i2E http://i2e.org Innovation to Enterprise Fri, 12 Feb 2016 23:11:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 OU’s asphalt technology aims to increase life of roadways http://i2e.org/news/ous-asphalt-technology-aims-to-increase-life-of-roadways/ http://i2e.org/news/ous-asphalt-technology-aims-to-increase-life-of-roadways/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:24:14 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28290 OU’s asphalt technology aims to increase life of roadways
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

NORMAN — As a kid, nothing caught my attention like a “steamroller” smoothing down new road construction on the highway as we passed by.

You’ve seen them a thousand times, a machine with big steel drums on each end that compacts new roadway at a blistering speed of 2 mph, or so. Today, they are known as road compactors because steam is so 19th century.

This past week, I met a man who has spent hours atop a road compactor in the hot summer sun as it rolled down new asphalt surface. He was wearing a sports jacket and sitting in an office in the Devon Engineering Hall on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Sesh Commuri holds a doctorate as an electrical engineer and is a professor in OU’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“I am the only electrical engineer in the country who has built hundreds of miles of roadway,” Commuri told me with a laugh. “We have done construction in 13 states.”

Commuri teamed with OU colleague Musharraf Zaman, a professor in OU’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, to create a high-tech solution to a problem that long has perplexed highway construction engineers. Asphalt roads deteriorate at a much faster rate than their theoretic lifetime of 20 years.

The pair devised software that provides real-time data on compaction quality as the machine rolls over the surface of newly laid asphalt. Data are displayed on a portable computer in the cab of the machine, providing constant readouts on the level of compaction, the surface temperature, GPS location, as well as a time stamp.

Commuri and Zaman called their technology the Intelligent Asphalt Compaction Analyzer, or the IACA, for short. Their solution promises to extend the life of asphalt roadways and save millions of dollars in repairs.

Central to the IACA is an artificial neural network that extracts the patterns of vibrations of the roller drum during compaction and relates these vibrations to the density of asphalt. After the IACA is calibrated on a short stretch of trial pavement, it can be used to provide continuous information on the compaction achieved during the construction.

“Roughly, it costs $100,000 to build a lane-mile of pavement; that is one lane, one mile,” Commuri said. “If it is breaking down every two or three years, that’s $100,000 down the tube you didn’t have to spend. Today we are spending millions of dollars every year repairing roads that have failed prematurely.”

An Oklahoma Applied Research Support grant from the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) provided original funding that allowed the pair to prove their theories.

“We did some studies in the lab to figure out if our approach was going to work,” Commuri said. “We got some really exciting results, at which point we wrote a proposal to OCAST, and we were successful. That was the turning point, because that gave us the start that we were looking for.”

The $300,000 OCAST grant with matching funds from local industry led to the building of test roadways, a patent filed by OU and eventually technology licensed to Volvo Construction Equipment.  This past spring, Volvo introduced its Density Direct technology that displays roadway performance on a tablet in color-coded, real-time displays. The machines featuring the technology sell for $150,000 to $170,000 each.

“Ultimately, if we can save money and the cost of repairing the roads every two or three years and extend the lifetime of the road, even by two years, that’s a significant improvement,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

State and federal highway departments will see a huge reduction in costs associated in repairing roads that wear out too quickly. Drivers will save by not being forced to idle in traffic halted by construction. And that, in turn, will reduce carbon emissions with fewer vehicles idled by road repairs.

Commuri envisions machines equipped with the technology developed here in Oklahoma compacting thousands of miles of roadway nationwide.

“We would have never been able to do this without the initial support of OCAST,” he said. “It was timely and it was significant.”

Read the full story at The Oklahoman.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology.

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How a simple question led to a multi-million dollar company in OKC http://i2e.org/news/how-a-simple-question-led-to-a-multi-million-dollar-company-in-okc/ http://i2e.org/news/how-a-simple-question-led-to-a-multi-million-dollar-company-in-okc/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:01:18 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28286 http://i2e.org/news/how-a-simple-question-led-to-a-multi-million-dollar-company-in-okc/feed/ 0 Rigorous evaluation of market is key in identifying viable startups http://i2e.org/featured/rigorous-evaluation-of-market-is-key-in-identifying-viable-startups/ http://i2e.org/featured/rigorous-evaluation-of-market-is-key-in-identifying-viable-startups/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:38:58 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28284 Rigorous evaluation of market is key in identifying viable startups
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Success always brings more success. Likewise, capital begets capital and deals beget deals. The best way to get more of both is to create more successful startups with products that the market wants to buy.

Those of us building an innovation economy are constantly evolving to efficiently and reliably direct our resources — money and human capital — at deals with the best opportunity to succeed. We seek evidence that a startup has a shot at solving a high-priority problem that either reduces cost, increases revenue, or allows a business to accomplish a priority that it couldn’t before.

We want to figure that out before an entrepreneur wastes money, time, or the application of a promising technology on a solution that no customer wants to buy.

At i2E, over the last 17 years, we have built a venture assessment pipeline that in FY 2015 positioned 34 companies for funding, with 31 clients obtaining more than $49 million in private equity capital.

We are able to position this many Oklahoma companies for funding because we tackle product/market fit questions first. Venture assessment is the first step for any potential client of i2E. Our three-week program serves as the first step a potential client and our staff take together to determine if the new concept has the necessary market potential. Our process includes an intense working session each Thursday night in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

“We challenge the entrepreneurs to prove to us that customers want the solution they are building” said Stacey Brandhorst, i2E venture adviser. “We push the entrepreneurs to ask themselves and their potential customers the hard questions. We show entrepreneurs the weaknesses in their market plan and then work with them to mitigate those risks.”

Between sessions, entrepreneurs complete outside tasks including customer interviews and receive one-on-one support from i2E.

We know we aren’t going to figure out a whole company in a few hours over three weeks, but we can get to the “red, yellow or green” point. On average, two of the six or so companies in each cohort become i2E clients.

It’s not unusual through this process to see a startup pivot from the original business concept to something more closely aligned with what the market wants.

“We try not to discourage, but we do dispense tough love,” Brandhorst said. “If you are working on something that is never going to happen, and we have the facts to support that, why not give it up and work on something that will?”

