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Two businesses that emerged from research done at the University of Nebraska are among those featured in the latest report by The Science Coalition illustrating returns on investment of federally financed scientific research.

The Science Coalition is a group of 55 research universities, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The coalition said "Sparking Economic Growth 2.0" highlights 100 companies that trace their origins to federally financed university research and their roles in bringing innovations to market, creating new jobs and contributing to economic growth. Of the 100 companies featured, 89 have headquarters in the same state as the university from which they emerged.

An accompanying online database provides access to company profiles and allows users to sort companies by federal agency, university affiliation, type of innovation and other criteria.

The University of Nebraska spinoffs in this report, the coalition's first since 2010, are:

Ground Fluor Pharmaceuticals, Lincoln, founded by Stephen DiMagno, a professor of chemistry at UNL, is a biomedical company developing new imaging agents for use in diagnosis and management of disease, and to help other companies better manufacture imaging agents for positron emission tomography (PET) scans. These imaging biomarkers have potential application in brain cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases. Ground Fluor is at 2124 Y St. The National Science Foundation supported DiMagno's research with a grant of $420,000. 

“Our original NSF grant ‘Anhydrous Fluoride Salts’ that formed the basis of Ground Fluor's technology focused on the behavior of ions in solution," DiMagno said in the report. "Although that topic seems very basic and far removed from preparing medical imaging agents, it was only by developing fundamental understanding that we were able to make the fluorinated radiotracer synthesis methodology practical.”

Trak Surgical, Omaha, was formed in 2012 to commercialize the company's freehand navigation/computer-aided orthopedic surgery technology called Trak Guided Surgical System. Trak Surgical is the result of 12 years of research and development from the laboratory of Hani Haider at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The Department of Defense supported the research with $4.2 million. The report deliberately lobbies for more money to support university research.

"Basic scientific research that gives rise to companies like those in this report is in jeopardy," the report said. "Federal funding for R&D has been on a downward trend for the past decade, with funding levels in 2013 at historic lows. Sequestration, which began in March 2013, is set to run through 2021 and will wring an additional $95 billion from federal R&D budgets over this period. This national disinvestment in science will have real consequences."

Other Nebraska companies featured in reports published previously and now on the coalition's website are J.A. Woolam Co., Lincoln; LI-COR Biosciences, Lincoln; Virtual Incision Corp., Lincoln; and Ximerex Co., Blair. 

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Reach Richard Piersol at 402-473-7241 or dpiersol@journalstar.com.

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