A Call to Invest Locally

headshot of Tony Armstrong, CEO of IURTC
Tony Armstrong, President and CEO, Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.

In a February 20 Wall Street Journal online article titled “How to Get Venture Capital to Places Left Behind,” Steve Case — the co-founder of AOL and chief executive of investment firm Revolution LLC — spoke about the importance of encouraging and developing startups across the United States, not just in California, Massachusetts and New York. Tremendous work is being conducted around the country, and especially in the Midwest, where researchers and startups are among the nation’s leaders in advances in the life sciences, information technology, energy and agriculture.

But these leaders must overcome an obstacle: financial support. When Case was asked about the lack of venture capitalists in certain regions around the country, he replied that usually there is money in those areas, but individuals and companies that could be investing in startups, aren’t.

Multiple problems stem from this lack of support. Companies without strong local backing, including investors’ mentoring and guidance, may struggle and close; jobs disappear; and local and regional economies become less diversified. Fewer jobs will be available for a highly skilled workforce, including recent statewide college graduates, some of whom will leave the state for better opportunities.

In the article, Case suggested another negative impact from a lack of local investment: It may lead other investors to believe that nothing of value is developing in those regions.

“It’s really important that local entrepreneurs get their initial support from local investors — I think that is a signal to people in other places,” he said. “If the people in Nebraska or Minnesota or Iowa or what have you aren’t investing in entrepreneurs, why should the folks in California or New York or Massachusetts pay attention?”

Amazing technologies are being developed and commercialized by established companies throughout Indiana. Warsaw has been dubbed “Orthopedic Capital of the World.” The global headquarters for Anthem, Cook Medical, Dow AgroSciences, and Eli Lilly and Company are located here, as well as the North American headquarters for Roche Diagnostics. Small companies and startups are creating solutions that impact people’s lives, as evidenced by the Genesys purchase of Interactive Intelligence and the Salesforce purchase of ExactTarget.

Sometimes these smaller companies and startups are launched from research conducted in the state’s — and nation’s — premier research institutions, including Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame. When these startups are founded, there is usually a history of state and federal government support of the basic research, often in the form of SBIR grants, STTR grants and matching funds. Usually there will be institutional support, perhaps from funds whose mission is to advance innovations and spur economic development — sources like the Innovate Indiana Fund, which promotes a culture of entrepreneurism within the Indiana University family by helping early-stage venture companies grow to the next level of success.

Local investment and support of our startups as they grow and develop high-wage, highly skilled job opportunities can positively affect the state. The support can include institutional, state and federal funding, but it must spread further into the private sector. We must develop more early-stage investment capacity in Indiana and encourage investment and mentoring locally, not only for immediate benefits to the state’s economic and workforce development, but also to show others that research conducted — and companies created — here in Indiana have an impact across the world.

Tony Armstrong is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.

Can you hack it? Register now for the April 21-22 IoT Civic Hackathon at Launch Fishers.

At the IoT Civic Hackathon, an April 21-22 event produced by the AT&T Developer Program, teams of attendees will code mobile apps or hack hardware solutions to help better their state and community. It will take place at Launch Fishers, a co-working space at 12175 Visionary Way in Fishers, Indiana.

Prizes will be awarded in five categories:

  • Best Overall Hack
  • Best Agriculture Innovation
  • Best Logistics/Transportation Innovation
  • Best Manufacturing Innovation
  • Best Smart City Hack

Registration for the IoT Civic Hackathon is free, and lunch and dinner will be served April 22. Technical mentors will attend the event, and loaner hardware and data sources will be available. Learn more and register online.

Innovate Indiana is among the event sponsors.

 

Indiana University researchers map key protein in the Zika virus

The structure of the Zika virus protein NS5, which is key to the reproduction and spread of the virus.

Indiana University researchers are leading a team that has mapped a protein that allows the Zika virus to reproduce and spread. Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. has applied for a patent on the method to reproduce the protein in a laboratory setting.

Cheng Kao, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, is one of the leaders on the study.

Cheng Kao, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, works on equipment in his IU laboratory.
Cheng Kao

“Mapping this protein provides us the ability to reproduce a key part of the Zika virus in a lab,” Kao said. “This means we can quickly analyze existing drugs and other compounds that can disrupt the spread of the virus. Drugs to target the Zika virus will almost certainly involve this protein.”

