Technology Transfer Program
Intellectual property created by Monell scientists has covered a range of technologies from non-toxic bird repellents to gender-specific deodorant compositions to a naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory compound from olive oil.
Technologies are often commercialized by corporate sponsors. One of the benefits of sponsorship is first notice of the opportunity to license inventions developed by Monell. In addition, the Center’s technology transfer policy acknowledges the special status of financial sponsors of specific research projects. Typically, exclusive options to license rights are granted for inventions resulting from sponsored research projects.
- Natural anti-inflammatory and its derivatives
The benefits of olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet have been explored extensively, and the number of studies investigating the putative healthful compounds in olive oil is rising dramatically. Oleocanthal is a compound in olive oil that has anti-inflammatory activity equal in potency to ibuprofen. Studies suggest that oleocanthal may help in the treatment of a variety of inflammatory conditions, including neurodegenerative disease and cancer. Methods for the natural extraction of oleocanthal; and the enantioselective synthesis of oleocanthal and its derivatives have also been developed. Monell Docket M012.
For more information see http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/trpa1_receptor, http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/oleocanthal_alz.
- Cultured human taste cells
Monell scientists were the first to develop methods for maintenance of long-term cultures of human taste cells. Cultured cells respond to taste stimuli at concentrations within the range of in vivo sensitivity. Cultured taste cells with native receptor and transduction machinery provide significant advantages over heterologous receptor systems for screening new taste compounds and modifiers.
Alternative mechanism for sweet taste In addition to the well-known T1R2/T1R3 sweet taste receptor, there appears to be another mechanism for detection of sweet compounds, in particular, natural sugars. This alternate sensing pathway involves sugar transporters and an ATP-gated channel similar to that involved in glucose sensing and insulin release in the pancreas. Screening for sweet taste using a system that includes this alternative pathway should provide a more comprehensive screen for sweet compounds and sweet taste modifiers. Monell Docket: M008.
For more information see http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/human_cells.
- Male Fertility Targets
The cellular machinery for taste is not restricted to the tongue, but is also found in cells localized in other tissues. Monell scientists have now discovered cellular mechanisms typically associated with taste detection and transduction in testis cells and sperm. In some cases, these mechanisms appear to be involved in spermatogenesis and their manipulation can result in male infertility in an animal model. The findings provide new, species-specific targets for development of male contraceptives, treatments for male infertility, and enhancement of in vitro fertilization. Monell Dockets M002 and M020.
For more information see http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/inactivation_of_taste_genes_causes_male_sterility.
- Ingredient Screening and Drug Targets using an Alternative mechanism for sweet taste
In addition to the well-known T1R2/T1R3 sweet taste receptor, there appears to be another mechanism for detection of sweet compounds, in particular, natural sugars. This alternate sensing pathway involves sugar transporters and an ATP-gated channel similar to that involved in glucose sensing and insulin release in the pancreas. Screening for sweet taste using a system that includes this alternative pathway should provide a more comprehensive screen for sweet compounds and sweet taste Monell Docket M001.
For more information see http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/sweet_receptors.
- Method of Blocking Perception of Malodor
The human olfactory system detects odors using a large repertoire of canonical olfactory receptors, as well as a small repertoire of recently described trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs). Although studies have shown that a single TAAR receptor can have a large influence on perception, little is known about the functionality of this class of olfactory receptors. The TAARs are exquisitely sensitive to amines, which are largely found to be aversive to many species, including humans.
Monell investigators have developed a method to identify compounds that inhibit, reduce or block the perception of malodors that activate the TAARs. They have employed this method to find and behaviorally validate a number of compounds that reduce the perception of malodors. Monell Docket M062.
- Compositions and Methods for the Detection of Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is presently diagnosed by a physician. There are many instances, whether it be on the athletic or battle field, where concussions go undiagnosed. A biomarker for TBI is desirable in order to rapidly and accurately diagnose a concussion/mild TBI and to insure rapid medical treatment and therapy. Currently there is no such biomarker.
The investigators have discovered that mice can detect and differentiate urine from a brain-injured animal compared to urine from a sham-operated animal with over 80% accuracy and have preliminarily identified the altered chemicals which give rise to the novel odorant. Monell Docket M059.
- A System for Ovarian Cancer Detection
Ovarian cancer accounts for around 3% of all cancers in women. According to the American Cancer Society, about 22,240 women in the US will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer this year, and 14,230 women will die from the disease. An effective screening strategy does not currently exist for the detection of ovarian cancer, and any advancement in diagnosis of ovarian cancer could have an important impact on overall survival from the disease.
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) – or odorants, are altered in the early stages of ovarian cancer. Previous studies have shown that trained detection dogs, alongside specific electronic devices, are able to detect minute quantities of odorants. More recently, a group of researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the University of Pennsylvania used canine olfaction as well as chemical and nanotechnology-enabled sensor analysis as a means of detecting ovarian cancer. By using sensitive biological and analytical sensors the research team has identified the VOC’s that create ovarian cancer’s odorous signature. Monell Docket M058.
For more information see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/magazine/what-does-cancer-smell-like.html, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/training-dogs-to-sniff-out-cancer/, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26472225.
- Olfactory Receptors from Human Taste Cell Culture
Olfactory receptor genes are considered to be the largest superfamily of the mammalian genome, and in the case of humans, approximately 390 kinds of functional ORs play a role in perceiving odors. In spite of their significance in olfaction, the function of all ORs has not yet been fully revealed. In order to efficiently identify specific ligands of orphan ORs, methods that can generate olfactory signals in a reliable manner and that can convert the cellular signals into measurable responses are required. Here, we describe a potential OR screening method using intact cell OR’s from human taste papillae. Monell Docket M021.
- Olfactory Receptors on Nanotubes
Monell and Penn researchers have helped develop a nanotech device that combines carbon nanotubes with olfactory receptor proteins, the cell components in the nose that detect odors. Because olfactory receptors belong to a larger class of proteins that are involved in passing signals through the cell membrane, these devices could have applications beyond odor sensing, such as pharmaceutical research.
The team worked with olfactory receptors derived from mice, but all olfactory receptors are part of a class of proteins known as G Protein Coupled Receptors, or GPCRs. These receptors sit on the outer membrane of cells, where certain chemicals in the environment can bind to them. The binding action is the first step in a chemical cascade that leads to a cellular response; in the case of an olfactory receptor, this cascade leads to the perception of a smell. As the particular GPCR the team worked with was an olfactory receptor, the test case for their nanotube device was to function as sensor for airborne chemicals. Monell Docket M023.
For more information see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nn200489j.
- Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Upper Airway and Sinus Infections
Severe cases of chronic rhinosinusitis often require surgery to open the sinuses and allow more effective draining and subsequent irrigation to prevent recurrent infection. In some of these surgical cases; however, the initial surgery is ineffective and the patient may need to undergo subsequent more aggressive surgeries to more fully open the sinus cavities. The investigators have now discovered that the nasal epithelium contains specific bitter taste receptors. Importantly, they have also demonstrated that genotype of a specific bitter taste receptor found in the nasal epithelium is very predictive in stratifying rhinosinusitis patients that would benefit from surgery versus those who would not. In addition, the inventors have demonstrated that stimulation of this bitter taste receptor causes release of an antimicrobial peptide that they proceeded to functionally characterize. Therefore, in addition to the possible diagnostic applications of this technology, the invention may also be utilized to develop a novel therapeutic for more rapidly clearing infections of the sinuses and upper respiratory tract. Monell Docket M051.