

Combining MRI and radiotherapy delivery, the system provides a continuous MRI during radiation treatment. This helps doctors to see exactly where the radiation is going and to deliver precise treatment.

A recent $20 million Series C financing will help ViewRay in the final stages of development for commercial distribution. For now, the ViewRay system is only used in non-human settings.

A team of physicians and researchers leads the privately held medical device company. ViewRay is currently in growth mode and building its staff in quality assurance, software engineering, clinical science and sales.

Source: Gregory M. Ayers, ViewRay
Writer: Diane DiPiero

This story originally appeared in Fresh Water Cleveland.

OU professor’s anti-cancer compound could revolutionize treatments

Rathindra Bose has been looking for a better anti-cancer drug for nearly 30 years. Now, his discovery of a compound that beats back ovarian cancer in mice without the toxicity, weight loss and hair loss of other drugs has been snapped up by a New York biomedical company for possible commercialization.

Bose, professor of biomedical sciences at Ohio University in Athens, as well as VP of research and dean of the graduate college, says continued testing on the new class of anti-cancer compounds will continue for at least a year before clinical testing in humans can take place. But he's excited by the prospects of a new treatment for cancer patients whose options are currently limited.

Bose's new compounds, called phosphaplatins, are a combination of phosphate and platinum. The three most widely used anti-cancer drugs also contain platinum, but can have devastating side effects, including liver disease, he says. Consequently, doses typically must be kept low, he says.

Most platinum-based drugs work by killing cancer cells directly by binding with the DNA inside a cell's nucleus, he says. But, they also react with vital enzymes, causing toxic side effects.

Phosphaplatins are designed to promote tumor suppression genes within the body rather than to kill cancer cells directly. Because they do not bind with a cell's DNA, they do not appear to carry the toxic effects of most platinum-based drugs, he says.

"With mice, there has been no hair loss that we have seen," Bose says." They're as playful as normally we see for the control group. And, they don't lose their appetite as compared to other platinum drugs."

Ohio University has licensed Bose's new class of compounds to Phosplatin Therapeutics, which is paying $600,000 for further experiments leading, all hope, to eventual commercialization.

While Bose says the new compounds may have applications for other forms of cancer, his team has focused on ovarian cancer because later stages of that disease are so difficult to treat with current drugs.

Source: Rathindra Bose, Ohio University
Writer: Gene Monteith

NanoLogix' new breakthroughs raise Hubbard company's public profile

With a roster of patents ranging from medical diagnostics, stem-cell research and applied microbiology, NanoLogix has kept a low profile for much of its existence. Its new work, with ramifications for fields as far-reaching as homeland security to food safety, is about to change that for the Hubbard-based tech firm.

Begun more than 20 years ago as Infectech, the company for years focused on research and other endeavors, including alternative energy. But when CEO Bret Barhnizer came on board in 2007, he quickly saw the commercial potential for the company's work in diagnostic technology.

"We had years of work behind the scenes, developing pieces of the puzzle, but hadn't put all the pieces together," he says. "We recognized early on that the company wasn't monetizing its patents, not taking advantage of its expertise."

Re-christened NanoLogix in 2005, the company quickly refocused on rapid detection testing. Using membranes treated through new filtering and staining processes, its Ultra-Fast testing kits are designed to detect the presence of harmful microorganisms, looking for antibody-antigen reactions, in a fraction of the time as traditional petri dish tests.

In the case of anthrax, Nanologix's test delivered results in 2-6 hours, as opposed to the old standard of 24 hours. Its Y. pestis test — for bubonic plague — delivered in 24 hours, rather than 48 hours, the previous gold standard.

"We would go to exhibitions, and the scientists were enthralled by our technology," Barnhizer says.

While the kits continue third-party testing as a prelude to gaining FDA approval for use in other than scientific experiments, NanoLogix has already started reaping the rewards. Last year, it signed a multi-year contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop rapid testing for bacterial threats to drinking water.

The company has also built a 2,800-square foot manufacturing facility in Hubbard to will localize work being done elsewhere, from Cincinnati to Houston.

Source: Bret T. Barnhizer, NanoLogix
Writer: Dave Malaska

Devicor strives to be ‘big little corporation’ in medical devices

Devicor Medical Products CEO Tom Daulton says his company is striving to be a "big little corporation."

Two years since it's inception, it's been just that -- though it shelled out a quarter billion dollars to buy a well-known product line and spun it into its own company, Devicor hasn't garnered much media attention.

