AMHERST, Mass. – A new, non-invasive biomarker detection technology known as “chirp-pulse terahertz spectroscopy,” which shows promise for leading to a rapid, accurate breath-test for the presence of a wide range of diseases, was recently issued a U.S. patent.
Invented at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it is now being commercialized by its inventor, former UMass Amherst researcher Eyal Gerecht, co-founder and CEO of TeraBAT, Inc. of Boulder, Colo. TeraBAT is collaborating on its development with a division of HEI, Inc. in Boulder. HEI is a medical device manufacturing operation that provides contract manufacturing for Class II and Class III medical devices, plus design, development, verification and hardware and software support, among other services.
Gerecht says, “The patent is based on a technology that uses terahertz electromagnetic waves to identify molecules, in particular volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in a gas.” While he was a researcher at UMass Amherst and NIST, which co-licensed the technology with UMass Amherst, Gerecht developed a business plan for many applications, including a medical device for human breath analysis for many diseases in which quick detection, diagnosis and treatment is particularly important.
“The patent includes 30 individual claims offering powerful protection for use of this important tool in multiple fields including healthcare, environmental monitoring, biowarfare detection and industrial safety,” he points out. The technology was exclusively licensed to TeraBAT, Inc. for medical, environmental and industrial applications.
“In a hospital or clinic, a health care provider would be able to initiate treatment without delay and continuously monitor the disease’s state from the biomolecules present in the patient’s breath,” Gerecht says.
The company hopes that the non-invasive point-of-care platform will replace many of today’s laboratory based diagnostics with more direct tests available right next to the patient, resulting in faster treatment and lower costs.
Robert MacWright, director of the UMass Amherst’s Technology Transfer Office, says, “We are pleased that the long process of applying for and receiving a patent has succeeded for this very promising new technique. We commend Dr. Gerecht for his careful preparation and for laying excellent groundwork that should lead to development of a very valuable new medical device with applications in a wide range of fields.”
In addition to the public health benefit from such inventions, MacWright notes, successful start-up companies like TeraBAT, Inc. contribute to economic development through creation of new, high-quality jobs, often in Massachusetts, and once technologies are successfully commercialized, the university gains some financial benefit, as well.