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Global mass spectrometer company reaps the benefits of long-term partnership
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The relationship between PNNL and Agilent Technologies dates back to the Agilent's inception in 1999 as a spin-out of Hewlett-Packard. Since then, the collaboration has been a critical and ongoing part of new product development for Agilent, a company that develops cutting edge analytical instrumentation and methodologies for engineers, scientists, and researchers around the globe to meet communications, electronics, life sciences, and chemical analysis challenges.
Through several collaborative research projects over the years, Agilent and PNNL have shared a common focus on advancing the state of the art in the measurement industry in terms of not only instrumentation, but also methodologies and software. One important goal for Agilent as an industry leader was to find new ways to address the most important aspect of mass spectrometry-the ability to achieve trace-level analysis. To do so requires the utmost in instrument sensitivity.
Agilent had found what they were looking for in PNNL's award-winning ion funnel technology, which vastly improves ion transmission in mass spectrometry, thus improving detection and measurement capabilities. The company has been able to achieve factors-of-10 greater sensitivity with this technology. And in 2010, Agilent introduced a new mass spectrometer incorporating dual ion funnel technology- the 6490 Triple Quadrupole LC/MS. This new device achieves unprecedented sensitivity in part by including dual ion funnel technology, designed to dramatically increase the number of ions that enter a mass spectrometer.
Today, Agilent continues to collaborate with researchers at PNNL and expand the scope of their research and development to solve emerging challenges posed by the scientific community.
- 2004 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer
- 1999 R&D 100 Award
Mentorship yields tangible results for Ag-focused business
UNIBEST Corporation provides farmers, agribusinesses, and environmental managers with monitoring products to optimize crop management and evaluate environmental contamination. The relationship between PNNL and UNIBEST dates back to 2000 when the company first received technical support through the PNNL Economic Development Office's (EDO) Technology Assistance Program (TAP), along with informal entrepreneurial advice.
In 2010, a new president took the helm at UNIBEST and contacted the Laboratory for assistance through EDO's Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) with two goals in mind: 1) transform the organization and its infrastructure to better meet customer demands and respond to new markets, and 2) find a CPA with direct knowledge of high tech small businesses.
Prior to working with the MPP-assigned mentor, UNIBEST had been participating in a series of academic studies to keep its patents and technology visible to colleges and universities. The objectives for the mentorship included a review of the company's business plan and refinement of its strategies, which helped them determine that a commercial approach would be more lucrative, especially when introducing new patents.
Based on the mentor's suggestions, UNIBEST developed and implemented a tactical marketing plan within the agricultural market focused on developing strategic relationships with key agricultural organizations. The decision to take a commercial approach resulted in additional marketing and commercialization partners such as Winfield Solutions-a Land O'Lakes Company.
UNIBEST's mentor also helped the company select a third-party accounting firm that has helped refine financial aspects of the company's business plan, resulting in reallocation of how dollars associated with new patents are applied within the organization.
UNIBEST credits advice received through the MPP for its success over the past year. Income from 2010 to 2011 increased by over 800%-growth UNIBEST attributes to the down selection of target markets and a fresh, focused approach to its business plan.
Biomass gasification licensed for international markets
Under appropriate conditions, algae can grow extremely fast while absorbing carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. Another benefit is that algae production can use land and water not suitable for food crops, and the methane produced as a fuel to generate renewable electricity can use the existing natural gas infrastructure as a fuel to generate renewable electricity - a desirable outcome for gasification companies, utilities, and the electricity-consuming public.
Genifuel Corp, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, develops equipment to make renewable methane from wet organic material. Suspecting that large quantities of wet biomass could be efficiently gasified to methane, the company sought out a catalytic wet gasification process developed by PNNL researchers. In 2008 Genifuel applied for a Technology Assistance Program (TAP) project to work with the PNNL research team, utilize Laboratory equipment to test various water plants including algae, and compare the results to terrestrial biomass through a process known as Catalytic Hydrothermal Gasification (CHG). CHG uses a wet process catalyzed to yield rapid and almost complete conversion of the biomass, producing a clean renewable fuel as the end product. This process operates at much lower temperatures than other gasification methods, making the construction and operation of the equipment easier and less costly.
The CHG technology was licensed domestically by Genifuel in 2009 for a specific list of feedstocks; in 2011, Genifuel contracted to extend the license to all international countries covered by the patents. The international license allows the company to pursue the same opportunities overseas that it previously only had license coverage for in the U.S.
Today, Genifuel is pursuing the international market due to an increasing number of inquiries from outside the United States-mostly from Europe and Asia-aimed at biofuel technology. Since receiving the international license, a number of promising leads for designing machines of various sizes to process a wide range of feedstocks have been generated in Europe.
Biodegradable polymer delivers more effective, safer therapeutic radiation
As part of a broader mission to develop better alternative treatments for diseases such as cancer, Battelle researchers at PNNL and the University of Utah co-developed a way to use a commercially available radioactive isotope, Yttrium-90, to deliver radiation by surgically implanting seeds holding the isotope into tumors. Yttrium-90 has characteristics that make it a good radiation source for killing cancer cells-namely, a shorter physical half-life and effective confinement of radioactivity to the placement site-but it cannot be delivered in metal brachytherapy seeds as some other medical isotopes are.
To overcome this, researchers developed a fast-dissolving, or resorbable, polymer seed to be used in place of metal as a delivery device for the therapeutic radioisotope. The result is a potential cancer treatment-called the resorbable brachytherapy seed-that can be less expensive, can deliver more effective radiation, is less hazardous to hospital workers, and is biocompatible with-and bioabsorbed (naturally removed) from-the body.
Advanced Medical Isotope Corp (AMIC) of Kennewick, Washington, showed an interest in further developing the technology for potential commercialization, sparking further research collaboration with Battelle and co-developers at the University of Utah. This working relationship led to industry funded research and development work at PNNL and at University of Utah to mature the resorbable brachytherapy seed technology that AMIC then exclusively licensed in late 2010.
The company is now working toward commercialization, with plans to perform further research and development of the new brachytherapy seeds, which resemble conventional metal brachytherapy seeds and may be placed by direct injection using standard tools. AMIC anticipates the use of these seeds for treatment of prostate cancer, as well as for many of the more radiation-resistant cancers including brain tumors, head and neck tumors, and liver cancer.