We would like to thank all the teams that took part in 2022/23
The 2022/23 Proteus Innovation Competition was a huge success. We continue to see submissions and pitches that impress our judges more and more each year. We thank all participants and congratulate the winners for an outstanding competition. We are pleased to award over $25k in prizes to the winners listed below.
Congratulations to the following competition winners who received $5k cash prizes and the opportunity to license the technologies:
Western University Winners
Laura Mejia Torres
Eric Zi Rui Wang
University of Waterloo Winners
University of Guelph Winners
Team: Wonder Metal
University of Windsor Winners
Team: L-ion Textiles
Amy Wang (Jing Bo)
McMaster University Winners
Team: Solar Medical Solutions
Nicole Angelica Lucena
Audience Choice Award Winners
Team: Gasch and Li
2022/23 In Review
Individuals across 5 technologies
Teams passed Stage 1
Teams passed Stage 2
- Diagnostic Marker for Diabetic Retinopathy
- Method for Vitamin D Screening
- Stretchable and Wearable Composite Electrodes
- DNA aptamer biosensors for lactate detection
- High Strength, High Conductivity Aluminum Alloy
A Long Non-Coding RNA Panel as a Diagnostic Marker for Diabetic Retinopathy
With nearly 642 million people globally projected to live with diabetes in the year 2040, the risk for developing diabetes-related complications will drastically increase. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic degenerative metabolic disease that is characterized by sustained hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia correlates with a number of DM-related complications and is one of the preeminent factors for causing vascular damage in the human body.
The majority of diabetic complications can be viewed as either microvascular disease (small vascular injury, including retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy, and cardiomyopathy) or macrovascular disease (large vessel injury, including macrovascular-related stroke, ischemic heart disease, and peripheral artery disease). Diabetic retinopathy (DR) remains the most prevalent chronic microvascular complication of DM. The relationship between DR and diabetes has been reported in several studies with the majority of type 1 diabetic patients and over 60% of patients with type 2 DM developing evidence of DR within 20 years of diagnosis.
With the incidence of visual impairment due to DR strongly related to the duration of diabetes, retinopathy remains asymptomatic to the patient until the pathology significantly progresses. Given that general practitioners lack the tools of specialists to accurately assess retinopathies, and patients often experience long wait times to see a specialist, a point of care test is needed for earlier detection of developing retinopathies and earlier referral dates for specialists.
Currently there are no identified Biomarkers in the clinic for detection of Diabetic Retinopathy using a blood test.
Researchers at Western University have identified a long non-coding RNA panel that can be used as a diagnostic biomarker as an early detection method for Diabetic Retinopathy.
- Biomarker candidates are differentially expressed and can be easily detected and monitored using either blood serum or retinal vitreous samples.
- Currently no blood based RNA biomarker is available.
- Biomarker panel can be easily converted to a point of care system.
- Biomarker assay can be used for other diabetic pathologies.
- Cost-effective compared to other approaches.
- Potential for at-home use by patients, reducing wait times and use of specialists.
- Diabetic retinopathy-based diagnostics
- Non-invasive screening for diabetes-related organ damage
Chakrabarti’s research focuses on investigating pathogenetic mechanisms of chronic diabetic complications Diabetic retinopathy and cardiomyopathy are two major areas of research in our laboratory. Current projects involve analyses of epigenetic mechanisms such as histone acetylation, microRNA alteration and their relationship with alterations of vasoactive factors and extracellular matrix protein production. We examine these mechanisms at multiple levels of complexity in an attempt to develop potential therapies using a wide variety of techniques.