If, at the end of the three weeks, the company becomes a client, that’s great. If it goes the other way and we determine that the business concept isn’t viable and the entrepreneur goes on to create another business, that’s a good thing, too.

Read the full story at The Oklahoman.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Did You Know?
In 2015, venture capital investment hit a 15-year high with $11.3 billion total dollars, topping every year since 2000. It’s the second highest record since the Moneytree Report began in 1995.

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Norman company developing quick test for Valley Fever http://i2e.org/news/norman-company-developing-quick-test-for-valley-fever/ http://i2e.org/news/norman-company-developing-quick-test-for-valley-fever/#respond Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:16:15 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28269 Read more]]> Norman company developing quick test for Valley Fever
By Marianne Rafferty
COPYRIGHT © 2016, KFOR

OKLAHOMA — We’ve told you about a dangerous fungus called Valley Fever living in the dirt of surrounding states that can make you sick.

I also shared my personal story and how my son was finally diagnosed after a two and half year battle with Valley Fever.

Now, some exciting news.

There is something being developed right here in Oklahoma that could turn the tide in the fight against disease by making it easier for doctors to diagnose it.

“The problem with Valley Fever is it mimics a lot other very common respiratory illnesses” said Dr. Tom Chiller with the Centers for Disease Control.

Valley Fever is a devastating illness that can target our youngest, most vulnerable patients.

Now, a Norman based company called IMMY could hold the key to a faster diagnosis.

A simple test that takes minutes instead of days or weeks.

“My teenage kids could run these tests” said Sean Bauman, CEO of IMMY.

More on this potentially groundbreaking medical test developed in our own backyard as we continue our series, ‘Danger in the Dirt,’ tonight at 10.

Read the full story at KFOR.

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Two Week Coding Bootcamps to Launch in Tulsa, Okla. http://i2e.org/news/two-week-coding-bootcamps-to-launch-in-tulsa-ok/ http://i2e.org/news/two-week-coding-bootcamps-to-launch-in-tulsa-ok/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:17:46 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28250 http://i2e.org/news/two-week-coding-bootcamps-to-launch-in-tulsa-ok/feed/ 0 Yelp Foundation Awards $2000 Grant to i2E http://i2e.org/news/yelp-foundation-awards-2000-grant-to-i2e/ http://i2e.org/news/yelp-foundation-awards-2000-grant-to-i2e/#respond Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:45:17 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28241 Read more]]> Yelp Foundation Awards $2000 Grant to i2E
From the Yelp Foundation

January 27, 2016 — i2E, Inc. has received a $2000 grant from the Yelp Foundation, having been nominated and supported by votes from community members in the Yelp Foundation Gives Local grant contest. Of many nonprofits considered for recognition, only three in the Oklahoma City area were nominated to participate in the grant contest, which awarded $10,000 total to local nonprofits.

The Gives Local grant contest encouraged community members in 75 U.S. cities to vote for the organizations they wanted to support with grants and drew more than 160,000 votes. Each winning nonprofit aligns with an area of the Yelp Foundation’s mission to address the needs of local communities including: access to information, education, local economic development, and freedom of expression. The contest awarded $750,000 total in grants in January 2016.

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Oklahoma must diversify its economy, decrease dependence on energy http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-must-diversify-its-economy-decrease-dependence-on-energy/ http://i2e.org/news/oklahoma-must-diversify-its-economy-decrease-dependence-on-energy/#respond Tue, 02 Feb 2016 14:40:36 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28237

Oklahoma must diversify its economy, decrease dependence on energy
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Here’s another eye-opening statistic about Oklahoma’s lack of economic diversification.

Our state holds the record for the largest share of total household earnings coming directly from the oil and gas industry — a whopping 13.9 percent (2014 standings reported in October 2015 by RegionTrack).

Not only that. Oklahoma’s standing in this report is the highest share of dependence on the energy sector ever posted by any state in the modern era.

Even more concerning, Oklahoma has a larger share of household earnings coming from oil and gas than we did in 1982 at the very height of the oil boom. We are 50 percent more dependent on energy than Texas.

Last year, I wrote about how Oklahoma ranked 48th (ahead of West Virginia and Mississippi) in the 2014 State New Economy Index. The New Economy Index builds on six prior indexes from 1999 forward and uses 25 indicators to capture what is “new” about the New Economy.

In the 2014 report, from IT jobs to workforce education to fast growing firms, Oklahoma missed the mark. That’s because we aren’t taking the steps that other states — even energy-rich states like Texas — are taking.

If anyone still needs proof of the desperate need to diversify Oklahoma’s economy, here it is. Household earnings here depend on the oil and gas sector more than any other state, and it is getting worse over time. And, gauging our progress against the measures of innovation and preparedness for the New Economy, we are missing the mark by a mile. There’s no denying the facts.

Let’s not allow our over-dependence on oil and gas to stifle innovation in Oklahoma and harm so many Oklahoma families when energy prices are low. Let’s commit to specific actions to improve our state’s ability to meet the challenges of today’s economy instead of pulling back when times get tough. That type of thinking is what has led to our increased dependence on the energy sector.

R&D investment creates an incredible platform for future growth. We have amazing sources of innovation here, including OMRF, OU, TU and OSU. Let’s find ways to help propel more inventions out of our labs and into the hands of entrepreneurs.

We’re continuing to make progress with investment capital for the ideas that emerge from labs and the minds of innovative Oklahomans. A new report from the National Venture Capital Association reports that Oklahoma City has had the second largest rate of growth in the country by number of companies receiving investment since 2010, with a 51.6 percent increase. We need to expand this success statewide and increase our capital sources so there is adequate follow-on funding for our young companies as they begin to grow.

Oklahoma can build a new strategy that aggressively brings diversification and the economic benefits brought by new technologies and economic evolution. We have the reasons. We’ve set the foundation. Now we need to do the work.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). 

Did you know
Venture investors deployed capital to 3,662 companies located in 133 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in 2015.
Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and National Venture Capital Association

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CrowdSeekr.com offers aggregation, search functions for real estate crowdfunding efforts http://i2e.org/news/crowdseekr-com-offers-aggregation-search-functions-for-real-estate-crowdfunding-efforts/ http://i2e.org/news/crowdseekr-com-offers-aggregation-search-functions-for-real-estate-crowdfunding-efforts/#respond Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:58:31 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28226 CrowdSeekr.com offers aggregation, search functions for real estate crowdfunding efforts
By Richard Mize
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

An Oklahoma City commercial realty executive, e-commerce attorney and information technology expert have launched CrowdSeekr.com, an aggregator and search engine for real estate crowdfunding offerings.

