The University of California public university system proves over and over again that academic research centers can be major contributors to the intellectual property industry. In 2011, the university states that 1,581 new inventions were developed by employees of the educational system, 58 of which led directly to technology startups. Since 1985, the university system has developed its own patent policy regarding inventions developed within university facilities.
This week at IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we decide to leave the private sector and check out the recent patent applications and issued patents assigned to the University of California. This academic research system is involved with the research and development of computer, medical and energy technologies, among others.
As many of the patents and applications we feature below indicate, the University of California is a major developer of medical technologies. A patent issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office protects a system of developing transplantable kidney tissues from embryonic structures. Two other patent applications would protect a method of making synthetic red blood cells and improvements to current methods of detecting arthritis in patients.
Other applications we feature here showcase the University of California’s wide array of innovative focus. One application describes a system of sensing brain activity to inform a user interface on a mobile device. A final application we look at would protect a system of artificial photosynthesis for creating chemical energy from solar energy for electricity generation.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis Using Epigenetics
U.S. Patent Application 20130129668
Rheumatoid arthritis is the name given to a bodily condition of painful inflammation within the joints of a patient, mostly affecting elderly patients. The causes that contribute to the formation of rheumatoid arthritis are numerous, making the condition a difficult one to care for medically. Although the study of a person’s DNA sequence can yield some information about their risks of developing this condition, many of the causes of arthritis cannot be found in the genetic code of a patient.
The University of California has developed a kit that could aid in the diagnosis of either rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis by detecting DNA methylation, a process that alters gene expression and can result in inflammation. The process of DNA methylation is referred to as epigenetic as it’s a process that affects gene expression but relies on biomechanics that do not involve a person’s genetic makeup.
As Claim 1 explains, the University of California is seeking the right to protect:
“A method for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, determining a rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis prognosis, or determining or predicting a response to treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in a subject comprising determining whether at least 2 nucleic acid loci or at least 2 genes in a sample from said subject have methylation states indicative of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, a rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis prognosis, or a response to treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.”
Cell-Phone Based Wireless and Mobile Brain-Machine Interface
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130127708
Electroencephalographic (EEG) technologies read brain activity within individuals, usually through wearable electrodes that can log and process brainwaves. These EEG sensors create a brain-machine interface between human users and computer applications for gaming, sleep medicine and more. Current EEG systems and applications are not highly portable, however, making it difficult to use this technology in a mobile environment.
This University of California patent application would protect a system that obtains an EEG signal from an individual and transmit it wirelessly to a data processor. This could create a mobile system that provided stimulus to a user that was based on direct feedback from brain activity. According to the application’s description, this invention can be configured to execute telephone calls and incorporate Bluetooth connectivity.
Claim 1 of this patent application would give the Regents of the University of California the right to protect:
“A system for implementing a brain-computer interface, the system comprising: a stimulator to provide at least one stimulus to a user to elicit at least one electroencephalogram (EEG) signal from the user; an EEG acquisition unit in communication with the user to receive and record the at least one EEG signal elicited from the user; and a data processing unit in wireless communication with the EEG acquisition unit to receive and process the recorded at least one EEG signal to perform at least one of: sending a feedback signal to the user, and executing an operation on the data processing unit.”
Methods of Tissue Generation and Tissue Engineered Compositions
U.S. Patent No. 8460929
In recent years, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) has become a greater concern in healthcare. It’s estimated that this ailment, which can cause a high rate of mortality approaching 20 percent, affects about 350,000 patients in the United States every year and has grown in incidence by 50 percent in the past 10 years. Renal transplants can improve patient outcomes, but transplants are typically in short supply.
The USPTO has issued a patent to the University of California that protects a method of engineering replacement kidney tissues from embryonic tissues. Specifically, the Wolffian duct, which develops into kidney tissues as an embryo grows, can be induced to become kidney tissues in an in vitro environment. This method could be used to create ureteric bud or Wolffian duct bud tissue for adult patients.
As Claim 1 explains, the University of California has been awarded the right to protect:
“A method of generating a tubular tissue structure, comprising: (a) contacting a Wolffian duct (WD) cell with GDNF and FGF1 to stimulate growth and proliferation; (b) contacting the cells with PTN and GDNF to promote formation of tubular tissue branches and/or globular morphology to generate a ureteric bud; (c) combining the ureteric bud tissue with metanephric mesenchyme in a biocompatible matrix; and (d) culturing the combination to form a tubular tissue or kidney tissue in vitro.”
Red Blood Cell-Mimetic Particles and Methods for Making Use Thereof
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130115169
Biomaterials constructed of nanoparticles and liposomes can mimic other internal human structures even though they’re made from synthetic materials. These biomaterials can enhance drug delivery, increase the targeted effectiveness of medication and reduce side effects. However, although it may be advantageous to create biomaterials to replicate certain cell processes, it has proven difficult in the past to create an effective synthetic substitute for materials such as red blood cells.
This patent application, filed by the University of California, would protect a method of creating a particle that is both shaped like and acts similar to red blood cells naturally occurring in the human body. The template particle would have a concave discoid shape and have a bioactive agent implanted into a side of the particle. This particle would aid circulatory processes and contribute to oxygen replenishment in cells throughout the body. Although this application is solely assigned to the Regents of the University of California, the U.S. government does retain some rights through the awarding of two National Institutes of Health grants for this project.
Claim 1 of this patent application would provide legal protections for:
“A method of making a red blood cell-mimetic particle comprising: providing a template particle comprising a polymer; disposing at least one bioactive agent on a surface of said template particle to form a stable bioactive layer; and substantially removing said template particle with a treatment agent so that said stable bioactive layer forms a particle having a substantially similar shape to a predetermined shape of a natural red blood cell.”
Nanowire Mesh Solar Fuels Generator
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130105305
Solar energy generation has been a major focus in alternative fuels because of the ever-growing amount of radiant energy that can be collected from the sun’s rays and converted into electricity. In nature, photosynthesis is a process by which plants can convert radiant energy into chemical energy and store it for later use. Artificial means of photosynthesis can use solar energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and methanol, a fuel source.
This patent application has been filed by the University of California to protect a system of creating chemical fuels from solar energy by utilizing nanowire mesh. This mesh contains photoanodes that can complete the process of water oxidation. The nanowire used to create the mesh has an increased surface area that provides more efficient water oxidation. Because of a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy, the government would retain some rights on a patent issued in response to this application.
Claim 1 of this University of California patent application would protect:
“An apparatus comprising: a photoanode configured to perform water oxidation, the photoanode including a high surface area network of photoanode nanowires; and a photocathode configured to perform water reduction or carbon dioxide reduction, the photocathode being disposed on a surface of and being in electrical contact with the photoanode, the photocathode including a high surface area network of photocathode nanowires.”