Business Development Contact: Tristan Harrison
Novel High-Throughput Method for Vitamin D Screening
Vitamin D is an important fat-soluble pro-hormone with important effects relevant to human bone health.1 Beyond its importance in bone health, vitamin D also plays a key role in stimulating immune responses to foreign pathogens while controlling inflammation.1 Vitamin D deficiency is quite prevalent in Canada over the winter months due to the lack of sunlight exposure, which also coincides with respiratory illness season.2 Current Vitamin D screening methods, such as immunoassays, require time and offer unreliable results – varying between manufacturers.1 Thus, there is a need for a rapid screening platform for Vitamin D that offers better precision and accuracy than immunoassays. McMaster researchers have developed a high throughput method for assessing vitamin D status from blood specimens based on a method called direct infusion-tandem mass spectrometry (DI-MS/MS). An optimized protocol was developed to quantitatively determine Vitamin D status in patients. Researchers envision that the home testing kit could be performed in the future using a finger pinprick of blood. The disclosed method was also shown to reduce immunoassay misclassification of vitamin D deficiency within a cohort of critically ill children. DI-MS/MS offers a reliable alternative to currently used methods in support of large-scale epidemiological studies, and clinical trials to rapidly screen individuals who may benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
- This method offers a cost effective and high throughput platform for routine screening of vitamin D nutritional status in large populations that currently is not available.
- Having a rapid test to identify vitamin D deficiency is important, particularly for cases of critically ill children, where delays in treatment may affect patient outcomes.
This method offers greater throughput and robustness than current Vitamin D detection methods and is more accurate and reproducible than commercial immunoassays.
Vitamin D nutrition is critical for immune health that has been demonstrated to reduce respiratory infections, hospitalization, and mortality, including COVID-19.
CIC Newsletter, “Faster, more reliable vitamin D test could help better prevent respiratory illness” by Sharon Oosthoek, published May 9, 2022.
Philip Britz-McKibbin is a Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University. Dr. Britz-McKibbin leads a dynamic multidisciplinary research group in bio-analytical chemistry that focuses on cutting-edge metabolomics research for clinical medicine and population health based on innovations in capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry technology. Our primary motivation of our research program is to identify and quantify clinically relevant biomarkers that enable early detection and accurate diagnosis of genetic and chronic human diseases, including the validation of safe yet efficacious lifestyle interventions for disease prevention. Our work also aims to shed light into new mechanistic understanding of the pathophysiology of human disorders of unknown or complex aetiology.
Business Development contact: Amy Hector
Tufted Pile Fabric as Framework for Stretchable and Wearable Composite Electrodes
The modern era internet-of-things has led to wearable sensors that can monitor many physiological parameters of the body. Sensors can be directly incorporated into garments or fibers called electronic textiles (e-textiles). These sensors will revolutionize biometric data measurement while maintaining comfort and ease without the need for bulky battery packs. In particular, the development of effective lightweight and stretchable energy storage devices for e-textiles has been challenging due to the rigid and brittle nature of energy storage electrodes not compatible with flexible and stretchable e-textiles.
The current invention leverages velour fabric’s inherent architecture, consisting of a warp-knitted framework and a cut pile, to fabricate a stretchable lithium-ion battery electrode. The warp-knitted velour fabric is metallized with gold, followed by selective deposition of the brittle electroactive material such as copper sulfide on the fabric’s cut piles. This unique preparation method integrates the electroactive material and the current collector into a single piece of velour fabric. In this way, the brittle copper sulfide is localized on the cut pile and current collector on the stretchable warp-knitted framework. This dual coating allows the horizontal movement of cut piles while protecting brittle electroactive materials from the mechanical force.
- Relatively high energy density and long cycle life of lithium-ion batteries compared to supercapacitors, energy generators, and solar cells.
- Capable of sustaining significant stretch while preserving the functionality of textile battery electrode (after undergoing 1000 stretching-releasing cycles).
- The textile lithium-ion battery electrode exhibits a specific capacity of ~400 mAh/g at 0.5 C for at least 300 cycles.
- Novel textile-based architectural strain-engineering approach, which can be used for other tufted pile fabrics, such as faux fur, plush, and velvet.
- Tufted pile fabrics are mass manufactured and widely available. •
- All the fabrication methods are solution-based, metal plating solutions are commercially available, and the fabrication method is scalable.
- No high-cost capital equipment and no significant changes to current e-textile production methods are required.
