Discovery: New UTSW Protocol Detects Bone Metastases, UTA Startup Gets Funding & Research Agreement

Research being done in universities and laboratories across Dallas-Fort Worth is helping to improve our lives, our health, and our world. Here are some of their stories.



A new magnetic resonance imaging protocol that improves the detection of bone metastases in the entire body has been developed at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Metastases are secondary malignant growths that develop at a distance from a primary site of a cancer.

The development was reported in a study publish in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine by Dr. Ananth Madhuranthakam, physicist and UTSW assistant professor of radiology. The method takes less time than traditional MRI scans, according to UT Southwestern.

“We modified the MR scanner to provide information that was not available before.”
Dr. Ananth Madhuranthakam

“We modified the MR scanner to provide information that was not available before,” Madhuranthakam said in a release. “The images we generate perfectly align with the body.”

The new protocol is called DETECT by UT Southwestern scientists. It provides a high-quality image of the whole body in seven minutes, which UTSW said is the fastest technique to date to detect bone metastases.

UTSW said that when cancers such as from the breast, lung, or kidney travel to bone, they weaken the bone and can cause painful fractures and sometimes irreparable damage.

Find out more about DETECT here.


Jon Weidanz is co-founder of AbeXXA at the University of Texas at Arlington. [Photo courtesy of UT Arlington]


A faculty startup at the University of Texas at Arlington has received an initial investment from Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and signed a collaborative research agreement with the global company Boehringer Ingelheim.

AbeXXA Biologics, named one of the 40 Best University Startups in 2017 by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer, is breaking new ground in the research field that could lead to the development of a menu-based approach to antibody-based therapies. Boehringer Ingelheim also awarded AbeXXa its Innovation Prize.

UT Arlington said the combination of events has enabled AbeXXa to accelerate its plans as well as grow its team of scientists from Texas to Boston, where it has a space at LabCentral’s shared laboratory space in Cambridge, which is what it received for winning the Innovation Prize competition.

The potential menu of therapies could benefit a large number of cancer patients, according to UTA.

“In just a little over a year, we’ve become operational and, through the significant support of Boehringer Ingelheim, we have pulled something together that’s very special. We’re bringing our unique technology and know-how together with Boehringer Ingelheim’s discovery and development expertise,” said Jon Weidanz, co-founder of AbeXXA, biology professor, and associate vice president of research and interim director of UTA’s North Texas Genome Center.

You can find out more about AbeXXA here.


Jamboor Vishwanatha is principal investigator and Texas Center for Health Disparities project director. [Photo courtesy of UNTHSC}


The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth has received a $10 million federal grant to do research into health disparities that impact racial, ethnic, rural, and economically disadvantaged populations in the nation, the center said in a release.

The endowment, to be paid out over five years, comes from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and UNTHSC is one of just two institutions in the U.S. to receive it.

“Health disparities result in segments of the population without access to quality health care and new medical advances that can help them achieve optimal health,” Jamboor Vishwanatha, principal investigator and Texas Center for Health Disparities project director, said in the release. “This permanent endowment recognizes that the Health Science Center is a national leader in the effort to discover solutions to these disparities and improve the health of millions of people affected by them.”

The money will be used to support UNTHSC’s infrastructure and capacity for research that focuses on health disparities, the center said.


The MMK Foundation has donated $1 million to be evenly divided between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health System of Texas. It’s the largest grant ever from the foundation, established in 2007 by Marcia and Mark King, The Dallas Morning News reported. It will be used to enhance the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Health, support research at UT Southwestern, and provide unrestricted fund for pediatric needs, the Morning News said.

Treatments that target tumors with high-potency doses of radiation have evolved over the past 20 years from being reserved for the brain to finding a place in therapy for the entire body. Dr. Robert Timmerman, a professor of radiation oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, was one of the first researchers to bring about that change. Shawn Shinneman of D CEO Healthcare tells us more about Timmerman here.

Top-tier research universities can be economic driving forces to a region, and Dallas Morning News contributor Kevin Klowden — executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics — delves into the relationship between the universities and their home areas. He cites the University of Texas at Dallas as a driving force in the North Dallas-Plano corridor. UT Dallas is an R-1: Doctoral Universities-Highest Research University in the Carnegie Classification — considered a “tier one” status — as are the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas. Find out more about Klowden has to say here.


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