Food Safety - Not Bad Bugs

FedInvent App Newsletter September 16, 2021

Good Afternoon from FedInvent,

We’re publishing on Saturday this week.  The unexpected arrival of family, not seen very much in the time of the pandemic, resulted in a change of schedule.  That was followed by a lot of rabbit hole reading of this week’s excellent collection of patent applications.  We can only write about a few here.  But there are many really compelling inventions queuing up to be examined at USPTO.  We feel like our taxpayer dollars were well spent.

The week's taxpayer-funded patent application exhibited an unusual phenomenon. There were more patents on Tuesday than published patent applications on Thursday. One hundred fifty-five published patent applications (155) that benefitted from federal funding. This week there were more patents than patent applications, an unusual occurrence.

Here are the links to the September 16, 2021, FedInvent Patent Application Report. You can go straight to the details page here.

Take Me To The FedInvent Report

This Week’s Highlights

The invention behemoth, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), holds the number one position in patent and patent application count every week. This week there were 64 patents on Tuesday and 84 applications on Thursday. Since we've been doing this newsletter, there has only been one day where the Department of Defense (DOD) temporarily landed in the number one slot. But there is another constellation of agencies that contribute to enhancing the health and well-being of all Americans. Today we'll highlight some of the inventions that come from their research and development work at US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Bad Bugs In Your Food — Read These Patents

Cooking at home made a comeback during the COVID-19 pandemic. During early COVID, there was lots of sourdough bread being baked. Bakers yeast was up there with toilet paper as a scarce commodity. For a while, grocery shopping became a mission. People had to buy food for a week or two because no one wanted to wait outside for an hour because the 25% occupancy level inside the store was met. Shopping required a flexible shopping list, gloves, a mask, a face shield, hand sanitizer, and cart wipe downs.  

Another COVID-19 phenomenon was cleaning your groceries. People were concerned that food could be carrying the coronavirus. A new level of vigilance in handling produce and meat products took over. People were wiping down their cans, bottles, bananas, and oranges. People were leaving the boxes with their nonperishable water, canned goods, and dry pasta untouched to make sure any SARS-CoV-2 germs were dead before opening up the ziti box. Hand washing and counter wipe downs were the order of the day. People were concerned about food-borne illness.  

Science revealed COVID wasn't a food-borne illness. COVID-19 was not lurking on your produce or your poultry. Food-borne illness is still a significant health and wellness issue. Poultry and produce are the culprits in some of the most common food-borne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention estimate that 48 million people in the United States get sick from a food-borne illness each year. Of those, 128,000 require hospitalization and 3,000 die. The researchers at US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working on ways to significantly reduce the number of cases that the CDC has to count by improving food safety before people get sick.

Thursday, the Patent Office published three applications with new approaches to dealing with food-borne illness. USDA funded the research work of nine researchers focused on food safety and reducing the impact of food-borne illness. The applications came from North Carolina State University, University of Florida, and the USDA Produce Safety and Microbiology Research Unit at the Agricultural Research Service. 

Salmonella Is a Bad Bug

The two applications from the HERD — higher education R&D organizations — are for new synthetic biology approaches for dealing with Salmonella. Salmonella causes public health problems when the bacteria are transferred to humans. This usually is the result of poor handling of raw chicken or consumption of undercooked chicken. Salmonella is a significant public health problem increasing with the growing consumption of poultry — chicken, turkey, duck, geese. (Even culinary frog legs have caused outbreaks of salmonellosis.) There are approximately 1.03 million cases of non-typhoidal Salmonella each year in the US, costing an economic loss of approximately $3.31 billion due to premature mortality, disability, and medical and productivity costs, with an annual loss of 16,782 quality-adjusted life years. Salmonella has a broad host range and adapts to survive in a wide range of different environments, even up to 16 months in dry feed stored at 25 degrees Celsius. 

Current methods of reducing Salmonella infection in farm animals are to prevent infection of the animals through good sanitation and hygiene practices. Efforts are made by farms and veterinarians to identify and isolate infected animals to prevent disease throughout a herd or flock.

NC State's application is for a new compound and vaccine for treating Salmonella (20210283234). The NC State inventors describe compositions containing an engineered strain of S. Typhimurium strain(s) that can be formulated as vaccines. The vaccines provided can be administered to a chicken, other avian species, other domestic farm animal species, or human subjects (including but not limited to farmworkers and the public). 

University of Florida's application is focused on using these much-improved vector systems to decrease the use of antibiotics during poultry husbandry and reduce the selective pressure for drug-resistant bacterial species that can also be transmitted through the food chain to humans.

The inventors, Dr. Roy Curtiss and Soo-Young Wanda filed patent application 20210283235, "Food Safety Vaccine to Control Salmonella Enteric and Reduce Campylobacter in Poultry." The recombinant bacteria presented here can be safely used to effectively deliver antigenic compounds to a subject (e.g., poultry) to mount potent immunogenic responses against pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. These strains deliver multiple conserved protective Salmonella surface/secreted antigens and Campylobacter N-glycan modified surface/secreted antigens to induce protective immunity. 

Campylobacter is a Bad Bug Too

Campylobacter jejuni is estimated to be the third leading bacterial cause of food-borne illness in the US.

