The University of Texas: Biomedical Innovation Focus

By Steve Brachmann
September 17, 2013

The University of Texas System, headquartered in the state capital of Austin, is a network of nine academic campuses and six health institutions catering to more than 200,000 students. The UT System is currently looking to expand upon its existing medical facilities, having recently announced that a merger between two system campuses, the University of Texas at Brownville and the University of Texas-Pan American, and will break ground on construction of a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.

Member institutions of the University of Texas System are regularly involved with the development of technological inventions, especially those related to biomedical industries. Today at IPWatchdog, we’re taking some time to study the UT System’s recent patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some of these developments have received federal funding, giving the U.S. government some rights, but each of the following are solely assigned to the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System.

Many of the University of Texas’s medical developments involve the use of synthetic materials to aid in treating patients. One patent application would protect a scaffold for tissue engineering that biodegrades and delivers treatment over time. Another application describes a system of using nanoparticles to stimulate hyperthermia to treat tumors. A third application discusses an improved bioadhesive for sealing tissues together. Other patent application filings profiled below pertain to improved systems of diagnosing and treating diseases that usually cause a poor prognosis in patients. One patent application deals with a system of analyzing gene expressions to determine a patient’s susceptibility to renal cell carcinoma. A final application we feature provides for a more effective course of treatment for most gastrointestinal tract infections.

 

Methods for Detecting, Diagnosing and Treating Human Renal Cell Carcinoma
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130217790

Renal cell carcinoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in a person’s kidneys. It’s rare, with only 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year, but nearly 13,000 people die of the disease annually. Early diagnosis can lead to successful treatment, but as the cancer progresses, it becomes much more difficult to cure. This is due in large part to a lack of understanding of the molecular events of the disease, such as gene expressions related to renal cell carcinoma.

This patent application, filed by the University of Texas system with the USPTO, uses genomic analysis to determine patients who are more at-risk for developing renal cell carcinoma. Tissue samples can be obtained from patients and analyzed to determine if gene expressions in the mRNA or elsewhere indicate a risk for developing a malignant carcinoma. Additionally, subsets of genes could be targeted for more effective treatment and prevention of renal cell carcinoma.

Claim 22 (Claims 1 through 21) of this patent application would give the University of Texas the right to protect:

“A method of detecting a renal cell cancer comprising the steps of: obtaining one or more biological samples comprising renal tissue or renal cells from an individual; determining a gene expression level of GATA3 in the sample; and performing statistical analysis on the expression level of the GATA3 gene as compared to that expressed in normal biological samples comprising renal tissue or renal cells, wherein statistically down-regulated gene expression levels would indicate said individual has papillary or clear cell renal cell cancer.”

 

Biodegradable Scaffolds
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130184835

Tissue engineering to replace or restructure tissue on a patient typically incorporates the use of scaffolds, or structures capable of forming the foundation for three-dimensional tissue formation. These scaffold structures are usually composed of synthetic materials that aren’t completely compatible with all bodily tissues. Other constraints posed by synthetic scaffolds include lack of mechanical functioning and the inability to biodegrade over time.

This patent application discusses a new form of tissue engineering scaffold that uses a polymer matrix which is biodegradable. A biodegradable reinforcing particle improves the scaffold’s structural integrity, as well as porous porogen particles capable of delivering active agents to the patient as medication. This method of biodegradable scaffolding could be applied to wound healing, treatment for bone defects or microbial infection therapy.

As Claim 1 explains, the University of Texas has developed:

“A composition comprising: a biodegradable polymer matrix; and at least one biodegradable reinforcing particle dispersed in the matrix, wherein the at least one biodegradable reinforcing particle is selected from the group consisting of porous oxide particles and porous semiconductor particles.”

 

Treatments of Disease or Disorders Using Nanoparticles for Focused Hyperthermia to Increase Therapy Efficacy
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130197295

The treatment of tumors often utilizes multiple approaches to reducing tumor size and malignancy. Radiation therapy is one such procedure used to this effect. However, tumor cell hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen within the tissue, often increases the resistance of cancer cells to radiation therapy. Inducing a state of hyperthermia, which greatly increases the temperature of the affected tissue, can improve radiation therapy, but methods of localizing hyperthermia to affected tissues are currently poor.