“Real estate investors should pay attention,” said Tim Strange, CrowdSeekr.com vice president of real estate. “The crowdfunding market has more than doubled in the past year to over $34 billion.

“The real estate equity segment alone reached $1 billion in 2014, was projected to reach $2.5 billion in 2015, and is expected to continue growing rapidly.”

Strange said he; attorney Ashley Smith, CEO; and Marylee Strange, chief technology officer, started CrowdSeekr.com because “while investments have flooded into this growing market, tools for searching for and discovering deals are struggling to keep up

Crowdfunding offers investors the opportunity to invest relatively small amounts — as little as $5,000, according to a search of CrowdSeekr.com on Friday — in potential high-return deals.

Strange, who is president of commercial realty firm Newmark Grubb Levy Strange Beffort, said some focus needed to be brought to the chaos of the fast-growing investment model.

“What I found out was there is not a good system in place for searching across multiple platforms to find a deal that best suits an investor’s needs. And, if you are a sponsor looking for a platform to market your deal, the same thing is true. I had the latter experience when I was involved in raising equity last year and that’s what led me to conceive of CrowdSeekr,” Strange said.

CrowdSeekr.com is meant to be an aggregator and search engine for real estate investment opportunities.

“The problems with existing aggregators are that they either don’t focus specifically on real estate crowdfunding or are subscription-based enterprise-level products not designed for individual investors,” Smith said.  “Most sites also don’t offer effective filtering or a first-class user experience.”

CrowdSeekr.com secured “proof of business concept funding from i2E, an Oklahoma nonprofit that provides support to startups. The founders also have participated in an i2E-sponsored program to mentor student interns from an honors entrepreneurship class taught by Dean Daniel Pullin at the University of Oklahoma Michael F. Price College of Business.

Claire Robison, venture adviser with i2E, said she is pleased to be advising a startup with such potential. The founders discovered a problem and found a way to solve it to the benefit of clients, themselves and the CrowdSeekr.com platform, she said.

Five top real estate crowdfunding platforms have agreed to share their data with CrowdSeekr: CrowdStreet, 1031 Crowdfunding, PeerRealty, RealCrowd and HotelInnvestor.

“Rather than signing up for and searching dozens of platforms, like many investors are doing now, they can come to one place, set up their profile and have opportunities delivered to them through email alerts,” Smith said, “For busy investors, this means a more streamlined and user-friendly real estate crowdfunding experience.”

Real estate attorney and syndication expert Gene Trowbridge called CrowdSeekr.com “a great idea.”

“I’m happy to tell my clients when they’re looking for a crowdfunding platform to use, check and see if that platform is linked up to CrowdSeekr,” he said.

Read the full story at NewsOK.com.

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WeGoLook’s services can assist you in verifying vacation rentals http://i2e.org/news/wegolooks-services-can-assist-you-in-verifying-vacation-rentals/ Tue, 26 Jan 2016 21:11:59 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28203 How to avoid a vacation rental surprise
By Christopher Elliot
© 2016 USA TODAY

When it comes to vacation rentals, there are surprises — and there are surprises.

Good surprises, such as the one Ana O’Reilly encountered when she checked into a villa in Palm Springs, Calif., are rare. She was dumbstruck to discover the home looked better than the pictures in the listing, which was a first. The refrigerator was stocked with champagne and bottled water, and bowls of M&M’s were left in the kitchen as a welcome snack.

“It was incredible,” says O’Reilly, a marketing executive based in London.

And there are the not-so-good ones, such as  the one encountered by Timothy Trudeau when he rented a home in Santa Barbara, Calif., with his family. After getting settled, he decided to take a dip in the pool.

“As we were floating around, I started to notice that the property had small infrared cameras mounted all over the place,” recalls Trudeau, who runs a music industry website in Lemon Grove, Calif. “Suddenly, we went from thinking we had our own little private slice of heaven to thinking we may be starring in some kind of Web reality show that we were unaware of. Super creepy!”

Good or bad, you can expect surprises during your next vacation rental, because, well, it’s a vacation rental. There are no real standards, as many renters are discovering. One in five Americans stayed in a rental last year, up 27% from 2014, according to a recent survey by Travel Tech, a trade group.

For every villa that exceeds expectations, there’s a little shop of reality TV horrors, although Trudeau admits he hasn’t seen any closed-circuit footage of his family vacation online. Companies such as Airbnb close a new round of financing every other week and HomeAway was acquired by Expedia. It seems the vacation rental industry is poised for another year of major growth. Half of all Americans say they expect to book a short-term rental.

How do you make sure you get more good surprises and fewer unpleasant ones? It’s a combination of renting from a trusted source and due diligence. It doesn’t take long, and the rewards can be great. For someone such as Trudeau, who travels with his family, the savings from a vacation rental can be considerable  compared with a hotel.

Doing your homework is essential. It involves combing through user-generated reviews, scoping out the property on your favorite mapping site and interviewing the owner — by phone, preferably. If you live nearby, an in-person visit is a must. A reputable owner will let you have a look at the property if it’s unoccupied.

What if you live far away? That’s the idea behind WeGoLook, a service that will independently verify the property’s ownership and neighborhood. The company dispatches what it calls a “looker” to take new pictures of the property, street views and neighborhood views, and that person is available to answer questions. Robin Smith, WeGoLook’s CEO, says people usually turn to her inspection service, which costs $69 per report, after a rental problem. Most memorably, one customer came to WeGoLook after renting a property that had a pool without water.

There’s no substitute for on-the-ground intelligence, Smith says, “especially when you’re sending large deposits that can be lost.”

Another service that helps you avoid surprises with a “by-owner” rental property is Pillow (pillowhomes.com). Pillow screens the properties it manages, sending a supervisor to interview the owner and ensure the property meets its standards. Those include curtains, kitchen supplies and enough utensils for the maximum number of allowed guests and enough pillows and blankets for each sleeping surface. You can find Pillow listings through HomeAway (homeaway.com/pm/Pillow-740813w). “Pillow validates the property for guests,” says Sean Conway, Pillow’s CEO.

