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UMass President awards $175,000 to faculty to accelerate commercialization of early-stage technologies

Seven Innovative University Researchers Receive Technology Development Grants

BOSTON -Stressing the role of innovation in fueling economic growth and leading Massachusetts and the nation out of the current economic crisis, University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson today announced $175,000 in grants to UMass researchers who have developed new technologies that could be applied to medical practice, energy generation, flexible electronics and other fields.

Coming at a time when some analysts predict new technology will be a catalyst that pulls Massachusetts out of the current economic downturn, the 2009 awards from the University's Commercial Ventures & Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund consists of seven grants of $25,000 each to UMass researchers for further technology development. The selected technologies were seen as the breakthroughs with the most significant chance of being commercially successful from dozens of faculty submissions for support from the Fund.

This year's funding recipients have developed technologies that can potentially impact a wide variety of fields -from metallic inks for flexible electronics to nano-shell catalysts for fuel cell applications and novel HIV Protease Inhibitors.

"These grants allow the University to support faculty-developed inventions with the potential to drive the economy and change people's lives. Throughout our nation's history, breakthroughs made in university labs have shaped our social and economic development and spurred economic growth," said President Wilson. "As the Commonwealth's public research University, the University of Massachusetts serves as an innovation engine for the Commonwealth, fostering the development of new technologies that create new companies and new jobs in Massachusetts."

President Wilson added, "The results of previous grant awards have shown this funding has considerable impact-these technology development grants come at a critical time for faculty undertaking the complex process of guiding a breakthrough from the lab to the marketplace."

President Wilson, who founded a company as a spin-off of his university research sixteen years ago, established the UMass CVIP Technology Development Fund in 2004. Over the past six years, the Fund, managed by the University's Office of CVIP, has made a total of 41 awards to faculty from all five campuses for technology commercialization, resulting in the creation of several new companies, new licenses and over $3 million in additional research funding for the recipients.

In total, over the past six years, 12 out of 41 awardees obtained a patent, executed a license, or formed a new spin-off company-a greater than 25 percent success rate. The University's total investment in new technologies through the CVIP Development Fund has been returned many times over.

A recent survey published by the Association of University Technology Managers noted that U.S. academic and nonprofit institutions developed 686 new products in 2007 and launched 555 new start-up companies in 2006 alone. The University of Massachusetts is a national and regional leader in technology transfer. In Fiscal Year 2008, technology licensing revenue at UMass reached $37,686,000.

Over the past year, three previous UMass CVIP Technology Development Fund grant recipients founded spin-off companies- UMass Amherst Professor George Huber founded Anellotech in 2009 based on technology addressing catalytic conversion of biomass to industrial chemicals and UMass Medical School Professor Babs Soller's company Reflectance Medical, formed in 2008, is in the process of receiving venture funding. In addition, Wesfolk Corp. was incorporated in 2008 to commercialize a portfolio of scientific work conducted by University of Massachusetts, Amherst Professors Eric A. Decker, D. Julian McClements and Jochen Weiss involving advanced emulsion technology for the food and beverage industry. Decker, McClements and Weiss received a grant in 2007 and McClements and Decker are also 2009 awardees.

The 2009 CVIP Technology Development Fund awards will be given to the following project team leaders:

  • Hang Xiao, Ph.D., David Julian McClements, Ph.D., Eric Andrew Decker, Ph.D., Yeonhwa Park, Ph.D., Department of Food and Science, UMass Amherst
    "Colon-specific Delivery Systems Based on Nanolaminated Dietary Fiber Coating of Encapsulated Bioactive Compounds"
    The team has developed a novel technology for encapsulating bioactive compounds in nanolaminated biopolymer membranes, which has marked benefits over existing technologies for colon-specific delivery via oral route for prevention and treatment of colorectal diseases.  The primary purpose of this project would be to bridge the gap between the basic work they have done in developing the technology in the laboratory, and the application work needed to demonstrate the practical utilization of the technology in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Xingwei Wang, Ph.D., Wenhui Wang, Ph.D., Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Lowell
    "Disposable Miniature Pressure Sensor for Cardiologist Use"
    The team proposes a disposable blood pressure sensor for cardiologist use. The purpose is to find out the location and the severity of the blockage in the coronary arteries. The information is very useful for the cardiologists to judge which treatment is necessary for the patients: medication, angioplasty, or bypass surgery. The value is that the pressure sensor can reduce unnecessary stents in approximately 25 percent of the cases and results in $2 billion medical savings. The CVIP funding will support  lab tests for the technology.
  • Ramaswamy Nagarajan, Ph.D., Julie Chen, Ph.D., Joey Mead, Ph.D., Sharavanan Balsubramaniam, Department of Plastics Engineering, UMass Lowell
    "Novel Low-Temperature Processable Metallic Inks for Flexible Electronics and RF Applications"
    There has been a tremendous push for low cost flexible electronics fabricated using continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques. One of the key challenges in this area is the fabrication of metallic traces (to convey power or data) at low enough temperatures suitable for flexible (polymeric) substrates. UML has developed a new class of inks that can be printed on polymeric substrates, and processed into highly conductive metallic traces at low temperatures. This will allow for the fabrication of different types of devices on polymeric substrates using continuous manufacturing processes. The CVIP Technology Development Fund will provide the opportunity to demonstrate commercial feasibility of this new low-cost technique in flexible electronics (e.g. RFID tags).
  • Zhiyong Gu, Ph.D., Julie Chen, Ph.D., Dr. Qingzhou Cui, Ph.D., Department of Chemical Engineering; Department of Mechanical Engineering; CHN/NCOE Nanomanufacturing Center, UMass Lowell
    "Novel Nano-Shell Catalysts for Low Cost, High Efficiency Fuel Production and Environmental Remediation"
    A multidisciplinary team by Zhiyong Gu, Julie Chen and Qingzhou Cui have developed novel nano-shell particles as catalysts for energy and environmental remediation applications. Initial studies of these nano-shell catalysts have shown promise in hydrogen generation and fuel cell applications. The CVIP Development Fund will help the team improve the catalytic efficiency, scale up, investigate multiple catalytic materials and reactions, and identify potential licensee.
  • Fumihiko Urano, M.D., Ph.D., Program in Gene Function and Expression and Program in Molecular Medicine, UMass Medical School
    "A New Biomarker for Diabetes"
    Urano has developed a novel method to predict the susceptibility for developing diabetes by measuring the expression levels of WFS1 in peripheral blood. With the CVIP funding, he will attain knowledge about the accuracy of his technology using different diabetes mouse models.
  • Celia Schiffer, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, UMass Medical School
    "Testing the Pharmacokinetics of Highly Potent Novel HIV-1 Protease Inhibitors"
    A series of novel HIV -1 protease inhibitors were designed to be more robust to viral mutation and hence likely less likely to illicit drug resistance. The design of these compounds stems from her understanding of how the enzyme, HIV-1 Protease, balances substrate recognition and with the evolution of drug resistance. Ten of these novel HIV-1 Protease Inhibitors, are better than Darunavir, arguably the best HIV-1 protease inhibitor on the market, in anti-retroviral testing against resistant viruses. The CVIP award will allow Dr. Schiffer to initiate Pharmacokinetic studies, which is the next step to determine whether their inhibitors have the potential to becoming viable drugs.
  • Stephen Miller, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, UMass Medical School
    "Delivery of Exemplary Sulfonated Fluorescent Molecules into Live Cells"
    Many of the best and brightest fluorescent probes cannot cross cell membranes. Funding will be used to validate a technology for the delivery of these fluorescent molecules into live cells, allowing the non-invasive optical imaging of the intracellular environment.

The grants process is managed by the University of Massachusetts Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP), headed by Executive Director William Rosenberg, Ph.D. The awards are funded with technology licensing revenue supplemented by funds from the UMass President's Office.

The grant funds will be used for proof of principle work and will support additional lab testing, building of prototypes and animal and pharmacology studies.  Funding for this type of development is not available from research grants and is critical to advancing technologies from the laboratory to commercialization.

In consultation with President Wilson, this year's grant submissions to the UMass CVIP Technology Development Fund were judged by a committee comprised of Dr. Rosenberg; the Directors of the five campus CVIP offices; Dr. Abigail Barrow, the Director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC); Dr. Linda Plano, Associate Director of the MTTC; UMass Lowell alumnus and member of the UMass Foundation Board of Directors Warren Isabelle, and Steve Derezinsky an external consultant focused on technology commercialization.
Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) is responsible for the commercialization of discoveries made on the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. The Executive Director, William Rosenberg, Ph.D. is based in the Office of the President and there are CVIP offices on each UMass campus. Licensing of UMass intellectual property generated $37,686,000 in Fiscal Year 2008 for the University.

Robert P. Connolly, 774-455-7188

Libby DeVecchi, 774-455-7189


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