Listeria Is A Very Bad Bug

The inventors from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) took on a more deadly food-borne illness. — Listeria. Although the number of people infected by food-borne Listeria is comparatively small, this bacterium is one of the leading causes of death from food-borne illness. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. It is an illness that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, newborns, immunocompromised people, and people with cancer. The annual economic impact of listeriosis in the United States alone is estimated at over US$2.8 billion.

ARS's application, 20210285023, "Listeria Detection", is a way to test for the presence of listeria that is more accurate, more sensitive, and faster than existing methods. It also seeks to solve another issue for the food industry. Current listeria testing protocols result in food companies holding their product in storage for three days or more while they await the results of pathogen tests. Rapid testing will significantly reduce the time required to react to an order, the quantity and variety of inventory needed to be carried, and the amount of waste due to spoilage.

We skipped all the gory details on the gastrointestinal catastrophe that ensues when you catch one of these illnesses. If you want to understand more about food-borne illness, you can read the FDA's Bad Bug Book. Trigger warning — if you get queasy easily, this isn't the book for you.

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The Best of the Rest

The Department of Veterans Affairs had two new wheelchair patent applications. One from the University of Minnesota was for a wheelchair propulsion assistance invention (20210282986). The second, 20210283952, is for a new sports wheelchair. A team of bioengineers developed this invention at the DVA and the University of Pittsburgh.  

There's another root canal invention. (Yeah!!) This invention presents a way to use hydrogel to repair tooth damage. This one is from Oregon Health & Science University (20210283311).

There is a new gene-editing invention from Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna, the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (20210284981). Walter Isaacson's book about Dr. Doudna and the invention of CRISPR, The Code Breaker, is next up on the reading list. This application is the result of work funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. There is also an application using CRISPR gene editing as a treatment for Sickle Cell disease (20210285015). This one is from Harvard and the Children's Medical Center in Cambridge, MA. The National Institutes of Health funded this work.

The National Geospatial Agency funded work by Applied Research Associates to build a Landmark Configuration Matcher (20210287393). This is a geolocation technique for determining the position, orientation, and focal length of a photo or video image where this data is unavailable. This is a new way to determine the location based on visual information. It was a slow week for the IC.

And finally, a metaverse invention that uses cameras, motion sensors, machine learning, video feeds to create a clinical record of the treatment of wounded personnel at the point-of-injury. The goal is to create a health record of what has happened in the field to help downstream medical personnel deliver better care. Vanderbilt University and the Oregon State University (20210287785) collaborated on this invention. The US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) funded this work.

Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

We only had one scofflaw this week. No Raytheon or HRL Labs appearance this week. The patent application for another green oilseed-based adhesive product looks like it comes from inventors at the USDA US Forest Service (20210284889). 

The Innovation Agenda

The poaching of key researchers is an indicia that technology is maturing and innovators are figuring out how to expand commercialization and in turn, the marketplace. Quantum information systems are one of the top scientific priorities of both the United States and China. Important elements of this technology are making their way out of the lab and into companies that can commercialize the technology. One of those companies is Rigetti Computing. The eponymously named Rigetti Computing is a Berkeley, California-based developer of quantum integrated circuits used for quantum computers. This week the company announced that it hired David Pappas as Senior Principal Scientist. After 25 years at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Pappas joined the company, where he most recently led the Quantum Processing Group.  

Patent Applications By the Numbers

On Thursday, September 19, 2021, the USPTO published 7,374 patent applications. One hundred fifty-five (155) of those applications benefitted from taxpayer funding. The 155 applications include 149 containing government interest statements and 24 where federal government agencies is an assignee or applicant on the patent application. In addition, there are 181 funding references to 14 federal departments.

Patent Application Count By Department

The 155 applications are the work of 567 inventors. The 554 American inventors come from 37 states. The 13 foreign inventors come from ten countries.

One hundred two of these applications had at least one college, university, or university-affiliated research institutes.  

On the Health Complex

On Thursday, a slow day for taxpayer-funded published patent applications, FedInvent found 84 applications that had funding from HHS.

The R&D spending by the US government is divided between defense spending and spending by civilian agencies. Civilian agency spending is further divided between the Health Complex and the rest of the federal civilian agencies. The Health Complex covers the R&D spending by the Department of Human Services — HHS directly, the National Institutes of Health and its 27 institutes and centers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other agencies within HHS including Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). BARDA protects Americans from the advanced development of medical countermeasures to protect Americans and respond to 21st-century health security threats. According to the National Science Foundation's annual Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey, HHS spends $24.4 billion funding research at universities, colleges, and university-affiliated research institutes.  

Except for one week this year, HHS has exponentially more patents and patent applications than any other department. On Thursday, a slow day for taxpayer-funded published patent applications, FedInvent found 84 applications that had funding from HHS.

Before We Go

We added a few new resources to go with your FedInvent subscription. 

The first is a Read This Patent page. This page has is a sample of some of the patents featured in the Read This Patent section of the newsletters.

The List of Lists page has a list of the Types of Lithium Batteries. It makes it a little easier to understand all this new and emerging battery technology and where it fits in. We also added a list of all of the members of the Intelligence Community. Both are on the List of Lists page.

There's also a FedInvent Archive page with all of the patent and application reports and links to the FedInvent newsletters.  

Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at

Thanks for reading FedInvent. We'll be back next week with the latest invention from the federal innovation ecosphere. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

The FedInvent Team

About FedInvent

FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. We follow the taxpayer money and the inventions. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere from Federal R&D.