VaycayHero (vaycayhero.com) promises to help avoid surprises by adding another layer of service: a 24-hour concierge who can mediate any issues between travelers and vacation rental hosts. Among its successes is salvaging one customer’s vacation rental on Hawaii’s Big Island that didn’t have wireless Internet access, which it turns out was a deal-breaker for the guest. VaycayHero’s concierge team quickly arranged for a wireless Internet connection to be installed.

How about the professionally managed vacation rentals? There are differences there, too. Companies offer guarantees and promises that the only surprises you’ll find will be positive ones. Wyndham’s Vacation rental bill of rights, for example, promises a guest service team to assist with questions you may have during the booking period, around-the-clock maintenance assistance during your stay and access to local representatives “with expertise and knowledge.”

The implication is clear: You have the right to a surprise-free rental — specifically, a rental without any negative surprises.

In an industry that has precious few standards, it’s nice to know someone cares that you’re having the rental experience you paid for.

How to avoid a negative surprise when you rent

• Rent with names you trust. Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey have legitimate rentals and higher standards, says Andrew McConnell, co-founder and CEO of Rented, a vacation rental marketplace. “Stick to trusted and verified brands,” he advises. “It’s your best bet for avoiding unpleasant surprises.”

• Assume nothing. Every vacation rental comes with linens, right? Wrong. Ryan Lockhart discovered that when he rented a house in North Carolina. When he checked in — surprise! — no linens! “I had to drive 45 minutes each way to buy linens from Walmart, which we had to wash and dry before we could even sleep,” remembers Lockhart, who owns a digital marketing agency in Bluffton, S.C.

• Never wire money. “Do not pay for a vacation rental with cash, money orders, Western Union or other money transferring services,” advises Isaac Gabriel, founder of the online timeshare rental portal EZ Resort Vacations. Wiring money can lead to the most unpleasant surprise of all: a rental that doesn’t even exist.

Read the full story at USA Today.

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Investment is essential for diversity in our state’s economy http://i2e.org/news/investment-is-essential-for-diversity-in-our-states-economy/ Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:38:00 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=28186

Investment is essential for diversity in our state’s economy
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

In the wake of the big oil bust of the ’80s and in what seems now like a rare moment of legislative clarity, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the Oklahoma Economic Development Act of 1987.

Instead of accepting an economic future of boom and bust over which Oklahoma could expect little control, back then state policymakers said, “Let’s diversify Oklahoma’s economy.”

And they did.

Among other steps, the Economic Development Act established the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to promote research, innovation and commercialization of Oklahoma-born discovery and invention.

Nearly 30 years later, we are seeing again the critical importance of the goal of broadening Oklahoma’s economy by expanding the state’s technology and bioscience footprint.

As of last year, cumulative legislative allocations for OCAST of more than $250 million have produced returns totaling $5.2 billion in private and federal investment, a ratio of 20-to-1. i2E operates under the OCAST umbrella in assisting in the commercialization of Oklahoma based innovation. In 2014 alone, i2E client companies created more than 85 new jobs, more than $113 million in revenue, 132 products, 55 patents filed and 22 patents issued.

The OCAST/i2E model works as an engine to diversify and grow Oklahoma’s economy.

The challenge is that although the state started off right three decades ago, we drifted off course once things got good again. Over time, we’ve steadily disinvested in Oklahoma’s innovation model rather than working as a state to be more effective in creating commercialization of our innovation.

The news is full of talk that we might be heading for a repeat of the ’80s all over again — and in one sense, I hope they’re right.

Not in that I want $20 a barrel crude. I do not. But I do hope that current circumstances cause us to reassess how we are investing for the future. I hope this time, we’ll say enough is enough, and recognize and reaffirm that as a state, we’re off track in our historical overreliance on the oil and gas industry.

We can’t achieve economic diversification through international bidding wars for corporate headquarters. Sustainable diversification comes only through innovation and building new companies in Oklahoma.

The Economic Development Act and the oil bust of the ’80s laid the ground work for the economic diversification Oklahoma so desperately needs. OCAST and i2E are ready to do the heavy lifting.

It’s not too late for Oklahoma to reclaim innovation and diversification as our rallying cry.

Read the full story at The Oklahoman (requires subscription).

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Did you know?
Business research and development growth had accounted for most of the nation’s R&D growth in terms of dollars and performance over the last five years. The academic sector is second in performance. The federal government is the second-largest funder.
Source: National Science Foundation

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Moleculera Labs Highlights Biomarker-Based Tests as Diagnostic Aid http://i2e.org/news/moleculera-labs-highlights-biomarker-based-tests-as-diagnostic-aid/ Thu, 21 Jan 2016 19:08:37 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25475 Moleculera Labs Highlights Biomarker-Based Tests as Diagnostic Aid for Infection-Triggered CNS Disorders
Copyright © 2016 PR Newswire Association LLC

OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Increasing evidence points to a relationship between certain bacterial infections and autoimmune attacks that can disrupt normal neurologic functioning, according to researchers at Moleculera Labs.  Using a panel of biomarker tests for autoantibodies against specific neuronal antigens and a key enzyme involved in the upregulation of many neurotransmitters can help physicians better diagnose and treat the underlying cause of such conditions, which are often misdiagnosed as psychiatric illnesses, motor tics or autism spectrum disorders and treated inappropriately with psychotropic drugs.

“Infections caused by bacteria such as Streptococci can trigger autoimmune attacks and brain inflammation that result in the sudden onset of severe behavioral disorders or other neuropsychiatric symptoms, especially in young children and adolescents,” said Craig Shimasaki, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Moleculera Labs. “These conditions, referred to as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS) or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), are highly troubling to parents and exceedingly difficult for physicians to correctly diagnose and treat. The Cunningham Panel™ provides objective laboratory evidence of a patient’s autoimmune and anti-neuronal status that aids physicians in determining a proper diagnosis and therapy that often enables the child’s symptoms to be quickly reversed with appropriate anti-inflammatory and/or antibiotic treatments.”  Launched in 2013, the Cunningham Panel™ has been ordered more than 3,000 times by over 400 physicians worldwide.

