BU Wins $13Million in Patent Infringement Suit

A US District Court jury has awarded Boston University more than $13 million after finding that three companies infringed on a BU patent for blue LEDs (light emitting diodes), used in countless cell phones, tablets, laptops, and lighting products.

After a highly technical three-week trial in November, the 10-person jury unanimously found that the companies had willfully infringed on BU’s patent for the invention by 2013 Innovator of the Year Theodore Moustakas, College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Photonics and Optoelectronics Emeritus. Because the jury found the infringement to be willful, the $13,665,000 award could be doubled or tripled by Judge Patti B. Saris. No date has yet been announced for further proceedings.

Despite the amount of damages awarded, “the best part of this is that it validates Professor Moustakas’ work,” says Michael Pratt (Questrom’12), interim managing director of BU’s Technology Development office. “The story is really not about the money. The first thing we want is recognition of his seminal contribution to this field.”

Moustakas, who became a professor emeritus when he retired in June but continues to conduct research at the Photonics Center, testified extensively at the trial and was present in court every day. When the judge read the jury’s verdict, “I put my head down,” he says. “I cried.” He describes the jury’s decision as “amazing…everything we asked,” saying also that his lifetime’s work was being challenged.

“Fundamental to our mission as a global research institution is nurturing an environment of discovery that supports our faculty and the incredibly important work they do,” says Jean Morrison, provost and chief academic officer. “We are delighted with the verdict in this case. Boston University has successfully fought, and will continue to fight, for our faculty members and the intellectual property they create here.”

The three primary defendants, all Taiwan-based, were Epistar Corporation, Everlight Electronics Co., Ltd., and Lite-On Technology Corporation, along with various subsidiaries, most located in the United States. Each is involved in manufacturing or packaging LEDs for use in consumer electronics. A number of big-name electronics manufacturers were initially part of the University’s case, but they avoided litigation by joining a settlement that includes licensing and confidentiality agreements.

The University was represented by Michael Shore, a partner at Shore Chan DePumpo LLP, in Dallas, specialists in intellectual property cases, and Erik Belt, a partner specializing in patent disputes at the Boston law firm McCarter and English LLC, which has represented BU before. While it is possible for the defendants to appeal the verdict, Belt says it would be difficult to overturn the jury’s clear finding of fact.

The University will receive less than half of the final award, after the attorneys, who took the case on a contingency basis, and previous patent licensees are paid. Moustakas will receive 30 percent of the University’s share.

Moustakas joined BU in 1987 and was named the University’s inaugural Distinguished Professor of Photonics and Optoelectronics in 2014. A search is under way for his successor, and the Distinguished Professorship will be renamed the Theodore Moustakas Professorship of Photonics and Optoelectronics.

Moustakas’ invention dates to June 22, 1990, when researchers in his lab were trying to produce microscopically thin layers of gallium nitride to be used in the LEDs, growing crystals of the substance at high temperatures. They discovered that a heater used in the experiment had malfunctioned and the material had cooled to 270 degrees Celsius, far below the intended 600 degrees. But instead of aborting the experiment, Moustakas told them to fix the heater and continue. The snafu led to the growth of a smoother, more translucent gallium nitride layer that also grew much faster when crystallized at the higher temperature, a result replicated—deliberately—the very next day.

The main patent for the LED was issued in 1997, based on an application first submitted in 1991. Since then, blue LEDs have become a key component in many products, because they can generate white light when coated with phosphor.

“The real story is the robustness of Moustakas’ technology,” says Pratt. “It really did become a personal story. There was an attack, an affront to his creation. They had two experts saying it didn’t exist…and the jury wasn’t buying that at all.”

“To infringe in patent law, you don’t have to know about the patent and you don’t have to have an intent,” says Belt. To prove willfulness, “you basically have to show the other side knew of the patent and they were perhaps recklessly disregarding the fact that they were infringing or willfully blind to it. There’s a lot of ways to say it, but you basically have to show that there was willful disregard for BU’s patent rights.

“I think this really validates Professor Moustakas’ scientific breakthrough and establishes him as one of the great scientists in his field,” Belt says.

BU Today covered this story.  See the article at:   http://www.bu.edu/today/2015/bu-wins-13-million-in-patent-infringement-suit

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll Turns Six: TDRR 2015

From its inauguration in 2010, the Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll (TDRR) annual networking event has attracted a variable audience comprised of entrepreneurs, academic scientists, investors, industrialists, and students. Over the past five years Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll has grown and expanded considerably; it has adapted to technological changes and introduced new concepts to deliver a professional and interactive networking experience year after year.

