ORNL project earns top honor from Southeast tech transfer group


OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Nov. 3, 2004 -- A technology that can scan living small animals and other biological objects has been honored as project of the year by the Southeastern Region of the Federal Laboratory Consortium.

The MicroCAT X-ray micro-computed tomography for biological research was named as the top project in the Southeast during the organization's Oct. 28 dinner in Orlando, Fla.

The FLC promotes technology commercialization among federal laboratories.

The MicroCAT technology enables mice and other small creatures to be screened for tumors and genetic study while they are still alive. The technology provides three-dimensional images of the subject being studied. The device saves time and money because biologists can screen subjects individually for internal mutations in seven to 20 minutes without sacrificing and dissecting the animals. They can be examined repeatedly. Cell research can also be conducted with this device.

The technology was developed by Shaun Gleason and Michael Paulus of ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division. The project is funded by DOE's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

Other members of the team are Derek Austin, Miljko Bobrek, Gary Alley, Kenneth Tobin and Chris McKinney of the Engineering Science and Technology Division.

Two other ORNL technologies earned Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards from the regional organization. They are the AquaSentinel real-time water supply protection monitor and the photo-molecular comb biomolecular separator.

The AquaSentinel system was developed as real-time in-the-field detection technology for water testing and for safeguarding large-scale domestic primary drinking water supplies. The availability of such systems will help ensure the safety of water supply systems across the United States.

The research was sponsored by DOE's Basic Energy Sciences program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and United Defense LP.

ORNL researchers involved with this project are Elias Greenbaum, Miguel Rodriguez, Charlene Sanders of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division, David Hill of the Metals and Ceramics Division, Richard L. Stouder of the National Security Directorate and Mark Reeves of the Technology Transfer and Economic Development Directorate. Also working on the project was Jack Harrell of the Instrumentation Control Group.

The photo-molecular comb technology uses a light-induced charge on a semiconductor liquid interface to transport biological molecules on the surface of a microchip, illuminating the semiconductor with a low-cost light source. This movement results in fast and accurate biomolecular separations with unprecedented versatility.

The project is a joint effort with Protein Discovery, along with funding from DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. ORNL researchers working on this project are Thomas Thundat, Gilbert Brown, Thomas Ferrell, Robert Warmack and Russ Miller. Protein Discovery researchers involved are Charles Witkowski, Jay Harkins, Dean Hafeman and Killian Dill.

Earning honorable mention for excellence in technology transfer were the MicroTrap MS microscale ion-trap mass spectrometer and the miniature californium-252 neutron source for cancer therapy.

The microtrap mass spectrometer is a microscale ion trap device that can analyze the composition of a substance through miniature chemical sensing technology. A battery-powered hand-held prototype has been constructed. ORNL researcher William Whitten has worked on this project along with David Strand of the Protasis Corp. The research is sponsored by DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Nonproliferation Research and Engineering.

The miniature californium-252 neutron source for cancer therapy will enable physicians to insert a tiny radiation source through a catheter, delivering high-intensity neutron radiation directly to a tumor site with more impact than existing technology. Isotron, of Norcross, Ga., funded the research through a cooperative research and development agreement. The californium-252 was provided by DOE's Californium Industrial/University Sales/Loan Program part of the Isotope Production and Distribution Program.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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