Dr. Shimasaki will present additional details on the phenomenon of molecular mimicry and the use of the Moleculera Lab’s Cunningham Panel to help diagnose PANS and PANDAS at the 2016 Personalized Medicine World Congress, taking place from January 24-27 in Mountain View, California. He will also discuss emerging research that suggests a similar relationship between infection and molecular mimicry triggered autoimmune attacks in other neurologic conditions including Lyme disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

Presentation Details
Date: January 25, 2016
Track 3: Neuro Dx
Title: Molecular Mimicry and Infections Causing CNS Disorders
Time: 11:30 AM

About Moleculera Labs
Moleculera Labs is a privately owned company whose objective is to discover and deliver advanced testing services for children and adults suffering from treatable autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. The company’s initial offering is the Cunningham Panel™, a set of tests aimed at assisting clinicians in the diagnosis of PANDAS and PANS, conditions associated with motor tics, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and sometimes Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), that researchers believe to be caused by a harmful autoimmune response triggered by common infections. Moleculera Labs is based at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Research Park in Oklahoma City and operates a full CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) and COLA (Commission on Laboratory Accreditation) certified clinical laboratory where it performs the Cunningham Panel™ for physicians and clinicians throughout the United States and globally. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.moleculera.com.

Read the full story at PR Newswire.

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“Remember The Member” wins StartUp Series tech pitch competition http://i2e.org/entrepreneur/remember-the-member-wins-startup-series-tech-pitch-competition/ Thu, 21 Jan 2016 18:54:36 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25473 Read more]]> “Remember The Member” wins StartUp Series tech pitch competition
By Samuel Hardiman
© 2016 BH Media Group, Inc.

Remember the Member, an app designed to help people remember each others’ names in social networking situations, won first place in the Tech/App StartUp Series competition Wednesday evening.

Evan Tipton and Will Edwards, founders of the startup, received $2,500 from the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation to advance their business, free admission to the venture assessment program at i2E — Innovation to Enterprise, three months’ free membership to business incubator 36 Degrees North and weekly meetings with a mentor for three months.

Tipton and Edwards have patented their product and plan to sell it to a social network such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

The StartUp Series, the new format for what used to be the StartUp Cup, is put on by Tulsa Community College and the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation. The competition Thursday was at 36 Degrees North, the startup incubator at 36 E. Cameron St. in the Brady Arts District.

Read the full story at the Tulsa World.

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Stillwater company’s products really are out of this world http://i2e.org/news/stillwater-companys-products-really-are-out-of-this-world/ Wed, 20 Jan 2016 20:23:38 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25470 Stillwater company’s products really are out of this world
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

STILLWATER — Deep in the heart of a test laboratory at Stillwater’s Frontier Electronic Systems sits an imposing piece of equipment that looks as if it could have played a role on a space voyage.

In fact, it has.

The large steel vessel, with doors that seal, is called a thermal vacuum chamber. It is used by engineers to test critical equipment designed, and built by Frontier before it is fitted into place on NASA’s International Space Station.

“This is kind of our crown jewel,” said Jim Lee, Frontier’s director of manufacturing as he led me on a tour recently of the company’s 86,000-square-foot headquarters in Stillwater.

“This allows us to simulate a lower orbit environment for items we build for space programs,” Lee said.

How did the design, manufacture and testing of high-tech equipment used in space exploration come to be located on the plains of Oklahoma?

Brenda Rolls provided the answer. Rolls is president and CEO of Frontier Electronic Systems, which was founded as Frontier Engineering in 1973 by her parents, Ed and Peggy Shreve.

Frontier is a high-tech aerospace engineering company that produces avionics, maritime radar and video distribution systems, space flight hardware, automated test systems, and components for defensive weapons systems.  Clients include the U.S. Navy and prime contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, Rolls said.

The company employs 115 people in Stillwater, including 53 engineers with projected revenue of $28 million this year.

The Stillwater location provides an advantage to Frontier as it pursues aerospace contracts, Rolls said. The geography works because it’s near the center of the country.

“We have a very strong work ethic here in this part of the country, and Oklahoma is a very business friendly state,” Rolls said. “And we have the benefit of Oklahoma State University being nearby. That’s a great recruiting tool for us.”

Funding support for R&D from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology has helped, too, she said. “The people we have worked with at OCAST are just incredible in their commitment to actually helping businesses.”

Frontier has been recognized as Boeing Supplier of the Year four times. Rolls is quick to laud Frontier’s employees for the accomplishments.

“We’re the kind of company that flies under the radar because we can’t publicize too much of what we do,” Rolls said. “So, our people don’t get a lot of accolades. But they are the best of the best.”

Ed Shreve, who died in 2015, was a Ph.D. electrical engineering professor at OSU when he and Peggy founded the company. Peggy Shreve, then the CEO, was named Minority Entrepreneur of the Year in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.

After reorganization in 1997, the name was changed to Frontier Electronic Systems.

Brenda Rolls returned to Oklahoma after the reorganization and assumed her current leadership role in 2008, with her husband, Mark, working by her side.

Nanotechnology has become new frontier for the company, which is working with University of Tulsa professor Dale Teeters to develop a lightweight, long-lasting nano-battery that can be used in a new medical device.

As Lee and the Rolls guided me on the tour of the company’s manufacturing floor and testing labs, the high-tech, high-stakes mission of its operations was on full display.

“We want our customers to know that they can rely on our products to meet every specification,” Brenda Rolls said. “Our end users are people in space, people in the war field, flying airplanes. It’s pretty serious.”

As we stepped off the manufacturing floor, Brenda Rolls told me about a recent visit by Boeing officials who brought along an astronaut as a guest.

“We are sending hardware into space, and we have customers coming and saying, ‘You guys are great at what you do,’” Brenda Rolls said. “And there is an astronaut coming, saying ‘We are thankful for companies like you, because when we are up there in space, we need to know the equipment works. We want to come home to our families.'”

“It was really touching for me.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology.

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Low oil, natural gas prices threaten technology investment across Oklahoma http://i2e.org/news/low-oil-natural-gas-prices-threaten-technology-investment-across-oklahoma/ Tue, 19 Jan 2016 14:40:14 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25466 Low oil, natural gas prices threaten investment in technology for investors across Oklahoma
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Here we go again.