Hosted by Boston University’s Office of Technology Development, the 6th annual TDRR was a massive success that saw over 700 people in attendance.

The Innovator of the Year Award winner was Dr. David J Salant, MD, Professor at the School of Medicine and Chief of Nephrology at the Boston Medical Center, for his work in identifying the PLA2R antigen implicated in an autoimmune form of kidney disease called membranous nephropathy. The award was presented by Boston University’s Vice President and Associate Provost for Research Gloria Waters. 


The enthusiasm was palpable as BU’s key translational and research centers displayed and shared their work with the attendees. The entrepreneurial teams from BU’s summer accelerator program utilized the opportunity to attract potential developers and funders for their start-up ventures. The participants were:

TDRR_2015_0535For the first time since the conception of TDRR, an initiative called “Funder Alley” was implemented to drive direct interaction between investors and attendees. A huge hit with the professional audience, Funder Alley showcased companies like Pfizer CTI, Sanofi, Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC), Mass Medical Angels, Allied Minds, Rockport Capital, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and VentureWell. The attending representatives from these companies were kept busy by curious and interested parties.

This year we had the mobile app development contest, MAPP, where teams affiliated with Boston University presented ideas for problem-solving mobile applications in a 60 second video. We received 14 submissions and over 2,000 votes, and the ideas encompassed topics such as food, nutrition, medicine, online dating, data security, sexual assault prevention, and education. The winners were:

1st Place $1,500: Study Buddy – 499 Votes

2nd Place $1,000: Scribeat – 437 Votes

3rd Place $500: Campus Food – 315 Votes

TDRR_2015_0826The rock n’ roll aspect of the evening was provided by the rising folk-rock band, Kingsley Flood. Their music and vocals combined to deliver a vibrant and energetic performance that made for a lively atmosphere. The band has won three Boston Music Awards, including Album of the Year for Battles.

As always, the event would not be possible without our esteemed sponsors: Nixon Peabody, Sanofi, Pfizer, Shore Chan DePumpo LLP, and Roche Innovation Center. We would like to express our gratitude to their generosity.

We would also like to thank the following Student Volunteers who stepped up to aid us in executing the event:

Also, a big thank you to Melissa Manolis (Program Manager, RWJF Health Policy Research Programs) for volunteering to help us with the event.

A special thanks to the Office of Technology Development staff for implementing and organizing another successful Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll.

Lastly, thank you to all those who came out to attend TDRR, and helped us deliver our mission statement of maximizing collisions and mimizing friction.

We hope to see you again at TDRR 2016!


– Ayusha Mittal (TDRR 2015 Event Coordinator)

Message from the Managing Director

Robust technology clusters are not new: Route 128 in Massachusetts and Silicon Valley in California are the original clusters. Recently there has been a huge worldwide interest in regional economic growth organized around technology clusters. The key components of these clusters these days are what are known as “Eds and Meds”. Universities and medical centers are increasingly the core of these new technology clusters. Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco/Bay Area and New York City are example of leading Eds and Meds clusters but there are has been rapid growth of such clusters in other cities such as Philadelphia, San Diego, Houston. In the Boston area it has been a combination of industry, universities, academic medical centers, state and city governments, venture capital and non-profit organizations that have allied to produce the latest version of the “Massachusetts Miracle”. Besides the world beating universities and academic medical centers here, of note are several organizations that have had major impact:

Vinit Nijhawan Managing Director

Vinit Nijhawan
Managing Director

State Government: Mass Ventures (http://www.mass-ventures.com) established 37 years ago helped spawn the private venture capital industry and continues to invest in promising entrepreneurs that are overlooked by private capital. Mass Life Sciences Center (http://www.masslifesciences.com) has been instrumental in boosting the biotech industry by attracting established companies, backing startups and educating talent. Mass Clean Energy Center (http://www.masscec.com) has kindled a renewable energy revolution and supported promising technology startups.

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Etiometry brings Predictive, Patient-specific analytics to bear in the ICU

“Can I actually give you meaningful information on a moment-to-moment basis about patients that is personalized and based on their individual medical history? This is the holy grail of analytics,” says Evan Butler, Co-founder and President of Etiometry. “Personalized Medicine is focused on genetics, but we’re focused on Personalized Medicine itself.”

Etiometry, Inc. is focused on delivering real-time, patient-specific predictive analytics to doctors managing critically ill patients. “Our software combines purely mathematical algorithms with an understanding of human physiology,” says Butler, “but it does not make decisions for the clinicians. It is up to the doctors to decide on specific treatment. Our software helps point them in the right direction.”

