Organ-On-A-Chip

Taxpayer Funded Patent Applications for October 21, 2021

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On Thursday, October 21, 2021, USPTO published 8,271 pre-grant patent applications. Two hundred fifty (250) of those applications benefitted from taxpayer funding.  

The FedInvent Application Report is available here.

If you want to start by exploring patent applications by Department, start here.

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Organ-on-a-Chip — Read This Patent

Thursday's patent applications included publication number 20210322976, "Universal Approach for Decoupling Sensitivity and Dynamic Range of a Sensor," The invention is the work of inventors from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. It covers some of the institute's Organ-on-a-Chip work. This invention is part of a microphysiological system. The "chip" contains chambers where human cells (like brain cells, the kidney, lung, brain intestine, etc.) can be grown. Then the chip can be manipulated to simulate breathing, blood flow through an organ, or other mechanical forces that might happen in a human body. 

Microphysiological systems (MPS) are in vitro platforms organs-on-a-chips, that mimic organ or tissue function's biochemical, electrical, and mechanical properties. DARPA launched the Microphysiological Systems (MPS) program in 2012 with $37 million in funding. DARPA partnered with NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). When the program began, NCATS had launched its MPS-like program — the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program. The Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program aims to develop bioengineered devices to improve the process of predicting whether drugs will be safe or toxic in humans. 

DARPA made significant investments to advance the in vitro biomedical testing concept and related platform engineering by funding multidisciplinary teams from MIT and the Wyss Institute. These teams worked together to develop two unique platforms, each demonstrating a diversity of interconnected human tissue systems. 

The base organ-on-chip module comprises a clear, flexible polymer — about the size of a computer memory stick — that contains hollow microfluidic channels lined with living human cells. Because the microdevices are translucent, they provide windows into the inner workings of human organs without having to invade a living body. 

The DARPA MPS program ended in 2019. The program exceeded expectations. In addition to the portfolio of organ-on-a-chip technologies, the original and now realized challenge to develop new preclinical predictive tools for drug development has led to consequential explorations into the efficacy and mechanisms of action of drug candidates.

Other federal organizations have embraced the MPS approach to address their mission. Here is how these organizations are using organ-on-a-chip microfluidic technology.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program is developing organ-specific culture models for predictive toxicology. 

  • The NIH has launched them into space to study the effects of spaceflight and has been developing tissue chip testing and validation programs since 2010.

  • The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Chemical Biological Center turns to chips to support chemical and biological defense analysis.

  • The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition use MPS platforms to assess drugs and other critical agents and compounds. 

  • A research effort by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Joint Science and Technology Office, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and Wake Forest University (WFU) has resulted in an award-winning miniature technology in the eX-vivo Capability for Evaluation and Licensure (XCEL) program, the Pulmonary Lung Model (PuLMo). The model offers faster and less expensive processes for drug delivery to our warfighters facing chemical and biological threats.

Meeting the Bayh-Dole Objective

The goal of Bayh-Dole is to commercialize inventions funded by American Taxpayers. Wyss Institute spun out a startup company, Emulate Inc. Emulate, founded in 2013 and raised about $225 million in funding. Emulate counts 21 major drug companies, including Roche, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, and Gilead Sciences, as customers. 

Emulate entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the FDA. A CRADA agreement allows a non-federal collaborator to provide funding and equipment for a research project conducted at an FDA laboratory. The FDA provides no funding but does allow for the collaborator to license intellectual property developed during such projects. The Emulate Lung Chips were used for studies on COVID-19.

For patent data analysts, the Food and Drug Administration funded the grant for this work at Wyss Institute. DARPA ran the program. The patent application appears on the list for both DOD and HHS.

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The Bigger Health Complex

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sponsored, wholly or in part, 120 patent applications this week. Medical science R&D leading to patent filings extend beyond HHS as we observe the effects of a national mobilization of labs and research facilities in the wake of the federal government's COVID response.

Of 52 patent applications funded through the Department of Defense (DOD), 40% were linked to medicine, biochemistry, or bioinformatics. The same for the National Science Foundation (NSF), where 18 of 45 applications were biological science focused. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), National Institute of Standards and Technology and labs, and Federally Funded R&D Centers (FFRDCs) from the Department of Energy (DOE) also added to total applications in medical science and technology sectors this week.

A fine example of re-directed practical medical research is application 20210322609, "Methods and devices for sterilizing medical equipment" from the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) facility at the Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC). They used engineering expertise usually directed towards constructing non-nuclear components for national defense nuclear stockpiles to develop "devices and methods for sterilizing medical equipment via controlled hydrogen peroxide vapor delivery." Quite a pivot from swords to combat viruses. 


