The journey from university lab to commercial marketplace can be difficult. Being granted a patent is a key step.

So, a utility patent issued in March 2017 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office marked a significant achievement for a University of Houston researcher and his collaborators.

It mattered to the University, too, as UH ranked among the top 100 global universities for the number of utility patents issued in 2017.

The University of Houston System was one of three public university systems in Texas to make the list, published by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. It ranked No. 67, with 39 utility patents.

UH ranked 5th among U.S. universities without a medical school.

Jarek Wosik, a research professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, led a multidisciplinary team to develop a high-temperature superconducting coil that allows magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to produce higher resolution images or acquire images in a shorter time than is possible with conventional coils. Wosik is also affiliated with the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH.

The patent, granted in 2017, was the fifth he and his collaborators have received related to MRI cryogenic receiver coils they developed, including the superconducting coil and/or array.

In 2016 the researchers announced a new technology that can reveal brain structures not easily visualized with conventional MRI coils. The cryo-coil works by boosting the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)—a measure of image quality and usefulness of provided information—by a factor of two to three, compared with conventional coils. High SNR is critical to achieving high resolution and fast imaging.

The probe was optimized for rat brain imaging, useful for biomedical research involving neurological disorders. But it also has direct implications for human health care, Wosik said.

“Research in animal models yields critical information to improve diagnosis and treatment of human diseases and disorders,” he said.