The heart of Etiometry’s solution is the T3 software platform.   Etiometry - T3 Screen Shot (2)T3 takes patient-specific data from labs tests, hospital monitors and life-support devices and runs the data through proprietary algorithms. T3 highlights important patient data and red flags dangerous trends. It is an early warning sign that enhances the clinical decision-making process.   Finally, T3 enables doctors to implement complicated treatment protocols in a critically ill patient population. T3 received FDA 510(k) approval in early 2015 and has been implemented in over a dozen ICUs in the US, Canada, and Europe.

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Boston University’s Office of Technology Development Hosts Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll 2015

2015 Innovator of the Year Award will be announced by Vice President and Associate Provost for Research Gloria Waters

Boston, MA – The Office of Technology Development at Boston University will host its 6th annual Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll (TDRR) networking conference on July 14, 2015 from 4 – 8 pm at the Metcalf Hall, George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA.

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TDRR is a networking event designed to connect scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators. The event will showcase emerging technologies from Boston University’s research programs in the fields of life sciences, physical sciences, medical technology, and student-based ventures.

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Announcing Ignition Award Winners for 2015

The Office of Technology Development completed its 6th annual Ignition Award cycle and we are pleased to announce this year’s winners.  The Ignition Program awards $50K, one-year grants to faculty of Boston University and Boston Medical Center to validate early-stage technologies and enable follow-on funding. The Ignition Award Program was initiated to help bridge the gap between government funded, basic research and product development activities undertaken by commercial or non-profit entities. Awards are made in the domains of Life Sciences, Medtech, and Physical Sciences. Proposals must demonstrate potential for commercial, medical, and/or societal impact.  An external committee (made up of business executives, investors, and others) with domain expertise in each area was recruited to judge proposals and recommend awards.

OTD received a higher number of applications this year and made a total of 11 awards: 5 in Life Sciences, 3 in Medtech, and 3 in Physical Sciences. The next Ignition cycle will begin with Pre-proposal applications due in the Fall (October, 2015). Stronger Pre-proposals will be invited to submit Full-Proposals. Applicants present their Full-Proposals to the Ignition Committee and award decisions are announced (March, 2016). More details on BU’s Ignition Program can be found here. Following is a brief description of the 2015 Ignition awardees.

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Startup selling solar panels ‘in the cloud,’ not on your roof

Cloud Solar

By Callum BorchersGlobe Staff March 06, 2015

If anyone seems likely to put solar panels on his roof, it’s Michael Sun. Besides the tailor-made name, he’s spent the past five years researching solar cell efficiency as a doctoral student at Boston University.

But Sun rents an apartment, so — much as he’d like to power his TV and microwave with rays of sunshine — he can’t install panels on a roof he doesn’t own.

For renewable energy enthusiasts like himself, who haven’t bought solar panels for one reason or another, Sun has a new option. He and the cofounders of a Boston startup called CloudSolar are offering customers panels to be installed not on their own homes but rather on a solar farm the company plans to open somewhere in New England next year.

It’s an unorthodox arrangement.

Buyers won’t be able to power their own electronics with the energy their panels generate. Instead, CloudSolar will sell the electricity to utility companies that will pass the green energy on to their customers.

Then CloudSolar will send quarterly checks from the proceeds to panel owners.

Sun and his partners, Cory Absi and Xiaohang Li, formed the company last year on the premise that many more people would buy solar panels if not for a long list of drawbacks: They’re unsightly, impractical in places that don’t receive a lot of sunlight, and expensive without applying for government rebates, which can seem like a hassle.

CloudSolar, which began taking orders on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site this week, handles all the paperwork, installation, and maintenance, and has set a starting price of $250 for a quarter-panel; half-panels cost $450 and full ones $650. The company also will provide owners with a mobile app showing their panels’ energy output in real time.

For its trouble, CloudSolar will keep 20 percent of electricity sales and return the rest to panel owners.

“If you could help the planet and participate in the solar industry by just the click of a button, wouldn’t you do it?” Absi said. “We want to take all the complexity out of it.”

CloudSolar doesn’t offer estimates about how much customers should anticipate earning from their panels each year, noting that payments will fluctuate with the weather and energy prices. But Absi, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student at Boston University, said buyers should expect to recoup their purchase costs in 10 to 12 years and begin making a profit after that.

