Technology showcase wows investors with breadth of UM discoveries

School holds second UM Innovation Technology Showcase

Standing by the poster that represented research from their team at the Diabetes Research Institute, Miller School researchers Margarita Nieto, M.D., and Samuel Rosero, M.D., proudly repeated the same information to potential investors and visitors at the UM Innovation Technology Showcase.

And for good reason. Led by principal investigator Ricardo Pastori, Ph.D., “Molecular Biology Studies of the Endocrine Pancreas” explores the manipulation of microRNA to improve insulin production – research with enormous potential to help millions of diabetics.

“This research could have such high impact in the lives of so many people in our society,” said Nieto, a post-doctoral associate. “Through UM Innovation we are meeting directly with people who understand the importance of this level of research and are looking for ways they can take the best research to the marketplace.”

The DRI research was among nearly 100 posters on display November 18 and 19 at the second annual Technology Showcase at the Four Seasons Miami. The brainchild of Bart Chernow, M.D., MACP, vice provost of technology advancement and professor of medicine, the showcase is designed to match researchers with investors, accelerating the process of moving groundbreaking discoveries from University labs to the marketplace. University-wide, the technologies range from aerodynamics and power generation to allergies and immunology and have more than doubled since Chernow’s arrival in 2007.

“I am thrilled with the quality of the science and the enthusiasm of the investor community,” Dr. Chernow said.

Day One of this year’s event kicked off with a welcome reception and the first viewing of the posters. Among the attendees was Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., who spoke with researchers about their progress and the remarkable potential their discoveries hold.

The second day featured oral presentations by a number of the University’s and the Miller School’s most prolific inventors as well as a keynote address by Bert Sakmann, M.D., Ph.D., the 1991 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and the new scientific director of the Max Planck Florida Institute. Sakmann’s luncheon talk centered on “3D imaging of cortical circuits.”

This year’s wide assortment of posters reflected the ingenuity and collaboration that UM Innovation has championed across the University. UM’s own Nobel laureate, Andrew Schally, Ph.D., M.D.h.c., D.Sc.h.c., presented “Novel Antagonistic Analogs of GH-RH for Cancer Treatment.” Schally, the Distinguished Leonard Miller Professor of Pathology who was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology in 1977 for his work in endocrinology, spoke about the extraordinary work on inhibitors of key peptides that reduce cancers in a multitude of models.

The breadth of research was also reflected in “U-Coach: New Generation e-Sports Simulation,” an online game featuring complex sports simulation based on real data on real sports teams. In the version of the game available in Germany, players are expected to make use of their knowledge of a real-life team, said Ubbo Visser, Ph.D., visiting associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Visser and his student collaborators said there seemed to be high interest from investors with whom they discussed the potential for U.S. editions based on football and baseball.

Mostly, however, the posters and oral presentations centered on research that could make life better for chronically ill patients or improve the human environment. Among the presentations: Eduardo de Marchena, M.D., “A Heart Rate Acquisition Analysis and Database Device;” Glen Barber, Ph.D., “Innate Immunity and the Treatment of Viral and Malignant Disease;” Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D., “Towards the Development of Novel Kidney Protective Drugs;” GeCheng Zha, Ph.D., “Toward Zero Sonic-Boom and High Efficiency Supersonic Flight: A Novel Concept of Supersonic Bi-Directional Flying Wing;” Joshua Hare, M.D., “Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Ischemic Heart Disease;” Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., “Antibody-Fusion Proteins for Solid Tumor Therapy,’‘ and many others.

Steven T. Downey, president and CEO of ApoImmune, Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based biotechnology company developing novel immunotherapies, said he was impressed by the high quality of research on display and, because the technology showcase is University-based, the potential for investor discussions at such an early stage of development.

“The early time allows for a better matching of interests,” Downey said, adding that UM Innovation was the first technology development and investment event he attended that is sponsored by an academic institution, rather than the technology industry.

According to Reiser, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, the weight of a prominent academic institution, coupled with industry and investment community buy-in, is a unique mix that makes UM Innovation attractive.

“We’re aligning knowledge and resources under one roof and patients are the potential beneficiaries,” Reiser said. “The Innovation Showcase is a great event where all these important segments come together.”

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