The World Health Organization reports that more than 1 million people in 52 countries and territories in the Americas have been infected with the Zika virus since 2015. The disease has also been confirmed to cause microcephaly in more than 2,700 infants born to women infected with the virus while pregnant. Symptoms include neurological disorders and a head that is significantly smaller than normal.

The IU-led study, conducted in collaboration with Texas A&M University, revealed the structure of the Zika virus protein NS5, which contains two enzymes needed for the virus to replicate and spread. The first enzyme reduces the body’s ability to mount an immune response against infection. The other enzyme helps “kick off” the replication process.

More information about the study, which also appears in the journal Nature Communications, is available here.

WhatFriendsDo, an Innovate Indiana Fund portfolio company, teams up with Susan G. Komen Central Indiana

Two Indiana organizations have teamed up to fight breast cancer is a new way. Susan G. Komen Central Indiana has launched a peer-to-peer website with WhatFriendsDo, a startup that is part of the Innovate Indiana Fund portfolio.

More Than Friends is dedicated to battling breast cancer and making the cancer journey a little more bearable for the patient and their loved ones. The website launched in March 2017 to provide ways for existing friends to support each other during critical times of need, while also facilitating new connections between local breast cancer patients and Komen Central Indiana volunteers who want to lend a hand.

headshot of Natalie Sutton
Natalie Sutton, Executive Director, Susan G. Komen Central Indiana

“In our world, pink is much more than a color. It represents the impact each person is making in the fight against the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world,” said Natalie Sutton, executive director of Komen Central Indiana. “Through this initiative, we are eager to deepen our impact in the communities we serve and directly touch the lives of breast cancer patients who are beloved sisters, wives, mothers, coworkers and friends.”

Aimee Kandrac, founder and CEO of WhatFriendsDo, says she and her core team were inspired to create the online platform after banding together to help a close friend with a devastating cancer diagnosis. The experience of rallying around their friend and working together to deliver meals, provide family support and take care of chores, Kandrac said, illustrated the power of a collective purpose and the need for a single organizing space that combines functions like scheduling, fundraising and communication.

headshot of Aimee Kandrac
Aimee Kandrac, Founder and CEO, WhatFriendsDo

“WhatFriendsDo is like that super-organized sister or friend who coordinates the group response, assessing what’s needed, defining ways people can help, organizing support and keeping everyone informed and updated so that they get involved early and stay engaged every step of the way — because that’s what friends do,” Kandrac said.

It’s free to use More Than Friends, from creating a support network to joining an existing network. From there, the user can access a variety of tools, including:

  • A calendar to help users organize practical tasks, like meal delivery, errands, transportation, child care and more, making it easier to fit helping a loved one into a hectic schedule
  • A “Help Registry” that allows users to build wish lists of items needed during a cancer journey
  • A “Leave a Note” feature that allows members of a support network to send encouraging messages
  • A blog and photo video board that cancer patients can use to let their network know about their progress. It can be exhausting to keep everyone updated through a cancer journey, and this feature streamlines the process.

The site also features daily tips and a personal concierge service to provide expertise to those going through an event and the people who want to help them in a meaningful way. Learn about other features on the How It Works page.

(more…)

Grant awarded to IU to assist women, minority entrepreneurs

headshot of Jennifer Finefield
Jennifer Finefield, Senior Technology Manager, Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation

Women and other minority entrepreneurs will benefit from a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Indiana University, University of Louisville, and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The $225,000 grant is for a pilot program titled AWARE:ACCESS: Building Innovation Capacity through Diversity. The Indiana University grant partners are Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Jennifer Finefield, Ph.D., senior technology manager at IURTC and co-investigator on the grant, said, “We are thrilled to help Midwestern female and minority entrepreneurs become better equipped to compete for federal funding through this regional grant from the NSF.”

headshot of Padma Portonovo
Padma Portonovo, Program Manager, Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute

Padma Portonovo, Ph.D., IU’s co-principal investigator on the grant and program manager at Indiana CTSI, said, “Startup companies are an important stage of the translational research spectrum, so this initiative is key to the Indiana CTSI’s mission of accelerating research to commercialization, and to increase the representation of women and minorities in this process.”

You can read more about the grant and the AWARE:ACCESS program here.

