Livermore researchers capture two awards for technology transfers to businesses

Researchers and technology transfer professionals from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive two awards for excellence in technology transfer by the Federal Laboratory Consortium.

LLNL's two awards this year make it one of seven research laboratories to receive multiple honors, among the more than 250 federal government laboratories and research centers that comprise the consortium.

This year's awards will be presented May 5 during the Federal Laboratory Consortium's four-day national technology transfer meeting at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Started in 1974, the consortium assists the U.S. public and private sectors in utilizing technologies developed by federal government research laboratories.

Livermore won its two awards for developing a non-invasive and continuous real-time intracranial hematoma detector and for developing a key component of a robotic biochemistry lab that can be placed in the ocean to conduct analysis.

Radar aids intracranial hematoma detector

Lab researchers have developed a prototype intracranial hematoma detector based on ultra-wide band (UWB) radar signals, which are capable of detecting and monitoring internal head injuries.

More than 1.3 million people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Of those injured, 52,000 die and about 100,000 suffer long-term disability.

The production instrument would be an automated, unattended, portable, non-invasive, continuous real-time monitoring device that detects the presence and expansion of an intracranial hemorrhage.

With early detection and real-time monitoring, many patients could be saved and life-long disabilities avoided. Unfortunately, health care facilities lack real-time tools for monitoring TBI patients for delayed and aggressive intracranial bleeding, which is difficult to detect and can kill a patient many hours after the initial trauma and diagnosis.

Modern equipment, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are routinely used by hospital physicians to detect regions of injured brain tissue for initial diagnosis.

These tools are not, however, suitable for continuous real-time monitoring of brain injuries because they expose the patient to significant doses of radiation (from the CT scan) and require the patient to be motionless. Both tools also require significant expertise to operate and cannot run without trained personnel.

The Livermore intracranial hematoma detector is ideally suited for medical diagnostic and monitoring applications because the non-ionizing radiation introduced into the body has energy levels that are substantially below a handheld cell phone.

Work to advance the development and commercialization of the detector is being handled by a three-way collaboration of Lab scientists; NeuroSapient Inc., a startup company; and the U.C. Davis Health System, which will test the device.

Those receiving awards for the hematoma detector work are: John Chang, a Livermore researcher representing the LLNL technical team; Genaro Mempin, a business development executive in the Lab's Industrial Partnerships Office; and Tony Lazar, the founder of NeuroSapient Inc.

DNA detection in the ocean

An Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is a robotic biochemistry lab that can be placed in the ocean to analyze genetic material or other organic compounds created by microorganisms in seawater. After performing these analyses, the ESP can send the results back to shore in real time.

Such analyses can indicate what types of microorganisms are present in the water around the ESP. The instrument also can detect complex organic materials, such as the toxins produced by some red-tide algae.

LLNL researchers worked with the MBARI to add a module to the ESP that uses "quantitative polymerase chain reaction" (qPCR) to make copies of genetic material present in a sample.

This process allows researchers to determine not only what types of organisms are present in a specific sample, but the concentrations of the organisms, as well as detecting organisms present in only very small numbers.

The MBARI turned to LLNL researchers to design the compact PCR module because of their expertise in this field. During the past decade, LLNL has developed a number of PCR-based systems that rapidly detect and identify airborne biological agents.

There is widespread interest in using ESP instruments to study ecological relationships among the thousands of marine microbe species and to detect harmful microbes and toxins for monitoring water quality and managing water resources.

A San Francisco-based corporation, Spyglass Biosecurity Inc., has licensed technology from both MBARI and LLNL. The first commercial ESP units have been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Recipients of the award for the ESP are: chemical engineer John Dzenitis, electronics engineer Vincent Riot, mechanical engineering technician Bill Benett and electronics engineering technician Dean Hadley, all of LLNL; Catherine Elizondo, a business development executive in LLNL's Industrial Partnerships Office; Christopher Scholin, James Birch and Judith Conner, all of MBARI; Luis Mejia, of Stanford University's Office of Technology Licensing; and Chris Melancon of Spyglass Biosecurity Inc.