Dr. Jayfus Doswell has become accustomed to finding solutions to complex problems.
The Baltimore-born founder of The Juxtopia Group— a nonprofit established to reduce the critical STEM learning gap of underserved communities— has helped to find another solution to a problem that involves Alzheimer’s disease.
And, this solution has proven to be historic.
To address cognitive degenerative disease disparities such as Alzheimer’s, Juxtopia Group collaborated with Morgan State University’s Dr. Kadir Aslan who invented a crystallization device to make the proteins found in the brains of people with cognitive degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s a lot clearer.
Aslan’s research has led to the first patent at MSU in the school’s 148-year history. The patented technology is metal-assisted and microwave-assisted evaporative crystallization.
“This will help scientists potentially develop new drug candidates against Alzheimer’s disease,” Aslan said. “To treat a disease, the scientist needs to understand the crystal structure of a protein that they suspect or know that is involved in the disease. Protein is really small and fluid, you can’t see it with your own eyes and that’s why we crystallize them so that we can see how the proteins are made up or what their structure is.”
Aslan likened it to a functioning building with rooms, doors and electrical plumbing.
“If one room collapses then what happens is you can’t use that room. That’s the disease state of a protein. That’s how Alzheimer’s is caused when the proteins are non-functional or unhealthy,” he said.
Doswell noted that MSU was having challenges to commercialize Aslan’s patent so that it could benefit millions of people in United States suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s.
After a meeting, Doswell says he gathered his JUICE Network to solve the problem under the Health Informatics and Information Technology— or HITT— Disparities Campaign, which engages young engineering and entrepreneurship apprentices who are training in the art and science of biotechnology, engineering, health informatics, public health, media and urban entrepreneurship.
The campaign’s mission is to create innovative science and technology solutions that prevent and eliminate healthcare disparities in Maryland communities, Doswell said.
“The JUICE Network responded by accomplishing [several] milestones towards the mission objective in less than 12 months,” Doswell said.
The Juxtopia® Urban Innovation and Cooperative Entrepreneurship (JUICE) Network. established by Doswel, guides high-tech minority companies, colleges and universities, and federal labs to transition their inventions or innovative concepts to commercial products.
The network assisted MSU in obtaining several grants and securing the patent.
“Now, iCrystal is one of many JUICE Network member companies that are collaborating where each JUICE member company is focused on a different piece of the disparities problem with a shared mission of objective to HIIT Disparities,” said Doswell, who two years ago was featured on the HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African-American video oral history collection that preserved the life stories of thousands of historic black figures.
The patent is important, particularly in minority communities, because the Alzheimer’s Association reported that older African-Americans are twice as likely to suffer from aging-related dementia or Alzheimer’s as their white counterparts.
An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and estimates reveal that half of those individuals don’t know that they have the disease. People in minority communities are often misdiagnosed or the diagnosis is simply missed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Also, according to Aslan’s research, there has been increased interest in the area of controlled crystal formation in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in the area of crystal size control and solid form purity.
Typically, the synthesized drugs are crystallized in the purest form possible and marketed in the forms of pills and tablets.
Additionally, crystallization is used for understanding of the molecular structures and interactions of proteins to develop new drug treatments that target specific human, animal, and plant diseases.
“With this patent, we’re making a good step forward in developing tools and drugs for the cure of human disease such as Alzheimer’s,” Aslan said.
Doswell said he’s proud of the new patent.
“My main motivation when I began mentoring came from an experience I had when I was rising up the corporate ladder,” said Doswell, who holds a Ph.D. from George Mason University, and who also was named among the “stars who make things happen in Greater Baltimore” by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.
“I am most proud of what I have accomplished utilizing Juxtopia as an intervention to significantly and measurably achieve Juxtopia’s mission of improving human performance and specifically helping minority companies secure funding, patents, and providing wrap around JUICE services to help companies create products for developing innovations for improving human performance,” he said.
Doswell noted that he is also proud that he has continued to train “under-represented minority children and students in STEM skills that may transform them from low-income existence to middle to upper class lifestyles” allowing him to serve as a role model.