As a lifelong Oklahoman, I have lived through a number of booms and busts driven by the price of oil and gas. In Oklahoma, when we hear that oil is at a 12-year low, that is not a good sign. Since our state is so dependent on the energy sector, low energy prices are particularly bad news for our economy and for our state budget. Not surprisingly, in times like this people start pointing fingers at state economic policy.

And there’s plenty to question.

Why haven’t we been able to leverage the good times of the past into a more diversified economy? Why do state policymakers believe that there is any action that they can take to really insulate our economy from the global forces that drive energy prices? Why do we continually sacrifice Oklahoma’s long-term economic health for short-term budget problems?

In the short run, tax cuts, spending changes and incentives make little real difference, especially in the performance of an economy like Oklahoma’s that is so dependent on the price of oil and natural gas. However, state policymakers’ actions today can dramatically affect the viability and competitiveness of our economy in the future.

Some argue that the best way to solve the state’s short-term budget problem is to pull back from state investment in jobs, wealth creation and long-term diversification of our economy. Interestingly, following the last big energy bust in the 1980s, Oklahoma’s Legislature demonstrated the opposite vision, investing in innovation to present Oklahoma with its best opportunity for a diversified economy.

That Legislature recognized that much of the initial heavy lifting in encouraging innovation and the commercialization of that innovation had to be initiated by the public sector because it couldn’t happen any other way.

Today, in layering multiyear budget reductions on OCAST (Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) — a proven job creation machine in nontraditional industries — we are encouraging less innovation and making it more challenging for Oklahoma’s investors and entrepreneurs to start new companies.

It’s time to push the pause button on the political and philosophical debate about the role that tax cuts and incentives have played in our state’s current budget crisis. Let’s get moving instead on a practical plan that applies the levers of government in a smart and appropriate way to create wealth and jobs across the state for the long term.

There is a vital role for government to play in economic development — when a state lacks robust private innovation and commercialization resources, when strategic diversification needs to occur in an economy that is over-dependent on one sector, and when there are opportunities that require greater investment than the private sector can or is willing to make. The evidence for government applying strategic support for innovation, commercialization, and new industries has a significant track record in the U.S.

I’m glad that we live in a state replete with a natural resource like oil. But it’s not smart or strategic to limit ourselves and our futures to the vagaries of the price of oil.

We can and must move past philosophical debates about laissez-faire government and toward a balanced role for government that can accelerate industry diversification.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Email Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Did you know?
The rate of entrepreneurship in the U.S. increased 10 percent in 2015 to 310 per 100,000 adults. That translates to about 530,000 new business owners each month during the year.
Source: Kauffman Foundation

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Summer 2016 Research Experience for Undergraduate Students http://i2e.org/entrepreneur/summer-2016-research-experience-for-undergraduate-students/ Fri, 15 Jan 2016 22:35:17 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25464 Roll-2-Roll Technologies Adapts Sensing Technology http://i2e.org/entrepreneur/roll-2-roll-technologies-adapts-sensing-technology/ Wed, 13 Jan 2016 17:52:51 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25422 Read more]]> Roll-2-Roll Technologies Adapts Sensing Technology
Copyright © 2016 YTC Media

STILLWATER, OK — In September 2015, Roll-2-Roll Technologies released the ARIS Web Guiding System. ARIS automatically adapts to any materials, requires no set-up, calibration or other manual adjustment operation, and can now be experienced in line, contrast and center guiding.

One sensor can now handle any web guiding. In line detection mode, the sensor can handle a solid or intermittent line, or a line that is adjacent or crossed by a pattern.

Along with the line guiding features, ARIS features two innovative developments in lateral guide technology to sense better and control material.

The first feature is the patented material agnostic sensor technology, which is unaffected by changes in materials and environmental conditions, such as ambient light, sound vibrations, or ringing.

This sensor can detect and adapt to any non-porous materials, nonwovens, or transparent materials without time wasting setups or calibrations. The second feature is a patented adaptive control algorithm, which immediately corrects after disturbances, splices, or changes in the material. Our sensor eliminates time-consuming initial setups, sensor and controller calibrations and other manual adjustments, saving you time and money.

These technologies were developed at Oklahoma State University (OSU) based on research and development funded by the National Science Foundation and Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology. The material agnostic sensor has a sensing resolution of 63.5 micrometers with a sensing range of 16 or 48 mm.

The sensor provides a true absolute lateral position of the material irrespective of the materials porosity and opacity, hence suitable for many converting applications. The web guiding system is equipped with a high precision and high dynamic response actuator that can position the web within a 10-micron resolution and a max linear speed of 130 mm/sec.

This high precision, adaptive, material agnostic technology is reported to save a lot of time, reduce waste and make the process efficient for flexible packaging converters and label printers.

Read the full story at Paper, Film & Foil Converter (PFFC).

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Energy Ink Magazine: Well Site Losses http://i2e.org/news/well-site-losses/ Wed, 13 Jan 2016 14:52:00 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25417 Public investment leads to shining examples of private development http://i2e.org/news/public-investment-leads-to-shining-examples-of-private-development/ Tue, 12 Jan 2016 15:16:18 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25413 Public investment leads to shining examples of private development
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Sometimes government gets it right.

The creation of “place” to fuel economic development and redevelopment by Oklahoma City and Tulsa are both examples of strategic investment by local governments that are creating substantial ongoing economic benefit to each community.

Despite these shining examples in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the clear economic benefits to the state of OCAST’s innovation model, and the great successes of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in recruiting new jobs to Oklahoma from companies such as Boeing and GE, some Oklahomans are questioning the role of government in economic development and job creation.

History is proof that the public sector does have an important role to play — especially when it comes to building an innovation economy based on nontraditional industries.

Consider the MAPS 1, 2, 3 (Metropolitan Area Projects) in Oklahoma City and Vision 2025 in Tulsa. Each program is based on a voter-approved sales tax that funded public facility enhancements, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, and revitalized the inner core of Oklahoma’s two largest cities.

