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28 June 2000
For Immediate Release

Food Toxin Sensor Selected as Johns Hopkins APL Invention of the Year

TheJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory's (APL) Office of Technology Transfer, in Laurel, Md., presented its first Invention of the Year award for development of a sensor to detect toxins in food. The first annual ceremony was held yesterday at APL's Kossiakoff Center to honor 126 researchers and name the Lab's top inventions for 1999.

APL Director Richard Roca and Wayne Swann, director of the Office of Technology Transfer, presented plaques and cash awards to the Lab's top four developments. An independent panel of judges, comprised of representatives from business and industry, technical and business consultants, technology transfer professionals and intellectual property attorneys, selected the top APL inventions from 83 nominees based on their creativity, novelty and potential benefit to society.

Winner APL's 1999 winning invention is a simple, cost-effective sensor to alert consumers to the presence of toxins, which emanate from spoiled food.

An APL team developed a process to create a molecularly imprinted polymer sensor that changes color in the presence of certain food chemicals. Through molecular imprinting, scientists essentially make a cast of the molecule (the toxin) they're trying to detect. Molecularly imprinted polymers are sturdy, easy to prepare and remain effective throughout a long storage life.

The APL-developed sensor may be used, for example, within a handheld detector for meat inspectors or incorporated into a plastic wrap so that consumers can determine, by visual inspection, whether or not food has spoiled. The sensor could also be incorporated into a machine-readable label that could be monitored actively by inspectors or passively during the purchase of the product at registers.

"Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Sensors for Food Safety Applications" was developed by the Laboratory's Craig Kelly, George Murray and Manuel Uy. Each member of the team was awarded a plaque and a share of the $2,500 cash prize.

Finalists Due to a tie, three inventions were named in the finalists' categorybg. Each member of the following teams received a plaque and a share of the $1,000 cash prize awarded to each invention.

"Microwave and Acoustic Detection of Drowsiness"
developed by APL's Matthew Bevan, Henry Kues, Carl Nelson and Paul Schuster.

Drowsy driving is a serious problem that leads to many automobile and truck crashes each year. An APL team developed a detection system that senses the onset of drowsiness and tracks driver fatigue from a sensor positioned near a sun visor. The device uses a combination of Doppler radar and advanced signal processing techniques to measure the driver's fidgeting motion, as well as a number of physiological indices including blink rates, heartbeat and respiration that can give further insight into the alertness of the driver.

In addition to monitoring drowsiness, a commercially available driver physiology monitor could provide warning of road rage and aid driver training programs by monitoring a student's response while behind the wheel.

"A Hybrid Software/Hardware Technique for High Speed Backplane Messaging"
developed by APL's Paul Bade, Steven Kahn and David Verven.

In today's market for Web-based computer software applications, beating the competition requires very rapid product development. One significant hurdle impeding fast development is the need to write application specific code that manages how chips on one computer board will communicate with chips on other boards and on other computers when a new software application is operated.

An APL research team developed a message-oriented middleware system that makes integrating and developing multiprocessor systems much easier. Middleware is software that moves information, or messages, from one place to another within a single system or between multiple systems over a network. APL's middleware invention provides real-time distribution of data using a type of interface, known as a publish-subscribe paradigm, used to effortlessly distribute data. Combined, the real-time data distribution and analysis tools associated with APL's middleware can drastically improve system development and integration.

This middleware was recently licensed to an APL spin-off company, Dot21 Real-Time Systems Inc. (see related press release on APL's Web site at

"Rapid Chest Tube Inserter"
developed by Ron Rosen, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and by APL's John Murphy and Christopher Graham.

Blood and/or air in the thorax - common consequences of chest trauma - are potentially lethal and require prompt decompression of the chest cavity. Currently, this is done by inserting a chest tube, which is a lengthy process requiring extensive training and experience.

A group from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and APL developed a rapid chest tube inserter that simplifies and shortens the time required to insert a chest tube to safely and effectively evacuate the air and/or blood from the thorax with minimal risk of injury to internal structures. It also extends the ability to insert a chest tube to trained emergency medical personnel rather than relying solely on experienced doctors.

For more information about APL's Office of Technology Transfer, visit their Web site:

The Applied Physics Laboratory is a not-for-profit laboratory and division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL is located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in Laurel, Md.

Media contact:
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory:
Kristi Marren
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-6268