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Texas Innovator Fall 2008
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The most menial workers can properly consider themselves successful if they perform their best and if the product of their work is of service to humanity.
–Michael DeBakey, M.D.

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A Message from
Comptroller Susan Combs

A fresh idea or an improvement on a tested design can spark the innovator in each of us. And Texans are doing great work across our state, fueling that innovative fire.

Whether it’s fuel-producing bacteria, robotics or a new diagnostic test that can help save lives in those precious early minutes of a heart attack, each issue of Texas Innovator brings you stories of Texans at their best.

And our Web-exclusive content features new research into bringing hard-to-reach oil to the surface, and a clean-up program for Texas school buses. We know their stories will inspire the innovator in you, and we invite you to share your thoughts with us at

Susan Combs


Energy gold from blue-green algae

New forms of blue-green algae may revolutionize the nation’s energy portfolio. University of Texas at Austin scientists R. Malcolm Brown Jr. and David Nobles Jr. have developed new strains of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which produce the sugars sucrose and glucose and a form of cellulose that can be converted easily into sugar.

These sugars can then be used to make ethanol without using food crops or the more expensive cellulosic ethanol production method that employs grass and wood. Furthermore, “technologies being developed now allow the production of biogas and biodiesel from sugars,” says Nobles. And the sugars can be extracted without harming the cyanobacteria, meaning they can be used again and again.

The cyanobacteria’s usefulness could also extend beyond just oil and gas. “We also want to engineer certain types of them to make specialty products, such as anti-cancer agents, special enzymes or other industrial products,” Brown says.

Biofuels could be produced with cyanobacteria without taking agricultural land out of production. “They grow where there’s saltwater and a lot of sun,” says Brown. “Texas has lands you don’t need to grow crops on, and we would use those areas.”

For more information, contact R. Malcolm Brown Jr.,


Precious minutes

A credit-card-sized saliva test could help diagnose heart attack patients. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, collaborating with dental schools at UT-San Antonio and the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, are developing the test.

The card uses a tiny nano-biochip, which reads the proteins in a patient’s saliva, aligning and color-coding them in an array similar to circuitry.

“A certain signature in a healthy person looks different than the signature of someone having a heart attack,” says John McDevitt, a chemistry professor at UT-Austin.

The card is analyzed in a toaster-sized device created by Austin-based LabNow Inc. Not all heart attacks – perhaps only 75 percent – are diagnosed through the initial electrocardiogram screen, a standard emergency room test. The saliva test helps capture more than 90 percent of those missed in the initial screen and could be ready within five years.

For more information, contact John McDevitt,, (512) 471-0046.


Shrimp bandage

Portland, Oregon-based HemCon Medical Technologies Inc. has developed the high-performance KytoStat™ bandage, which uses chitosan, a natural compound found in shrimp shells, to stop stubborn bleeding.

Thirty times more effective than other over-the-counter bandages, KytoStat’s chitosan pad has positive charges and attracts red blood cells, which have negative charges. The red blood cells create a seal over the wound as they are drawn into the bandage. The bandage stops bleeding within two to five minutes and can be left on for up to 48 hours.

The professional-level HemCon® bandage was initially developed for military use on the battlefield and has been tested in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is ideal for patients on blood thinners or who have hemophilia. The U.S. bandage industry took in nearly $740 million in revenues in 2006.

For more information, contact David Chatham,, (919) 882-1954, or visit

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