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The University of Texas is attempting to patent a method of localizing the effects of hyperthermia using nanoparticles that are systemically introduced to a patient’s tissue. The nanoparticles are allowed to collect in the affected tissue over time. An external source applies energy to the nanoparticles, which they convert into heat energy to induce localized hyperthermia. This method can also create localized vascular disruption, which can further prevent tumors from metastasizing, without harming unaffected tissues the way current methods of vascular disruption can.

Claim 21 (Claims 1 through 20) of this patent application would provide the University of Texas the rights to:

“A method for the treatment of a tumor residing in a target area of an organism comprising: introducing a plurality of nanoparticles into a circulating blood of an organism; allowing the nanoparticles to preferentially accumulate in the target area; applying an external energy to the target area wherein the nanoparticles are adapted to transduce at least a portion of the external energy into heat energy, wherein the external energy is electromagnetic energy or mechanical energy, wherein the heat energy causes a rise in temperature in the target area; allowing the temperature of the target area to elevate to a localized elevated temperature by way of a transduction of the external energy into heat energy by the nanoparticles such that the localized elevated temperature increases perfusion and/or reduces hypoxia of the tumor; and applying ionizing radiation to the target area at a time during the increased perfusion and/or the reduced hypoxia.”

 

Methods for Treating Infection
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130210852

In certain cases, the use of antibiotics by patients can lead to unintended infection. Broad-spectrum antibiotics can actually encourage the development of certain bacterial infections, such as C. difficile, an infection most commonly associated with symptoms of violent diarrhea that leads to the deaths of 14,000 Americans every year, especially elderly patients. Similar bacterial infections, such as traveler’s diarrhea, result from gastrointestinal tract infections and are very difficult to cure.

This patent application outlines a method of treating and even curing C. difficile and related bacterial infections through the use of rifamycin class antibiotic, preferably rifaximin. This medication has the ability to reduce the body’s violent reaction to gastrointestinal infections and reduce the risk of mortality in those who have already developed these issues. According to the patent application, a normal course of prescription for rifaximin would be a 550 milligram daily dose administered over 14 days.

As Claim 1 discusses, the University of Texas is seeking to patent:

“A method of treating a C. difficle infection (CDI) in a subject, comprising: administering rifaximin to a subject, thereby treating CDI.”

 

Compositions Comprising Bioadhesives and Methods of Making the Same
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130217790

Bioadhesives and tissue sealants have shown tremendous applications for healing wounds and stopping blood loss, even in surgical environments. However, there are many drawbacks to current bioadhesive materials. Many materials provide poor adhesion and strength, leading to bioadhesive damage that reduces its ability to protect a wound. Some materials pose a risk of causing blood-borne infection in a patient. Many bioadhesives do not work in a wet environment, further reducing their protective capabilities.

This patent application, filed with the USPTO by the University of Texas, would protect a new type of bioadhesive that compensates for many of these drawbacks. The bioadhesive is composed of a polymer network that is comprised of a polycarboxylic acid, an alcohol and a substance containing a species of cathecol, an organic compound with pharmaceutical applications. This bioadhesive solution can be imbued with a medication for treatment, improves the connected tissues structural integrity and works in some wet applications.

Claim 1 of this patent application shows that the University of Texas is seeking the right to protect:

“A composition comprising: a polymer or oligomer formed from one or more monomers of Formula (A), one or more monomers of Formula (B) or (B?), and one or more monomers of Formula (C):  wherein R1, R2, and R3 are independently —H, —CH3, or —CH2CH3; R4 is —H, —OH, —OCH3, —OCH2CH3, —CH3, or —CH2CH3; R5 is —H, —CH3, or —CH2CH3; R6, R7, R8, and R9 are independently —H, —CH2(CH2)xNH2, —CH2(CHR10)NH2, or —CH2(CH2)xCOOH; R10 is —COOH or —(CH2)yCOOH; n and m are independently integers ranging from 1 to 20; x is an integer ranging from 0 to 20; and y is an integer ranging from 1 to 20.”

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

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