The medical products company earned a spattering of headlines last summer when it purchased the Mammotome breast biopsy product line from Johnson & Johnson for $250 million, then set up its headquarters in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville. Already, it's committed to $60 million in research and development spending as the new company expands beyond the current Mammotome product line.

With aid from an Ohio Department of Development grant and state job creation tax credits, it also plans a $250-million expansion, including the construction of an engineering center, product engineering lab and repair center at its Sharonville site, along with an additional 150 high-tech jobs to staff them.

"I think people saw this guy coming in, saying he was going to buy and build a new medical tech company, with maybe 1,000 employees globally, promising a half-billion dollars in revenue... it probably sounded too good to be true," says Daulton. "People are getting excited, finally."

Daulton founded Devicor as a holding company in 2008. With more than 35 years of experience leading other medical companies, he envisioned building his firm through acquisitions and tapping into unused product lines. Devicor immediately set its sights on Mammotome and finalized its purchase in July. Since then, the company been working on regulatory approval in each of the 50 countries where Mammotome has a presence. It's also stepped up development its product line, with major launches planned this year and next.

Then, Daulton says, the company will "catch its breath and look to see what's next."

Source: Tom Daulton, Devicor
Writer: Dave Malaska

Case Western licenses breakthrough cancer tech to genetics firm

SOURCE: Fresh Water Cleveland

In a laboratory at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, Zhenghe John Wang and a team of researchers developed a panel of new human isogenic cell models, which look much like mutated cancer cells. Through these cell models, researchers can get a handle on how cancer takes shape in the human body.

"We actually created a technology where we can add tags into cancer cells so we can track them," says Wang, assistant professor of genetics at Case's School of Medicine. Not only can this technology help researchers to better understand how cancer cells evolve, it can also provide assistance with cancer treatment programs, Wang says.

Now this process has an even greater chance of affecting cancer treatments, as medical research company Horizon Discovery has obtained exclusive rights to the panel of new human isogenic cell models. This means that the British medical research company will be able to add this technology to its existing models, which are used to predict patient response to current and future drug treatments.

Horizon Discovery has licensed the new cell models for ten years and will pay Case an initial fee, with rights to royalties from future product sales.

"We really wanted to work with someone interested in this technology," Wang says, adding that the agreement with Horizon Discovery will allow for research on a grander scale. Meanwhile, Wang and his team will continue to advance use of human isogenic cell models at Case. "Hopefully, we can make a big impact on cancer research," he says.

Source: Case Western Reserve University
Writer: Diane DiPiero

RSB Spine dancing with the stars on back of strong sales, new investment, popular products

Within the past month, RSB Spine LLC of Cleveland has announced a 229-percent quarterly sales jump over the same period of 2009, gotten news of $1.5 million of new investment in the company and even showed up in the unlikeliest of places -- ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

For the company, formed in 2001 by Cleveland-based John Redmond and a friend, California spinal surgeon Dr. Robert S. Bray, these are heady days.

Its latest product line, InterPlate, was launched in 2006 after gaining FDA approval. The InterPlate line, with four separate products to date, has quickly gained advantage over competing lines.

"It's a crowded market out there," says Redmond, the firm's CEO. "The advantage that InterPlate offers over the rest of field is that it's really an evolutionary product, which is why you're seeing the growth. The main idea is that it's modular, which means that it allows surgeons a lot of different choices in the materials used in the implant and choices in how they implant the device."

Surgeons use the implants to fuse vertebrae in the lumbar and cervical areas of the spine. Made of titanium and special graft material, it also offers quicker fusion rates, meaning the patient will heal faster.

InterPlate's popularity with spinal surgeons led to a 2009 partnership with Massachusetts-based Paradigm BioDevices, which became the exclusive distributor of the InterPlate line and has boosted sales at such an incredible rate, Redmond says.

Publicity hasn't hurt, either. The latest -- InterPlate's supporting role on ABC's hit dance contest -- came because of eventual winner Jennifer Grey's relationship with Bray. Bray has performed more than 7,500 spinal surgeries over his years in practice – and one of his patients was Grey, who underwent spinal fusion surgery just months before the show started.

"On two or three occasions, they showed an x-ray of the spinal fusion she had done in her neck," says Redmond, "and there was our implant. It was a pretty good advertisement."