The option to own a solar panel in a remote location — in the cloud, to borrow a computing term — is one of several ways for environmentally conscious energy consumers to join the solar movement without renovating their roofs. Last fall, SolarCity, a leading installer of solar energy systems, began issuing solar bonds investors can buy in $1,000 increments and receive 4 percent interest, with a seven-year maturity.

Community solar gardens, like those in Brewster and Rehoboth, sell memberships or panels to local residents who receive cash credits on their monthly electric bills. Community solar garden customers must live within a certain geographic radius, but CloudSolar customers can live anywhere.

“The best economics for the consumer is still to buy the panels and put them on your own roof,” said Ian Bowles, managing director of Windsail Capital Group in Boston and a former Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. “But I’m in favor of 1,000 flowers blooming in solar, and this is one of those flowers.”
Each panel or partial panel includes a 25-year maintenance contract with CloudSolar, which has existed for just eight months and doesn’t yet own the land for the farm.

At the end of the 25-year term, panel owners can renew the maintenance agreement with CloudSolar or sell their panels back to the company. Founders said they have a tentative deal to buy a seven-acre tract capable of holding 4,000 panels in one of the New England states. They declined to say which, citing competition, and said they need the capital from the Indiegogo campaign to close the deal. CloudSolar hopes to raise $300,000 by April 3 and had pledges for about one-third of the money as of Thursday evening.

If CloudSolar were to be acquired in the future, the buyer would probably assume the maintenance obligation. If it were to fold, the solar panels could be shipped to their owners, who might have nowhere to put them.

Despite the risks, Sun and his partners are confident they have developed a smart new way to invest in solar energy. “Once we build the farm, it should keep generating electricity for decades,” Sun said.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.


RayVio Corp: From BU lab to successful start-up with global impact

3.4 million people die each year from water related diseases and 780 million people lack access to clean water, according to the non-profit organization Water.org. This is a serious problem, especially in developing nations. However, the UV-LED (ultraviolet light-emitting diode) solution developed by RayVio Corp. can provide these regions with water purification and disinfection technology that is easily transported, low maintenance, and provides higher energy efficiency than any other product on the market. RayVio’s UV-LED has the potential to impact the lives of millions of people globally, providing them with easily accessible clean water and enabling them to live healthier lives.

The company began as the research thesis of BU graduate student Yitao Liao.  Yitao did his PhD research at BU’s Photonics Center under the guidance of Professor Theodore Moustakas.  Yitao developed a method to manufacture high efficient LEDs emitting ultraviolet light between 375 – 220 nm as novel solid state source to replace mercury-vapor lamps. In April 2011, Yitao and his team won First Place at ITEC’s (Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization) 50K New Venture Competition at BU. The team presented a visionary business plan for a low cost, durable and energy efficient UV-LED based solution to substitute mercury-vapor lamps in the water purification and disinfection market.

With the assistance of BU’s Office of Technology Development, a patent application was drafted and a new company, named Rayvio Corp., was founded. Dr. Robert Walker, a veteran entrepreneur in the LED industry, serves as CEO, Dr. Yitao Liao as CTO and Dr. Theodore Moustakas serves on the Scientific Advisory Board.  The company is based in Hayward, CA and is a leading manufacturer of UV LED solutions for water, air and surfaces disinfection, industrial curing, and medical applications.  RayVio’s UV-LED products are safer, more compact, robust, energy efficient and environmentally friendly than current solutions employing mercury-vapor lamps.

The company raised venture capital from leading investors DCM Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and others. For more information about the company go to:  rayvio.com.

Global Health Technology Meet-up – Go to Market!!

Boston University is hosting a networking and informational event (Global Health Technology Meet-up) on February 24, 2014 from 4-8 pm in the Photonics Center that is designed to connect engineers, public health professionals and business people. Our goal is to create stronger links between these communities in order to facilitate collaborations that could lead to new solutions for global health challenges.  You can register for the event using this link.

Essential technologies are still unavailable in many settings resulting in high infant and maternal deaths, high mortality from curable infectious diseases and limited ability to promote health to control the increase in non-communicable diseases. Universities are great sources of amazing innovations that can impact the health of people living in under-resourced counties.  But the large gap that exists between academic research and commercial products is even larger for technologies designed for global health applications.

