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Indiana University researchers build on history of patents issued to women since 1809



INDIANAPOLIS — Throughout history, women have played a vital role in the world of invention, including five Indiana University researchers who are building upon the legacy of Mary Kies — the first woman to receive a U.S. patent for inventing a process to weave straw with silk or thread in 1809.

Before a fire destroyed the U.S. Patent Office in 1936, only about 20 of the nearly 10,000 patents had been granted to women. Today, women have been listed as inventors on 18 percent of all patents issued to U.S. inventors, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

Obtaining a patent is often a lengthy process, an accomplishment that can be achieved by IU faculty and staff only after many requirements are met. Submitting an invention disclosure to IU Research and Technology Corp. is an important part of the discovery process and is the first step toward filing a patent application and/or developing a commercialization and licensing strategy.

All IU faculty and researchers must complete an invention disclosure for any invention created or discovery realized through the use of university funds, equipment and/or facilities. After the invention disclosure is evaluated by IURTC, a patent application may be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where it will undergo examination to ensure all the requirements are met. From start to finish, it could take years until a patent is issued.

In recognition of Women’s History Month and all of the female inventors who have come before them, the following five faculty members are committed to continuing IU’s tradition of excellence in research and scholarship and to advancing scientific discoveries from the lab to the marketplace.

Bonnie Blazer-Yost, — Blazer-Yost is a biology professor at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; she has been actively disclosing inventions to IURTC since July 2002, with her most recent disclosure in September 2013. She was issued a patent with GlaxoSmithKline in 2010 on the treatment of polycystic kidney disease — a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidney that can result in reduced kidney function and lead to kidney failure. About 600,000 people in the U.S. have polycystic kidney failure, and cystic disease is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure.

Erin Carlson — Carlson is an assistant professor of chemistry at the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, and her most recent disclosure to IURTC occurred in February 2014. Her work focuses on understanding what causes antibiotic resistance. She is also developing technologies that can be used to isolate and identify new natural products. Two of her patent applications are under review at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Ann Elsner — Elsner is a professor and associate dean for research at the School of Optometry in Bloomington, and she first disclosed to IURTC in November 2005. Since then, she has been an inventor on four technologies; each is licensed to her company, Aeon Imaging, whose mission is to apply novel imaging and image display technology to advance the medical and scientific fields. Three of her invention disclosures have resulted in issued patents in the U.S. Additionally, some of her patents have been issued in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.   

Eri Hashino — Hashino is the Ruth C. Holton Professor of Otolaryngology at the School of Medicine in Indianapolis. She has an international patent application for her work on generating inner-ear tissue using pluripotent stem cells, which could lead to deeper insights into inner-ear development and disorders that will be critical for developing novel therapies for hearing loss and balance disorders. Her work could also be used to provide a way to generate hair cells for drug discovery and other therapeutic testing.

Dr. Irina Petrache — Petrache is the Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine in Indianapolis and has been an active innovator with the IURTC since 2007. Based on Petrache’s research, Emphymab Biotech, a company she co-founded, is developing a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affects more than 10 million people and is the third leading of cause of death in the U.S. If successful, the Emphymab treatment would be the first to half or at least slow the progression of COPD by employing a compound that blocks a lung protein that is activated by smoking and contributes to lung damage. Petrache received her patent in May 2013.