Source: John Redmond, RSB Spine
Writer: Dave Malaska

NanoDetection makes move from Tennessee to Cincinnati

A medical device startup is moving from Tennessee to Cincinnati. Along the way, it's getting up to $2 million in venture capital and a new, locally based CEO.

NanoDetection Technology, relocating from Oak Ridge, is about two years from bringing its first product to market. Its patented Biosensor Detection System finds genes, antibodies or pathogens within a biological or environmental sample. It's designed to be used in emergency rooms, doctor's offices or by food safety or law enforcement organizations. The system works quickly; it takes just minutes instead of days to detect infections or bio threats, making it a potential game changer.

The company is currently looking for lab space in Cincinnati. CincyTech, the city's nonprofit venture capital investor, was instrumental in recruiting NanoDetection. This is the first company CincyTech has attracted from outside the state, and the nonprofit is participating in what's expected to be a $2-million venture capital round.

In the first round of financing, CincyTech has pledged $250,000, Southern Ohio Creates Companies is investing $100,000, and an unnamed private investor is putting in a sizeable stake. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded NanoDetection a $175,000 grant to research food-safety applications.

Joel Ivers, an experienced Cincinnati area executive, will come on as the NanoDetection's new CEO. Ivers has worked in biomedical fields in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for more than 30 years, most recently as president of Union Springs Pharmaceuticals in Northern Kentucky.

"The funds raised now will allow the company to complete clinical trials and obtain regulatory approval to launch the system in the health-care market in early 2013," Ivers says.

Source: CincyTech
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

Nerve stimulator takes off for Cleveland's Checkpoint Surgical

As millions of Americans opt for joint replacement surgeries each year, new composite materials and new surgical practices are contributing to more successful outcomes than ever. Still, one complication -- nerve damage -- remains a chief concern for surgeons.

Now, a Cleveland-based medical company has introduced a tool to help doctors choose what tissue to cut during surgery, and more importantly, what not to cut.

The Checkpoint Stimulator/Locator, developed by orthopedic surgeons and biomedical engineers from medical technology incubator company NDI Medical, is a small, hand-held device that allows doctors to electrically stimulate muscles and nerves during the operation, mapping their location and health. Designed to be used with one hand, the single-use device has a small probe at its front that allows the surgeon to highly target specific nerves, or test nerves and muscle tissue at varying depths through regional stimulation.

The result is more complete neurological picture for doctors, and fewer complications for patients.

The stimulator is the flagship product of Checkpoint Surgical, spun out from NDI Medical in August 2009 to market the new device. Checkpoint Surgical was launched with a $1.1-million investment from Cleveland-based venture development organization JumpStart and has since picked up additional investments as the stimulator's potential has become clear. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use last fall, and the company embarked on a pilot launch through select hospitals throughout the country.

"Satisfaction with the Checkpoint Stimulator has been almost 100 percent, which is uncommon for a new product," says Checkpoint Surgical President and CEO Len Cosentino. "Of the 40 surgeons that have used it so far, the overwhelming majority of them have been very happy with the device."

Several of the hospitals involved in the pilot launch have already stepped up with orders for more of stimulators, he adds.

Source: Len Cosentino, Checkpoint Surgical
Writer: Dave Malaska

Venture capital helping Endotronix develop system for wireless transmission of vital health data

Wireless technology already helps us with everyday tasks like changing TV channels, making phone calls and surfing the web. Before long, it will help people stay alive, too.

Endotronix Inc. is developing a system that enables doctors to monitor a patient's status remotely and therefore, be able to intervene quicker when life-saving action must be taken due to conditions such as hypertension, abdominal aortic aneurysms and congestive heart failure.

The system uses miniaturized wireless and implantable pressure sensors licensed from Cleveland's NASA Glenn Research Center in 2008.

The pressure sensors implanted in the patient's body collect valuable data that is sent to a hand-held or wearable device. That device wirelessly transmits the data to the doctor.

The company, which has facilities in Cleveland and Peoria, Ill., got $250,000 from JumpStart Ventures of Cleveland last month.

"We're excited about it," says Michael Lang, of JumpStart, citing the technology's ability to save time and money and extend life.

Endotronix also is a portfolio company of The Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, a project of the Lorain County Commissioners, Lorain County Community College, and the Ohio Department of Development; and reportedly has gotten $400,000 from a group in Illinois, too.

Source: Michael Lang, JumpStart
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs
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