Where there is illness afflicting millions, there is a universal call to hope, and the raised voices of researchers, scientists, and innovators call back. According to an American Cancer Society report, the corresponding estimates for total cancer deaths were 7.6 million and 12.7 million new cancer cases in 2008 worldwide (www.cancer.org/Research). The cancer epidemic is perhaps the greatest medical challenge humankind will face in the 21st Century and researchers here at Portland State University, in collaboration with researchers at Providence Health & Services Oregon, are at the forefront of the technological developments that try to meet this challenge.
Two years ago, the office of Innovation & Intellectual Property began working on a plan to promote the use of a new nanotechnology developed by Dr. Jun Jiao, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, and Director of the Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication at Portland State University, and a researcher in her group, Dr. Haiyan Li. This new technique employs nanoparticles in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines. Working with Dr. Jiao’s group is her collaborator, Dr. Hong-Ming Hu, Chief of the Laboratory of Cancer Immunobiology at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Health & Services Oregon. Innovation & Intellectual Property helped secure a joint intellectual property letter agreement that solidified the collaborative relationship between the researchers and their institutions. In 2012 IIP will seek to license the technology to a commercial partner in the hopes of seeing progress on a therapeutic cancer vaccine in the not too distant future.
Dr. Jiao began research in the nanoscience and nanotechnology in 1991 when the field was still in its infancy. In 1999 she joined the Department of Physics at Portland State University. Since that time, her research focus had been on the synthesis and functionalization of nanoscale materials as well as the novel fabrication of nanomaterials-based devices.
“We continue to develop novel techniques to synthesize nanoscale materials in the lab and then characterize those materials,” Dr. Jiao noted. “By doing so we are learning not only about their structural, optical and electronic properties, but how to apply these materials to different fields including optical, electronic and biomedical applications.”
Dr. Jiao and her research team’s effort have led to the discovery that a particular nanoparticle could be used as an adjuvant to optimize the effectiveness of a vaccine for therapeutic treatment in patients suffering from cancer. The advantages of this new nanotechnology are that the novel product developed through this research collaboration could be both highly effective and safe. Furthermore, because of the similarity to other aluminum-based vaccine adjuvant systems already approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration, FDA approval of this technology is likely to come quicker and at a lower cost than other adjuvants currently in development. The promising advances resulting from Dr. Jiao’s work, recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, have led Innovation & Intellectual Property to recently file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application and a Nationalized PCT application in Taiwan.
Speaking of the patenting of Dr. Jiao’s new technology, Joe Janda said, “This innovation is in the middle stage of the intellectual property life-cycle. We’ve worked to secure agreements with our collaborators, and have flirted with some potential commercial partners that Providence brought in to the picture, and are continuing a patent filing strategy that we hope will help bring in a commercial development partner.”
A true pioneer in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology, Dr. Jiao is exploring fascinating new applications for the use of nanomaterials.
“We want to use the functionality of nanoparticles to do things like clean waste water,” Dr. Jiao said. “We could use this technology to remove environmental contamination from lakes, rivers, even oceans. aimed at saving and sustaining our ecosystems.”
In addition to her productive cutting edge research, Dr. Jiao has actively directing her NSF founded Research Experience for Undergraduates program for more than 12 years. This program aimed at inspiring the next generation of nanoscientists and calling further attention to the ground breaking work being done right here at Portland State University. “In the last 12 years, we have trained more than 120 underrepresented and minority students from different universities nationwide to our summer program,” Dr. Jiao said. “We committed to provide opportunities to stimulate student interest and creativity across scientific disciplines.”
The office of Innovation & Intellectual Property has had the pleasure to work together with Dr. Jiao over the past few years, and has seen the intellectual property plan developed by Dr. Jiao, Providence Health & Services Oregon, and IIP mature and come closer to full realization.