Each year the Office of Technology Development receives a number of disclosures describing possible solutions for problems directly related to global health.  For example, the research of Dr. Muhammad Zaman (Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Medicine) along with graduate students (Darash Desai, Nga Ho, Andrea Fernandes) and research scientist Irani Shemirani have developed Pharmachk, a microfluidic-based diagnostic test to detect substandard and counterfeit medicines in resource-limited countries.  Pharmachk is a fast, accurate, low-cost, and user-friendly test of whether medicines are present in the correct concentrations and associated with any impurities.   Pharmachk was recognized as one of “Ten World Changing Ideas” by Scientific American in 2013, see article here.  The group also competed with 52 other finalists to receive a $2M “Saving Lives at Birth” grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to transition the platform to scale production, see the following BU Today article.

The work of Dr. Chris Gill, called Project Search, will use smartphones to image ears as a cost effective way to link people with their medical records.  Project Search completed a successful crowdfunding campaign and won the Social Entrepeneurship Award at the 2014 Tech, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll event.

Crossing this gap requires collaboration between all stakeholders in global health, from engineers, public health and medical professionals as well as funders, supply chain managers and the private sector.   Join us at the Global Health Technology Meet-up to learn from experts in commercialization, technology assessment and implementation in a panel discussion.  Participate in judging novel technologies by spending your investment “dollars” at the poster session and feast at the shark tank where three technologies closest to commercialization will be grilled.  You have the ability to be part of the solution to bridge this gap.

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CTSI Symposium highlights health disparities and technology

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Keynote Speaker:
Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, FACP
University of Chicago

Boston University’s NIH funded, Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) serves to provide BU researchers with the tools, training, and resources necessary to translate medical research into clinical innovations. The mission of affiliated Boston Medical Center is to provide “exceptional care without exception” to patients regardless of ability to pay.  Supporting the mission of both institutions, the CTSI hosted their fourth annual Translational Science Symposium this past October with a theme on “Research Disparities in Healthcare.”   The symposium showcased research and technology offering solutions to disparities in healthcare. The event featured a keynote address by Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade MD, FACP, of the University of Chicago. Dr. Olopade is recognized internationally for her research connecting breast cancer disparities to the prevalence of triple-negative tumors and associated BRCA mutations in women of African descent diagnosed with breast cancer. She engaged the audience with her discussion of using genetic screening as a means to address breast cancer disparities.  She was followed by four headline speakers from the Boston University School of Medicine and the Roger Williams Medical Center in Rhode Island, who discussed their translational disparities research including the impact of patient navigation on the quality of breast cancer care, challenges in treating cancer in the elderly, and unhealthy aging and obesity.

Dr. Naomi Ko, an oncologist and breast cancer disparities researcher commented, “at an institution such as Boston Medical Center where addressing health disparities is of such importance, it was really powerful to hear all of the rigorous research being conducted.


Naomi Ko, MD
Boston Medical Center

Over thirty posters were presented on a wide range of research topics, taking place throughout the Boston University and Boston Medical Center community as well as Roger Williams Medical Center.

First place prize was given to Dr. Steven Scherr, and others in the laboratory of Dr. Selim Ünlü and in collaboration with Drs. Bennett Goldberg and John Connor, for their timely development of a rapid, point-of-care diagnostic device for the early detection of Ebola infection. Using a combination of optical interference imaging and microfluidics, the diagnostic platform can detect Ebola virions at 103 PFU/mL from blood serum samples in less than 10 minutes. This rapid, label-free, and inexpensive test could have a significant impact on containing the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Second place went to the identification of an N-glycosylation-regulating gene, DPGAT, as a potential promoter of oral squamous cell carcinoma. Trevor Packer, MS and colleagues in the laboratory of Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska at the BU School of Dental Medicine, have shown that DPGAT1 enhances metastatic migration potential, while inhibition drives an epithelial-like phenotype. Oral squamous cell carcinoma has become a distinct public health concern due to the lack of effective treatments for metastatic disease.

Third place went to work by Megan Hampstead, MPH and colleagues in Dr. Brian Jack’s group for their efforts to improve preconception care (PCC). Preconception care focuses on identifying and treating risk factors prior to pregnancy. Dr. Jack’s group, Project Preconception Care, has developed an interactive online character, named “Gabby,” with whom women can discuss specific PCC risks. Over a period of six months, women who interacted with Gabby triggered fewer risks and resolved more problems than women who had not. Identifying, communicating, and resolving these risks is a strong public health necessity, particularly in the case of African-American women, for whom infant mortality rates are over twice that of non-Hispanic white women.


Dr. Michael Holick at poster with Megan Hampstead

The Symposium was sponsored by CTSI, as well as the Shamim and Ashraf Dahod Breast Cancer Research Center (Boston University) and the Carter Disparities Fund (Boston Medical Center).