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Ohio University licenses technology to Ohio startup company to develop non-invasive osteoporosis diagnostic device

From staff reports | Nov 28, 2018

Ohio University has licensed a technology that can accurately estimate bone strength to Ohio startup company AEIOU Scientific LLC. The company is now a client of the Innovation Center, the university’s business incubator.

AEIOU Scientific began offering the Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ for sale as a scientific research product this fall. It also plans to begin conducting clinical trials in 2019 to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell the technology as a medical device for osteoporosis diagnosis, according to company founder and CEO Jeff Spitzner.

The Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ uses a vibrating ceramic probe placed against the forearm. The bone under the skin vibrates in response.

“The more it vibrates, and the more slowly it vibrates, the weaker it is,” Spitzner said. “We’ve proven scientifically that this is a very accurate indicator of the strength of the bone.”

The process is non-invasive and uses no radiation, he added.

Anne Loucks, a professor of biological sciences in Ohio University’s College of Arts and Sciences, initiated development of the technology almost a decade ago. While conducting research on female athletes that experienced bone fractures, Loucks discovered that existing technologies didn’t accurately measure or predict bone strength.

The Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute provided seed funding to Professor Loucks to support the project in 2014. In early 2016, Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program awarded a team led by Loucks, co-inventor Lyn Bowman of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Brian Clark of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine a $875,000 grant to further develop the technology, which is patent-pending. Spitzner, a Columbus, Ohio-based entrepreneur, offered to become an executive mentor to the faculty research team, which was accepted into the I-Corps@Ohio program. The state program helps university inventors conduct research on the market potential for their technologies and learn how to develop startup companies.

AEIOU Scientific also has received a $477,000 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the medical device, as well as a $150,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Startup Fund to validate the scientific instrument with independent, clinical research groups in the state of Ohio, Spitzner reported.

“Those two grants will prepare us for raising investments and growing the company,” he said.

The scientific market for the product includes thousands of researchers who are studying human bone for various basic or clinical science issues, such as to understand osteoporosis or other bone diseases, to learn more about the impact of nutrition on bone health, or to study pharmaceuticals that could improve bone strength, Spitzner explained.

AEIOU Scientific also is looking to the medical device market, as the Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology™ has potential for helping clinicians better identify patients at risk of low-trauma bone fractures, such as from osteoporosis. The current process used by physicians measures bone mineral density, but it does not predict fractures well, Spitzner said.

“This is another fantastic example of how research at Ohio University can be used to make the world a better place,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “This invention here at OHIO has the potential to help improve the quality of life for many people.”

AEIOU Scientific became a client of the Innovation Center, where it will manufacture the new technology, to make use of the incubator’s services for startup companies.  

“It’s a perfect fit for us,” Spitzner said. “The people who developed the technology and will continue to develop it are in Athens, and now that this has moved out of lab and into the commercial environment, it will be an active collaboration.”

In addition to working collaboratively with university researchers, Spitzner hopes to contribute to the region’s economic growth.

“It’s important for me to build more businesses in southeast Ohio,” he said. “Our goal is to keep the business in the region.”

This project is an outstanding example of how the university can support interdisciplinary teams of researchers and innovators as they move ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace, said David Koonce, interim vice president for research and creative activity at Ohio University.

“Ohio University’s programs that support research, technology commercialization and economic development offer critical access to funding, resources and expertise for inventors and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Contact: Jim Sabin, media relations specialist, at 740-593-0858 or sabin@ohio.edu. Visit OHIO's official media page  for the latest University news and updates, or follow us on Twitter @ohioumedia