On a recent Monday night, the University of Virginia Patent Foundation honored Wladek Minor as the 2007 Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year, an annual award for the last 15 years. A professor of molecular physiology and biological physics in the University’s School of Medicine, Minor is a researcher and inventor in the field of protein crystallography.
Most importantly for the purposes of the Patent Foundation, Minor has developed a software program called XdisplayF, a visualization tool that allows crystallographers—scientists who study the structure and characteristics of crystals—to inspect and analyze their raw data. Along with other tools developed in Minor’s laboratory, XdisplayF is a component of the HKL and HKL-2000 software packages, which are used by scientists in more than 70 percent of the data deposits to the Protein Data Bank.
“Wladek’s story is a great example of how faculty entrepreneurs can make a big difference,” says Robert MacWright, the Patent Foundation’s executive director and CEO. “In the past, it took about two years to make crystals, then it took an afternoon to make X-ray diffraction patterns, and then it would take literally two years to analyze an image and figure out what type of three-dimensional object would give the scattering reflections. Wladek has reduced that final two years down to somewhere between three days and 10 minutes, which is just incredible.”
MacWright works closely with inventors on refining their inventions into marketable products. Minor’s company has generated significant sales—cumulative royalties paid to the UVA Patent Foundation are approaching $1 million.
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