UPDATE from University Tech Park | Winter 2016

A personal message from David Baker 

To all our friends in the technology community:
It is my great pleasure to announce that Catherine Vorwald has assumed the position of Executive Director, University Technology Park at Illinois Tech, effective February 1. 
Cathy has become an integral part of UTP management since she joined us as Tech Park Director a year ago.  She was also instrumental in establishing our marketing and leasing program when she worked here from 2007 to 2011 as business development lead for Wexford Science + Technology, developer of the Technology Business Center that serves as the gateway to our 4-building campus. Cathy has extensive experience in life sciences and in commercialization of technologies. 

I have been asked to lead Illinois Institute of Technology's marketing and communications team, along with my government relations responsibilities until my retirement at the end of September, 2016.  It's been a great experience and honor to be UTP's founding Executive Director. Through it I have come to know many of you, including my friends from all over the world. Thank you!

SPOTLIGHT ON: Sword Diagnostics Inc.
Pharma's partner in rapid drug development

With global demand for new drug therapies expected to reach nearly $1.6 trillion by 2020, the pharmaceutical industry is struggling to keep pace, says David Dingott, founder and CEO of UTP company 
Sword Diagnostics.
"A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report describes the perfect storm of issues pharma companies face," he says. "Revenues are declining as patents for blockbuster drugs expire and regulations for new drug approval grow more stringent. At the same time, payers expect new drugs to deliver more therapeutic value at equal or lower cost."

The team at Sword is focused on helping pharma meet these challenges by streamlining drug research. The company's new testing platform increases the sensitivity of standard tests by as much as 30 times -- a breakthrough that promises to bring greater speed, accuracy and effectiveness to the process of drug development.
Dingott founded Sword in 2005, building on technology from the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL), which was aimed at detecting weapons of mass destruction. Sword experts worked to apply this technology to the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) that form the core of nearly all tests performed during drug development. Ultimately, the company leapfrogged NRL to introduce its own patented technology. 
"Since ELISAs used by the pharmaceutical industry are based on technology that's over 50 years old, we knew there was significant room for improvement," Dingott says.
Driven by the needs of pharma scientists
Sword took an application-level approach based on early feedback from pharma scientists, who have little time to ponder ways to improve testing processes.
"Understandably, they're focused on the research questions right in front of them," Dingott explains. "We could see that we needed to bundle our new platform with everything needed to meet their requirements. Our solution would have to work seamlessly with existing procedures and instruments."
Many global pharmaceutical leaders now use Sword applications to accelerate their research, Dingott reports. They appreciate the fact that Sword's tests work seamlessly with their existing equipment and processes.  "It's truly a plug-in solution," he says.
Greater test sensitivity means faster completion time, empowering scientists to make better decisions sooner. It also enables them to work with smaller samples - a distinct advantage in studying newer biomarkers that may occur in very low levels, or when working with precious, limited-availability samples.

Improving testing in all phases of drug development
Drug makers are using Sword applications for a broad range of needs. One success story involves a research team focused on a low-abundance inflammatory marker known as IL-33.
"One scientist went so far as to show us a recent publication stating that IL-33 could not be detected using ELISA technology," Dingott says. "After successfully using our tests, he said, 'Well, the author will have to revise his statement saying that IL-33 can only be detected with ELISA technology when paired with Sword!'"
Another Sword client is responsible for quality assurance of the mice used for creating biologics. There are very few tests that can be used on a mouse blood sample, Dingott notes - but by incorporating Sword's technology, scientists were able to dramatically increase the number of tests run.
UTP location fuels growth

With growing demand for their products, Sword's leadership team expects to double the company's workforce in 2016. The company develops customer-specific tests in its UTP lab space and also works with third-party partners to manufacture test kits. A second office in Indianapolis houses Sword's business operations.
"We have a combination of wet and dry lab space at UTP, which is ideal for the work we need to do," Dingott says. "We recently added office space to accommodate our growth and we expect to expand our lab space significantly in 2016. The flexibility we have here is a real benefit - we don't have to uproot our operations in order to grow."
Another benefit of being at the Tech Park is ready access to student talent. Last June, the company hired Khadijah Pullen as a research intern during her final semester at Illinois Tech. After she received her bachelor's degree in chemistry this December, the company brought Pullen on as a full-time research associate.
Working for global impact
Sword is Dingott's latest entrepreneurial venture, following closely on the success of Corente, a software-defined networking technology company he co-founded that was purchased by Oracle in 2014.
During his 30-plus years in tech, he has learned that breakthroughs can begin just about anywhere.
"A lot of startup founders begin by studying a problem they see as crucial. I've found you can succeed by going the other direction, too - by taking a technology out into the marketplace and asking what problems it can help solve.
"That's been our model here at Sword. Our technology has many applications, but we're most excited about what can happen when new drug therapies reach the pipeline sooner. We're proud to have convinced many of the world's top pharmaceutical companies that our technology can help them accelerate the delivery of drugs to market."
QualySense, Video Analytica move to UTP

We are pleased to welcome two new startups to the Tech Park!  QualySense, a Swiss-based developer of high-end sorting solutions for grains, seeds and beans, is entering U.S. markets from its new base of operations here. The company's proprietary devices perform rapid, reliable sorting based on physical and biochemical properties, using advanced technology to analyze and sort individual grains. Video Analytica is developing scalable, computationally efficient solutions for multimedia applications involving classification and retrieval of video, image and audio events. The company's current work focuses on smart camera technologies.

Advanced Cooling Therapy stars on Chicago Med

In the span of one amazing week, Tech Park company Advanced Cooling Therapy saw its lifesaving technology featured on hit TV drama Chicago Med and received FDA clearance for its second medical device. More about ACT's recent wins in this Chicago Tribune story.

Brazilian professor is entrepreneurial fellow at UTP

Alexandre Nabil Ghobril, economics professor with MacKenzie Presbyterian University in Sao Paolo, Brazil, has joined UTP as an entrepreneurial fellow. During his 6 months here, Dr. Ghobril will develop a report focused on UTP as a university-based entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Through his work and teaching, Dr. Ghobril will guide UTP and Illinois Tech in further developing their support for entrepreneurial companies. His fellowship is sponsored by the government of Brazil. We are honored to have been chosen, along with the university's School of Applied Technology, to host Dr. Ghobril.