Inventions Galore

Dozens of groundbreaking inventions have been born at UNC-Chapel Hill, several of them in the medical world.

Among them is Joe DeSimone’s nanoparticle drug delivery, a breakthrough using the world’s tiniest man-made particles that could revolutionize cancer treatment. DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor in the Department of Chemistry.  Equally revolutionary is longtime former medical faculty member Etta Pisano’s low-dose x-ray machine, which captures higher-quality images while emitting less radiation than a standard machine.

Chemist Mike Ramsey’s research has resulted in two successful companies that sell products such as a handheld mass spectrometer, which can be used to detect chemical weapons, spills in hospitals and in other settings. Ramsey is the Minnie N. Goldby Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, director of the Center for Biomedical Microtechnologies and a founding member of the department of applied physical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Michael Ramsey.

Michael Ramsey holds his Lab-on-a-Chip.

A second invention of Ramsey’s is in the field of microfluidics, which he coined as Lab-on-a-Chip technology. Rather than forming tiny wires and switches for electronic devices such as smart phones, Ramsey formed tiny conduits or pipes, the width of which are on the scale of the diameter of a human hair or smaller, to transport liquids containing chemicals and biological molecules and perform experiments that are normally conducted in test tubes and beakers.

The ability to perform laboratory operations on small scales using miniaturized lab-on-a-chip devices has brought a new approach to the world of chemistry and medicine, where they can be used in more efficient drug discovery and low-cost, rapid medical diagnostics.

Other faculty member created towelettes that can safely remove difficult-to-clean anticancer drugs commonly found on surfaces in hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and labs. The product, called Hazardous Drug Clean – or HDClean – addresses the safety of health care workers who handle the potentially dangerous drugs.

The towelettes were invented by Stephen Eckel, an adjunct professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and William Zamboni, an associate professor in pharmacy.

More than 50 companies based on Carolina inventions have been launched, too.  Pharmacy professor Anthony Hickey and Timm Crowder, Ph.D., turned their invention of a dry powder inhaler into a company called Oriel Therapeutics, which now holds eight patents.

These are just a few of UNC-Chapel Hill’s advancements that are making the world a healthier place. For more info about UNC inventions, patents and research, visit the Office of Technology Development.

August 17, 2014.

Published September 24, 2012.