COVID Related Applications

COVID-related inventions continue to appear. Rush University's application 20210324004, "Peptides for the Treatment of COVID-19" This In addition to the method for sterilizing medical equipment and face marks above, an application for a new configurable face mask (20210322796) was published on Thursday. 

We're just happy we can get KN95 masks in a color other than white.


AgTech — Weeds and Bugs

Thursday's apps included two dealing with weed control. First, inventors at Purdue invented a treatment for bacterial and fungal infections in plants using a cellulose synthase inhibitor (20210322394). The National Science Foundation Division of Molecular & Cellular Biosciences funded their work.

Rutgers University and the US Geological Survey share inventorship on 20210321623, "Endophytic microbes for Growth Promotion of Crop Plants and suppression Aggressive Invasive Plant Species." The invention gives food plants a competitive advantage over aggressive invasive weed species which grow in the same habitat. The application identifies 125 different food, oilseed, and cotton plants that would benefit from its spray-on compound. National Institute of Food and Agriculture at USDA and the US Geological Survey provided funding for the inventors' work.

Inventors from the USDA and the University of Georgia invented an entomopathogenic fungus to reduce or kill the population of agricultural, vegetable, or horticultural crop insect pests. An entomopathogenic fungus acts as a parasite of insects and kills or seriously disables them.


The Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

This week we have a big load of Bayh-Dole scofflaws, entities that don't provide the statutorily required funding data in their government interest statements. The applicants still have time to update their government interest statements if their applications are granted, but we haven't seen a lot of people coming clean. Here are the six scofflaw patent applications this week.

Johns Hopkins' application 20210321866, "Shortwave Infrared Imaging System," had the usual nebulous funding statement about the government. Johns Hopkins is the number one recipient of federal Research and Development, according to the NSF's most recent report. That means that they know what needs to go into a government interest statement. The market for Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) technology is for machine vision applications, increasing penetration of SWIR cameras for the military and defense market. The JHU application mentions its use in medical applications. If it were a medical application alone, there would be no need to hide who funded the work. The FedInvent prognosticators assume the Air Force funded this work.   

This week US Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (AFRL) awarded CACI a 15-month, $4.9 million contract to support its program to advance high-power multi-spectral laser technology. This work will support improved electro-optical sensors for a variety of military missions. Under the contract, CACI scientists and engineers will develop a high-power laser prototype that emits light over a very broad range of wavelengths in the optical spectrum, spanning a range that goes from the UV spectrum through the visible spectrum into the Short-Wavelength Infrared (SWIR). More competition on the SWIR front.  Looks like JHU Applied Physics Lab may have a little competition.

Raytheon and Northrup Grumman, the perennial scofflaws, have two entries each this week. Raytheon's two are 20210323128, "Tool System for Installation/Removal of Interference Fit Components." and 20210324749. "Seal Element for Sealing a Joint Between a Rotor Blade and a Rotor Disk." Applications 20210324888, "Reusable Release Mechanism," and 20210327624, "Superconducting Current Control System," are Northrup Grumman's entries on Thursday's scofflaw list. The latter is a quantum computing, superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) invention from an inventor in Maryland. Let's go with DOD and NSA on this one.

The final application is 20210325270, "Monolithically Integrated Microscale Pressure Sensor On an Optical Fiber Tip." The application notes that the inventors were employees of the federal government. The inventors on this application are Dr. Jeremiah Williams, Associate Professor of Physics at Wittenberg University, and Dr. Hengky Chandrahalim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the US Air Force Institute of Technology. At the moment, the application has no assignee. We expect that if the patent is granted, it will be assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force.

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Patent Applications By The Numbers

On Thursday, October 21, 2021, USPTO published 8,271 pre-grant patent applications.  Two hundred fifty-one (250) benefitted from taxpayer funding.  Here are the numbers for these taxpayer-funded applications:

  • 235 patent applications have Government Interest Statements

  • 51 have an applicant or an assignee that was a government agency

  • The 290 patents have department-level funding citations.

  • These applications were the work of 891 inventors

  • The 876 American inventors came from 41 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Fifteen foreign inventors come from eight countries.

  • There are 165 patent applications (66%) where at least one assignee is a college or university, the HERD.

  • There are four patent applications that have Y CPC classifications indicating that USPTO believes the invention may be useful in helping to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Application Count By Department


The Health Complex

Thursday’s count of funding references cited in the 384 patent applications FedInvent analyzed.

That’s this week’s FedInvent patent applications update. Please explore the FedInvent Patent Application Report as there are many more interesting inventions than we could jam into a newsletter.

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Thanks for reading FedInvent. We'll see you next week for the latest on taxpayer-funded patents and the latest on the federal innovation ecosphere.  There’s a lot going on.

The FedInvent Team 


About FedInvent 

FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for.