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April 30, 2002
For Immediate Release

Media Contact
Helen Worth
Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Lab
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-5113 or

Kristi Marren
Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Lab
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-6268 or

A Tumor-Imaging Technique is Named Johns Hopkins APL's Top Invention of the Year

A new imaging technology for identifying cancerous tumors and determining the effectiveness of anti-tumor drugs received The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory's Invention of the Year award at a ceremony held today at the Laboratory's Laurel, Md., campus. Phillip Singerman, executive director of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), and Wayne Swann, APL's director of technology transfer, congratulated 182 researchers for their work and presented plaques and cash awards for the three top inventions of 2001.

An independent panel of judges from industry, technical and business consultants, technology transfer professionals, and intellectual property attorneys selected the winners from 121 Laboratory inventions based on their creativity, novelty and potential benefit to society.


" Method and Apparatus for Imaging and Spectroscopy of Tumors and Determination of the Efficacy of Anti-Tumor Drugs"

John Murphy and Robert Osiander from APL, and Jerry Williams from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have developed an effective tool in the fight against cancer that uses infrared (thermal) imaging to detect metabolic tumor growth.

Cancerous tumors cause normal tissue surrounding the tumor to produce new blood vessels that enter the tumor and support its growth — a process called angiogenesis. The production of new blood vessels heats the tumor, causing it to emit infrared radiation at a rate different from that found in the normal tissue surrounding it. The detection of the radiation being emitted from the tumor gives doctors information that isn't available using current imaging methods. It helps them quickly distinguish between active and inactive tumors, locate the position and distribution of blood vessels throughout the tumor, and determine a tumor's size, density and growth rate.

Infrared imaging can also be an important preliminary step to finding biochemical agents to inhibit tumor growth. When doing breast imaging, this technique could be used as a faster, lower-cost, easier-to-use screening method that eliminates the need for radiation.

Research partners for the winning invention will share a $2,500 cash award.


Two inventions were named as finalists. Each team received plaques and a $1,000 cash prize.

"Selectively Permeable Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Membrane for Blood Iron, Environmental Nitrate and Phosphate Pollution Removal"

APL's George Murray has developed a unique filtration technique that will have immediate and profound impact on the environment and medical treatment for patients with dangerous levels of iron in their blood. It promises to provide the first-ever means for selectively and completely removing environmental phosphate and nitrates from water. These major pollutants enter waterways as runoff from sewage plants and farmland and can often pose health risks such as "blue baby" syndrome — a diminished capacity of the blood to transport and transfer oxygen.

This technique promises to greatly improve the more than 40 percent of the nation's waterways and 1000 major watersheds that the Environmental Protection Agency says do not meet quality goals or have significant quality problems. This technique can be used at any water treatment facility and has the potential to reduce contaminant concentrations by 95 percent with one pass through a filter or up to 99 percent through multiple screenings.

This method works by using molecular imprinting — a process by which scientists make a cast of the contaminants (iron, nitrates and phosphates) they are trying to filter, then create cavities within the filter material in the shape of the pollutants. The filter then selectively removes the targeted materials as water passes through it. And there's an economic savings, since the filters and captured materials such as nitrates could be re-used by farmers or industry as fertilizers at levels that are safe and beneficial.

The filtration system can also be used to remove excess iron from blood of patients with extremely high iron levels, such as those suffering from iron overload disease, hemochromatosis and iron overdose. Currently, it isn't possible to remove only excess iron from blood without replacing it by transfusion or chelation therapy. With the blood filtration method, filtered blood could be returned to the patient, eliminating the need for additional blood stores.

"Wide Area Metal Detecting System and Metal Object Identification Using a 3-D Steerable Magnetic Field Antenna"

Recent terrorist attacks have increased the need to protect environments where large groups of people assemble, such as stadiums, amusement parks and airports.

Using conventional metal detectors to screen for weapons in such settings requires individuals to walk through a small portal one at a time, often creating long lines and delays. APL's Carl Nelson has invented a way to prescreen masses of people for weapons without scanning each individual.

The invention, a wide-area metal detecting system, uses a series of closely spaced current-carrying wires configured as a horizontal magnetic field generator, and an array of magnetic field detectors that are buried in an area where people are walking, such as the entrances to ballparks or amusement parks. A nonmagnetic surface, such as asphalt, covers the hardware and can be patterned with a grid to assist in locating the magnetic fields.

The detection system can sense abnormal metal signatures, like those associated with weapons, and alert the system operator, who can use a video camera system to zoom in on the potential threat area and direct a security person to the individual(s) in question for further investigation.

Using a 3-D steerable magnetic field antenna, the system can also be used to significantly increase effectiveness and reduce costs associated with detecting and removing buried unexploded ordnance, such as land mines. The ability to detect such objects in 3-D would allow users to differentiate between unexploded ordnance and clutter objects.

APL Technology Transfer Record

Fiscal year 2001 set a record for APL's Technology Transfer Office with 16 new technology transfer agreements signed (up 75 percent from the previous year), and 172 patent applications filed with 10 new U.S. patents secured. Since the inception of the Lab's technology transfer program in July 1999, 51 separate inventions have been licensed as part of 28 agreements, generating more than $6 million in licensing income and research and development contracts. Visit www.jhuapl.edu/ott for the latest on APL's technology transfer initiatives.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.