Oklahoma City’s investment led to the conversion of Bricktown into a premier entertainment district and a transformation that changed downtown from a place where commuters couldn’t wait to get away from after work to a place where a whole new generation chooses to live, work, and play. MAPS also led to Oklahoma City landing the Thunder which created a whole new “coolness” about Oklahoma, in general, and Oklahoma City, in particular.

In both communities, government investment leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment aided, in part, by tax credits such as the state historic building redevelopment tax credit. Without the strategic investment by government and a supporting tax credit infrastructure that encouraged targeted private investment, the economic prospects and physical face of both Tulsa and Oklahoma City would be very different than the great “places” we enjoy today.

Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner in their commentary “The Rise of Innovation Districts” published in the Nov. 12, 2014, issue of Harvard Business Review, note that the geography of innovation is shifting globally into the urban centers of cities. That’s what place-based economic development is all about — government and the private sector coming together and committing to using the Power of Place to create a dynamic economic core where people can come together to work, play and live.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City are being revitalized today not because of a cut in state income tax rates or increased spending on education, health care, public safety or roads and bridges. Instead, the revitalization sprang out of state and local government’s commitment to their mission of economic development and job creation through partnerships and collaboration with the private sector.

Read the full story at NewsOK.com.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

DID You Know?
Oklahoma City made the Forbes Top 10 list of cities that are the fastest gainers from domestic immigration. Per Forbes, people move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living.

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Cox launches gigabit internet service for residential customers http://i2e.org/news/cox-launches-gigabit-internet-service-for-residential-customers/ Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:19:25 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25410 Read more]]> OKLAHOMA – JANUARY 7, 2016 — Cox Communications today announced that its gigabit Internet service for residential customers has launched. Marketed under the brand name “G1GABLASTSM,” Cox now offers speeds 100 times faster than the average speed in the U.S. today.

In an announcement today at the Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Cox executives partnered to share the news and to introduce the first G1GABLAST customer in Oklahoma.

“This is an important development for Oklahoma, adding another quality of life factor that will help lure more businesses, families and young people to our state,” Governor Mary Fallin said.

Cox is deploying residential gigabit Internet speeds to new developments across Oklahoma City and Tulsa and in Cox locations across the country. The company has already launched G1GABLAST service in 10 states and will have gigabit speeds in all of its markets by the end of 2016. Cox has offered gigabit speeds to businesses for more than 10 years.

“We are excited to deliver the choice of gigabit speeds to our customers,” said Cox Communications President Pat Esser. “Coupled with our 1,800 employees in Oklahoma and more than 24,000 nationwide, our latest investments and the deployment of the fastest speeds available are powering economic growth and development for businesses and residents of the communities we serve.”

The service offers speeds as fast as 1,000 megabits per second. It will deliver more speed, a powerful home network and rich broadband enabled services to customers. The service also includes the latest high-speed WiFi router, one terabyte of cloud storage, Cox Security Suite and Family Protection and 10 email boxes each with 15 gigabytes of storage.

Marketing and sales promotions include broad digital advertising and social media, direct mail and print and outdoor advertising. Cox will be demonstrating the service at community events throughout the region and at its retail Cox Solutions Stores. Consumers also can sign-up at www.cox.com/giglife.

“Cox has always had an evolving and dynamic plan to continue to advance our services to meet the growing demands of our customers,” said Region Manager Percy Kirk. “By bringing gigabit Internet speeds to the market, Cox is once again ensuring our technology readiness long into the future.”

While focused on bringing gigabit speeds to its residential customers, Cox continues to increase the speeds of all of its Internet service packages. Late last year, the company increased the speeds of Cox High Speed Internet Ultimate to 200 mbps. Earlier in 2015, the company made its Starter package five times faster and the Essential package three times faster. Committed to offering its customers choice and access, Cox has increased broadband speeds more than 1,000 percent over the past 14 years.

In the last 10 years, Cox has invested more than $15 billion in its communities through infrastructure upgrades to deliver video, phone and high-speed Internet and home security and automation service to homes and businesses in the company’s service area. Additionally, the company gives tens of millions of dollars annually in cash and in-kind contributions to support the communities in which it operates.

About Cox Communications
Cox Communications is a broadband communications and entertainment company, providing advanced digital video, Internet, telephone and home security and automation services over its own nationwide IP network. The third-largest U.S. cable TV company, Cox serves approximately 6 million residences and businesses. Cox Business is a facilities-based provider of voice, video and data solutions for commercial customers, and Cox Media is a full-service provider of national and local cable spot and new media advertising. Cox is known for its pioneering efforts in cable telephone and commercial services, industry-leading customer care and its outstanding workplaces. For eight years, Cox has been recognized as the top operator for women by Women in Cable Telecommunications; Cox has ranked among DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity nine times, including the last eight years. More information about Cox Communications, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, is available at www.cox.com and www.coxmedia.com.
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IMMY’s rapid test, CrAg LFA, could be key to stopping deadly disease http://i2e.org/news/immys-rapid-test-could-be-key-to-stopping-deadly-disease/ Thu, 07 Jan 2016 16:46:23 +0000 http://www.i2e.org/?p=25386 How to stop Crypto, a deadly disease so neglected it’s missed on the ‘neglected’ list
By Patrick Adams
Copyright © 2016 Newsweek LLC

For many Americans, Norman, Oklahoma, is famous as the home of a college football powerhouse, the Oklahoma Sooners. But to public health officials around the world, Norman may be better known for the work of a family-run company founded in a barn on the fringes of the city.

Immuno Mycologics, aka Immy, started out in the late ’70s with a modest goal: make simpler tools to diagnose fungal infections. It’s now one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation, built entirely on unique diagnostics. One of its most important developments in recent years is a rapid test, the Cryptococcal Antigen Lateral Flow Assay, or CrAg LFA, which global health experts believe could be key to stopping one of the planet’s biggest killers: cryptococcal meningitis.

Crypto, a fungal infection of the brain and spinal cord, is a threat primarily to people living with HIV/AIDS. A so-called opportunistic infection, it preys on those who lack access to the antiretroviral therapy that can keep HIV in check. Infection occurs when a person inhales the airborne spores of Cryptococcus , a fungus in soil around the world. A healthy person’s immune system can easily fight off the infection, but in someone whose immune system has been weakened, such as by HIV, the fungus often spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body—usually the meninges, the protective envelope surrounding the brain. There, it can impairthe brain’s ability to reabsorb cerebrospinal fluid, producing a buildup within the skull. The result: a headache so excruciating “you cannot eat, you cannot talk, you do not know where you are,” says Rose Sabina, a survivor from Uganda. “The head wants to burst. The pain is too much.” The only means of relief is a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, a procedure often performed without anesthesia in poor countries where staff and supplies are stretched thin. And even where such care is available, most patients die.

