ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Technology that helps men test their fertility is among Sandia National Laboratories’ four national awards winners honored by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for work to develop and commercialize innovative technologies.
“These awards are highly competitive,” said Jackie Kerby Moore, Sandia’s manager of Technology and Economic Development and the labs’ consortium representative. “This year our honorees include three start-up companies that are successfully deploying Sandia technologies, creating jobs and generating far-reaching impacts.”
The consortium is a network of more than 300 federal laboratories, agencies and research centers. The awards are ranked as some of the most prestigious honors for federal laboratories and industry partners that demonstrate outstanding technology transfer achievements.
The tech transfer success that led to the Trak Male Fertility Testing System received an Impact Award, a new category this year that honors efforts and successes that made a lasting impact for people or the marketplace, ranging from a local to a global scale.
Former Sandia inventors Greg Sommer and Ulrich Schaff developed Trak, which is based on the labs’ SpinDx portable lab-on-a-disk diagnostic technology that was originally developed to detect biological and chemical threats.
When Sommer realized there could be multiple commercial applications for the SpinDx technology, he left Sandia through the Entrepreneurial Separation to Transfer Technology program and started Sandstone Diagnostics, a company that specializes in producing medical products and research tools to improve health care. Schaff later left Sandia to join the company.
Trak enables men to measure, track and try to improve their sperm count at home to boost a couple’s chances of conception.
“Trak is a private, discreet and complete home testing system that is as accurate as the lab,” said Sommer. “It is not only a testing device, but an entire system to help men make changes to their health and lifestyle to improve their reproductive health.”
Sandstone continues to refine and develop the technology, which they now call CentriFluidics. The company has applied its technology to additional diagnostic areas, including infectious disease.
In addition to the Impact Award, the consortium also recognized Sandia:
- Business development specialist Jason Martinez for his work to increase partnerships and research between the labs and non-federal entities.
- Research that enabled a former Sandia scientist to start a company using hydrogen fuel cells to power vessels.
- Creativity in technology transfer that helped a company obtain funding to build a reactor to produce medical isotopes for the world.
Business development specialist connects the labs with more businesses, universities
Martinez received an Outstanding Technology Transfer Professional Award for his work to promote and set records for Sandia’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, the only binding mechanism that allows Department of Energy labs to collaborate with nonfederal entities, including universities and companies.
Martinez developed and implemented the first CRADA strategy for Sandia. Since its inception in 2015, the strategy has helped the labs’ CRADA portfolio grow each year, and the contract value has also surpassed that of previous years. The strategy generated growth through education and outreach. It builds, manages and leverages relationships across organizational boundaries, and promotes CRADAs as mechanisms to harness the innovation of industry and affect laboratory capabilities.
“Providing exceptional service in the national interest from a technology transfer perspective requires a proactive, hands-on approach,” Martinez said. “Expanding collaborative opportunities with a risk-conscious strategy supports the mission of Sandia and the Department of Energy by addressing germane and exigent national security concerns while benefiting the academic and business community through the transfer of knowledge and capabilities.”
Other results of the CRADA strategy have been a reduction in processing time for CRADAs from six weeks to two weeks, and improved customer satisfaction, as measured through surveys.
Labs research makes hydrogen fuel cell vessels a reality
Sandia received an Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for evaluating and demonstrating the feasibility of the use of hydrogen fuel cells in maritime applications.
Fuel cells turn hydrogen fuel into electricity using no moving parts while producing no exhaust other than clean water. But until an inquiry from a San Francisco ferry boat operator in 2014, scientists in the U.S., including those at Sandia, had not yet studied how to apply hydrogen fuel cells to ships.
Sandia physical chemist Lennie Klebanoff and former labs scientist Joe Pratt had previously researched how hydrogen fuel cells could be used for vehicles, construction lights, power generators and power on board commercial airplanes. When the inquiry came in to apply the technology to ships, the researchers applied their knowledge on hydrogen fuel cells to determine the feasibility of their use on vessels.
After Klebanoff and Pratt developed the way to use hydrogen fuel cell technology for maritime applications, Pratt left the labs through the Entrepreneurial Separation to Transfer Technology program and launched Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine to transfer the technology.
Pratt’s zero-emission, marine company is a full-service provider of hydrogen fuel cell marine power systems that are clean, quiet and comply with all current and future environmental regulations.
With a technically solid foundation based on the Sandia studies, the company received funding for the construction and deployment the first hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the western hemisphere and the first commercial fuel cell ferry in the world. This vessel, named the Water-Go-Round, is scheduled for christening later this year.
Sandia now has a CRADA with the company to independently measure the performance of the fuel cells on the Water-Go-Round.
Sandia technology used to help with worldwide medical issue
The consortium honored Sandia with an Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for developing a way to make medical isotopes with a small, low-power reactor using low enriched uranium and transferring the license to Eden Radioisotopes. Following some changes to the license, the company received funding in 2019 to build a reactor in southern New Mexico to make the isotopes. This will help with the worldwide shortage of isotopes that are critical to the medical field.
Medical isotopes are used around the globe in imaging procedures that diagnose heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Building the reactor is important because it represents new and robust capacity to replace a limited number of aging reactors in the world that produce molybdenum-99, or moly-99. Moly-99 decays to technetium-99m, a short-lived isotope that can be used to make individual patient doses, said Eden’s chief operations officer Chris Wagner. When any of these aging reactors experience unplanned outages, it can quickly cause patient dose shortages and price spikes.
Medical isotopes are used for 40 million nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures worldwide each year, Wagner said. In the U.S. alone, these isotopes are used for more than 40,000 medical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures each day.
“The new Eden reactor has the ability to assure a reliable future supply of medical isotopes for millions of patients worldwide,” Wagner said. “Making a difference in the lives of heart and cancer patients by helping to obtain diagnostic information is what motivates the team at Eden.”
Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.
Sandia news media contact: Manette Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-238-5832