Tricia Breen Carmichael is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Windsor. She received her Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Windsor, held a postdoctoral position at Harvard University, and then joined the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York as a Research Staff Member in organic electronics. She currently leads an interdisciplinary research program on stretchable and wearable electronic devices and printed electronics. She has published influential papers in the field, with highlights that include new textile-based wearable electronics (e-textiles), wearable electroluminescent fabrics, soft and stretchable light-emitting devices, and the first transparent butyl rubber for next-generation stretchable electronics. Dr. Carmichael is also the co-director of the NSERC Green Electronics Network, a national strategic network developing new functional materials and printing methods for smart packaging. Dr. Carmichael holds more than 25 worldwide patents. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Flexible and Printed Electronics (Institute of Physics) and an Editorial Board Member of Matter (Cell Press) and Chem (Cell Press).
Business Development contact: TBD
With limited oxygen, anaerobic glycolysis occurs to convert glucose to lactate. Athletes are keen to monitor lactate to stay in the aerobic metabolic state. A high level of lactate is also an indication of a variety of physiological and pathological conditions such as sepsis and heart attack, acidosis and cancer. Measurement of lactate is also important in the food industry to monitor fermentation, bacterial contamination and wine production.
The detection of lactate has been traditionally carried out using enzymes namely lactate oxidase (LOx) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). LOx produces H2O2 as a co-product for indirect detection. LDH requires NAD+ as an electron acceptor. The reliability and sensitivity of such enzyme-based biosensors is affected by enzyme activity, denaturation, and the concentration of oxygen or NAD+, making calibration difficult.
Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids and they have been shown to bind to a diverse range of target molecules. Unlike enzymes, aptamers rely solely on binding for target recognition and are independent of other reactants such as oxygen or NAD+. In this invention, an aptamer is produced to bind lactate with a dissociation constant of ~0.4 mM with excellent selectivity. Simultaneous detection of both lactate and glucose in a serum solution was achieved using the two sensors labeled with different fluorophores. The figure on the top left corner shows the diagram of the detection of both lactate and glucose in the same sample. The sensors had instantaneous responses. They can work even in 90% human blood serum.
The aptamer-based technology can allow direct, rapid and continuous monitoring of lactate concentration. It is a totally different technology compared to the current enzyme-based assays. It will allow more robust, simpler and more cost-effective detection.
- Wearable biosensors for continuous lactate monitoring (athletes)
- Hospital emergency room (sepsis diagnosis)
- Bacterial infection diagnosis
- Lactate acidosis diagnosis
- Food industry, fermentation, wine production
Dr. Juewen Liu is currently a full professor at the University of Waterloo and holds a University Research Chair position. He received a Fred Beamish Award in 2014 and a McBryde Medal in 2018 from the Canadian Society for Chemistry for his contribution in bioanalytical chemistry. He is a College member of the Royal Society of Canada. He serves as a Section Editor for Biosensors & Bioelectronics. He has over 12 patents and has published over 400 papers with an H-index of 91.
Business Development contact: Saeed Bagheri
High Strength, High Conductivity Aluminum Alloy
- Castable aluminum alloy with high strength and high conductivity (thermal, electrical.)
- Free from exotic alloying elements and compositionally robust.
- Reduced or eliminated hot-tearing susceptibility.
- Proof of concept stage attained.
- Derivative and new variant technologies are currently under development.
- Allows fabrication of complex parts that balance the strength of wrought aluminum with the conductivity of copper, without the need for welding or machining.
- Electrically/thermally conductive cast aluminum parts with improved conductivity.
- E.g. electric motor rotors, battery trays, motor/inverter casings, heat sinks
- Reduce the weight of copper components by replacing copper with aluminum.
- Non-exotic alloy composition reduces cost and increases recyclability.
Dr. Abdallah Elsayed completed his undergraduate, masters and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) with a research focus on light metal solidification and characterisation. After completing his PhD, Abdallah was employed at Nemak Canada Corporation located in Windsor, Ontario as a research engineer. Abdallah joined the school of engineering at the University of Guelph in July 2017 with a research focus in advanced manufacturing and development of materials for the automotive, biomedical, environmental and food industries. Abdallah has more than 30 journal publications with numerous conference proceedings and presentations.
Abdallah is a professional engineer and member of ASM international, TMS and CIM. Abdallah was the 2022 recipient of the ASM Bronze Medal, 2020 recipient of the ASM International Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers, 2020 TMS Light Metals Division Young Leaders Professional Development Award and selected as a CIM Emerging Professional in 2020.
Business Development contact: Steve De Brabandere