We welcome the new director of the IU Public Policy Institute

headshot of Tom Guevara
Tom Guevara, newly appointed director of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute

Tom Guevara has been named the director of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, located at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He spent the past six years as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. In his role there, Guevara led the federal economic development agenda, promoting innovation and competitiveness to help U.S. workers and businesses compete globally.

Guevara says his vision for the institute is to not only continue supporting research that results in effective policies that improve the quality of life for Indiana residents, but also make the IU Public Policy Institute a national leader in the areas of specialty that it currently has in its portfolio. He says the best policies are “context neutral” and can be applied regardless of location.

“I’ve found that while policies are customized to individual cities, states or communities, underneath the policy are both an analysis and some recommended solutions that can carry over to a lot of different places,” Guevara said. “To the extent that we develop policies that can address the problems Hoosiers face, I would hope that many of those same policies and solutions could be applied in other parts of the country that face similar challenges.”

More information about Guevara and his appointment as director of the IU Public Policy Institute is available here.

Ask the Tech Manager: Bill Brizzard discusses how inventors can help IURTC commercialize inventions (Part 2 of 2)

The first of this two-part feature was published Feb. 2. You can read it here.

headshot of Bill Brizzard
Bill Brizzard, Director of Technology Commercialization, Bloomington

Q: How can I help with the commercialization of my work?

A: Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. typically follows a delayed path of patent prosecution to allow time for the invention to be developed and to find a commercial partner. A patent application only protects what is claimed in the application itself. As you conduct additional research, you should advise IURTC of any improvements that should be added. Again, this should be in advance of any public disclosure.

Eventually, the patent application will be examined by the patent office. Usually, the initial response from the patent office is a rejection. There can be numerous reasons for the rejection, but very often the basis of it is technical in nature. In these instances, input from the inventor may be very helpful in overcoming the rejection. IURTC’s response to the patent office must be submitted in a timely manner to avoid payment of late fees as well as the possibility of abandonment of the application for failure to respond. Your timely assistance will help reduce costs and increase the likelihood of obtaining meaningful, and potentially valuable, patent protection.

In summary, successful technology commercialization is a partnership between the inventor and the technology commercialization office. We can’t do it alone.

Bill Brizzard is director of technology commercialization for the Bloomington campus for the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. IURTC helps researchers across all campuses in the IU system bring promising research and innovations to market. You can contact Bill at bbrizzar@iu.edu, 812-855-3597.

Bloomington Innovation Conference brings together industry leaders, IU Bloomington researchers on April 6

Lab with Steve Boehm, science student in lab with professor

The third annual Bloomington Innovation Conference continues its mission to bring some of the best Indiana University research to the marketplace.

Researchers will highlight new and continuing innovation in the Indiana University Bloomington research community, and regional industry leaders will get early exposure to cutting-edge work that could potentially lead to commercial products and services.

The conference will be Thursday, April 6 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Frangipani Room in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St., Bloomington. Nick Nikolaides of the University of Cincinnati will be the keynote  speaker. It is sponsored by the Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research. Seating is limited; to reserve your seat, visit here.

More information about the conference is available here.

A Note to Our Readers:

On Thursday, March 23, the Viewpoints blogs are transitioning to the upcoming News at IU website, news.iu.edu, where readers can discover all news related to IU. In addition. if you are currently subscribed to a blog’s RSS feed, you can visit to re-subscribe to them after launch.

Forbes: Indianapolis ranks high among American metropolitan areas in creating technology jobs

The Indianapolis skyline captured from the roof of The Tower residence hall, with the super moon, on Monday November 14, 2016.

According to a Forbes survey of American metropolitan areas, the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson area ranks #5 in the country in creating high-tech jobs.

In the Forbes article, which you can read here, the authors write, “Another surprising up and comer is Indianapolis in fifth place. The share of STEM jobs in the local economy, 5%, is close to the national average but STEM employment is up 18% since 2006. Tech employment has grown rapidly, with the job count at tech companies up an impressive 68% since 2006, led by 1,700% growth at Internet-based businesses and 8,100 new jobs in custom programming and systems design.”

A gallery that outlines the methodology to determine rankings and highlights the top 15 metropolitan areas is available here.

A Note to Our Readers:

On Thursday, March 23, the Viewpoints blogs are transitioning to the upcoming News at IU website, news.iu.edu, where readers can discover all news related to IU. In addition, if you are currently subscribed to a blog’s RSS feed, you can visit to re-subscribe to them after launch.