2020 Memphis Scipreneur Challenge IPs

 XAF-1 Mutations Linked to Cancer Susceptibility

Researchers at St. Jude developed a method for identifying individuals predisposed to cancer by detecting variants that lower the expression or inactivate the function of XAF-1 (X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis-associated factor 1). While studying patients with germline mutations in TP53, they noticed that patients who also harbored XAF-1 variants were more likely to develop different types of cancers and multiple tumors. XAF-1 genotyping is particularly important for carriers of germline TP53 variants, particularly the Brazilian population, in which both mutations often occur. Individuals with these mutations can benefit from close monitoring, genetic counseling and surveillance. These XAF-1 alterations can be easily detected by PCR-based assays, or adapted to include Sanger sequencing, TaqMan genotyping and SNP analysis, etc. We are seeking a partner to move this diagnostic assay forward toward commercialization. A patent application was filed and is available to interested parties under confidentiality.


Researchers at St. Jude remade an anti-CD33 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that incorporates a 4-1BB-CD3ζ signaling tail previously proven effective in clinical trials. This CAR targets CD33 even at effector to target (E:T) ratios of less than one, which may allow for clinical potency even in the setting of high tumor burden. Treatment with specific inhibitors during ex vivo CAR T cell expansion modulated the differentiation program of CAR T cells, preserving a less differentiated phenotype, and improved in vivo persistence without disruption of normal ex vivo proliferation. It therefore, can be incorporated into CAR T cell production regimens without impacting yield. This is important as the inability to produce adequate CAR T cell numbers for treatment remains a significant limitation.

Infant Pericardiocentesis Trainer for Use with Ultrasound

(Mentor: Jonathan Spagnoli, CHIPS Simulation Technologist)

Tamponade is a life threatening condition characterized by fluid accumulation in the pericardium, which compresses the cardiac chamber, impairs diastolic filling, and can lead to clinical shock.  Pericardiocentesis is a technique utilized to treat tamponade; however, it remains a challenge for trainees because of the infrequent exposure of this technique compared to other invasive procedures.  This technique, unlike others, can lead to serious complications including cardiac perforation and arrhythmia.

The technology is an infant pericardiocentesis trainer for use with ultrasound. The outside of the trainer contains 3D external landmarks pertinent to the pericardiocentesis procedure, which includes ribs, a sternum, and a xyphiod process. Inside the trainer, there is a “heart” and fluid around the heart to simulate an effusion. The trainer is made of a material with acoustic properties for ultrasound use, and has tubing access to the heart and effusion, which allows for continuous use of the trainer.

Overall, the product developed from this technology would be an infant pericardiocentesis simulation trainer that allows trainees to utilize ultrasound guidance to pierce the pericardial sac and aspirate pericardial fluid. Trainees will gain skills in patient positioning, visualization of pericardial fluid under ultrasound guidance, needle insertion to the pericardial sac and proper aspiration of pericardial effusion.

A Lollipop for the Treatment of Acid Erosion in Teeth

(Mentor-Hassan Almoazen, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Department of Pharm. Sci.)

Acid erosion in teeth is a common clinical condition that affects millions of individuals in the United States alone. It can be caused by systemic conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, vomiting due to bulimia, morning sickness of pregnancy, or chemotherapy for cancer, or it can be present in otherwise healthy individuals that consume numerous acidic drinks (e.g., sodas or juices) or acidic foods every day. Extensive and costly restorative dental work is often required to restore function and aesthetics of the affected denture.

This technology is a double-layered lollipop which provides a unique solution for the prevention and treatment of acid erosion in teeth. The outer layer of the lollipop contains arginine, an acid buffering basic amino acid that restores oral pH to neutral values after an acidic event. The core consists of sodium fluoride, which supports tooth remineralization.  The lollipop stimulates salivary flow which enhances its acid-neutralizing action. The two-layered structure facilitates sequential action of the active ingredients and enhances their local availability. Gradual dissolution of the lollipop extends the time of action of the active ingredients.

Direct Cell Growth Using Aerogel Materials

(Mentor-Dr. Sabri Firouzeh at the University of Memphis)

This technology is about a cell growth apparatus, particularly neuronal printed circuit board apparatus comprising an aerogel base and a pre-printed cellular growth pattern. The cellular growth pattern is comprised of combinations of layers of cellular adhesion promoting materials, cellular adhesion inhibiting materials, and/or cellular signal promoting materials. This invention is useful for regeneration and precise guidance of cells, particularly nerve cells, when used as an implant. There is one issued patent on the technology with early research results. Potential applications in nerve tissue regeneration. The current biomaterial market is >$100 billion.

Controlling Biofilms with Cyclopropanated Fatty Acids

(Mentor-Dr. Amber Jennings at the University of Memphis)

This invention provides an improved method for generating biodegradable chitosan compositions in film or sponge form, and therapeutic methods of using such compositions to deliver therapeutic agents. By locking the fatty acid into a cis conformation, the invention effectively disperse biofilm, can improve effects of antibiotics, and can stably attach to various polymer surfaces. Application for this invention includes wound dressings, dental implants, drug delivery, and bone healing.

If you have questions, send an email to