In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cryptococcal meningitis kills nearly as many people in sub-Saharan Africa every yearas tuberculosis —and more in a month, every month, than the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Globally, the disease claims up to 300,000 lives every year. Yet despite its outsize impact on human health, the disease has all but vanished from public view. There is no day named for its awareness, no celebrity ambassador to champion its demise. The World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with addressing cryptococcal meningitis is a team of one.

That’s also the number of times cryptococcal meningitis is mentioned in the 500-plus pages of the latest UNAIDS report. Not since 2009 has it been mentioned inThe New York Times . “It just gets lumped with HIV, so no one sees it and no one really cares,” says David Boulware, a physician-scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Crypto is so neglected that it’s not even considered a ‘neglected disease,’” he adds, referring to the WHO classification for illnesses affecting only the poorest populations and thus of no commercial interest to pharmaceutical companies, resulting in a dearth of research and development.

“Neglected diseases” have in recent years benefited significantly from product development partnerships, or PDPs. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the largest funder of PDPs), groups like PATH and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative have catalyzed new research and development for everything from African sleeping sickness to lymphatic filariasis. When the TB Alliance was launched in 2000, no TB drugs were in clinical development. In the past 15 years, the organization has gotten tremendous financial support from the Gates Foundation to develop a faster cure for TB, and today it boasts “the largest portfolioof potential new TB drugs in history.”

For cryptococcal meningitis, however, little has changed. The drugs recommended for first-line treatment, flucytosine and amphotericin B , are more than 60 years old, highly toxic and prohibitively expensive. Patients on amphotericin B must be closely monitored for renal failure, one of several potentially life-threatening side effects—so bad the drug is often referred to as “amphoterrible.” Despite that, amphotericin B is considered a luxury in many countries and is seldom available. Flucytosine has not been approved for importation, distribution and marketing by a single regulatory agency on the African continent. Even fluconazole, an effective, if suboptimal, antifungal that went off patent more than a decade ago, is often in short supply there.

CrAg LFA could be the solution. It’s a simple premise: Catch the disease before you even need the awful, pricey and hard-to-find drugs. The methods of diagnosis currently available to health care workers in the field rely on having access to major laboratory infrastructure, including a continuous supply of electricity and skilled technicians. The CrAg LFA, in contrast, is simple and easy to use, requires no cold chain or refrigeration, and it works with just a finger-prick of blood. Faster and more accurate than previous methods, and significantly less expensive, the test also allows for earlier diagnosis; the crypto antigen, which is highly predictive of the development of the disease, can be detected weeks to months in advance of the onset of symptoms, offering an opportunity, rare in public health, to treat patients before they become ill.

Shortly after CrAg LFA was developed, the WHO issued new guidelines recommending its use. But even with the WHO’s stamp of approval, uptake has been sluggish. When I arrived in Uganda in mid-September, the first shipment of 15,000 tests—a donation from Immy—was held up in customs, due to “bureaucratic inertia” and because it is a “nonpriority,” says Boulware. The shipment is still there.

The greatest hurdle to preventing deaths caused by cryptococcal meningitis may be the notion that nothing more need be done. “Crypto is perceived as something that will simply go away,” says Tom Harrison, a professor of medicine at St. George’s Hospital in London and one of the world’s foremost experts on cryptococcal meningitis. “Donors think it’s a done deal.” Of the some $2.5 billion in HIV grants Gates has given away, not a single dollar has gone toward cryptococcal meningitis. Moreover, according to experts, the foundation—which wields considerable influence over the global health agenda—has repeatedly rejected funding proposals for projects that would address the disease, including development of CrAg LFA and its rollout across sub-Saharan Africa. “They say, ‘It’s not in our strategy. We don’t see this as a problem,’” says Jeff Klausner, an HIV specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, “and they just don’t get it.” A representative for the Gates Foundation declined to comment on the topic.

Klausner, a former chief of HIV/TB care and treatment for the CDC-South Africa, recalls a 2011 meeting in Johannesburg with CDC Director Tom Frieden, in which the two reviewed the country data on crypto and the role CrAg screening could play in controlling it: “He got it very quickly. He said this is going to be ‘one of our winnable battles.’” Weeks later, the CDC posted on its website a call to action: “By 2015, equip one half of all HIV clinics in Africa and Asia to perform Cryptococcustesting and treatment.” Doing so, the agency predicted, “could save 50,000 to 100,000 lives each year.”

Governments are gradually getting on board. So far, 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have included CrAg screening in their national guidelines, many with support from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which recently began working with country ministries of health to develop screening strategies, strengthen supply chains and raise awareness of cryptococcal meningitis among health care workers. Alisat Sadiq had never heard of the disease when she came to work several years ago as a counselor at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. But upon seeing the patients—heads draped with wet cloths, eyes squinting in the light—she thought back to the many people in her home village who had gotten headaches and soon after gone “crazy.” Family members had tied them to their beds for fear they might wander away, and within weeks, she recalls, the wailing finally stopped. “No one knew it was crypto,” she says. And anyway, there were no drugs then, “so everyone died.”

Today, Mulago is ground zero for research on CrAg LFA. Thanks to CrAg screening, those diagnosed before they’ve developed symptoms are getting the treatment they need as part of the research trial. But the big question, says Boulware, is what will happen when the study ends and the burden of funding falls to the government. “It’s one thing for countries to include screening in the guidelines,” he says. “But there are a lot of recommended guidelines that never actually get implemented, especially when there’s no donor money to support it.”

Which might be why, as 2016 begins, few countries have made significant headway, and only one, Rwanda, has rolled out screening at the national level. “I think it’s shameful,” says Klausner. “People know crypto as a cause of death in AIDS patients. But people expect AIDS patients to die.” And so, prostrate to fatalism, they have given up the fight against this deadly disease.

Read the full story at Newsweek.

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