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UMass announces CVIP Technology Development Fund winners for 2010

BOSTON -- University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson today announced $200,000 in grants to UMass researchers. The awards will advance the commercial development of important technologies discovered in laboratories on UMass campuses. These inventions cover a broad range of technologies including life sciences, polymer chemistry and engineering.

The awards are being made from the University's Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund, which President Wilson established in 2004. To date, the fund has provided $1,115,000 in grant funding to faculty members on all five campuses.

"These University of Massachusetts researchers stand at the forefront of scientific innovation and are bringing forward discoveries that could benefit mankind in significant ways, whether that is by creating new treatments for cancer, new approaches for wound care, or improving the fire-safety of the clothes we wear," President Wilson said.

"The University of Massachusetts has become a national leader in bringing faculty discoveries to the world and the marketplace, and we want to preserve and advance our leadership role through programs like the CVIP Technology Development Fund," President Wilson said.

"At a time when commercial-development funding is becoming harder to obtain, programs like the CVIP Technology Development Fund play a critical role in converting today's brilliant discoveries into the products and treatments that will improve and save lives tomorrow," President Wilson added.

This year's applicants were graded on technical merit, stage of technology, cost to complete development, commercial potential and business viability, probability of commercial success, and the ability to execute the plan. Awards were made to faculty members from the Amherst, Lowell and Worcester campuses.

Past awardees include Professor George Huber of UMass Amherst, whose green gasoline research was demonstrated as a result of his award, leading to the licensing of his technology and the creation of the startup company Anellotech, and Professor Andrew Fischer of UMass Medical School, who used his grant to further develop a working prototype of his "cell block machine" used to detect the presence of cancerous cells from a small number of cells. This technology was subsequently licensed to Marlborough-based Cytyc, which is currently selling an automated product based on the technology, with royalties paid to UMass.

The University of Massachusetts generated $73 million in intellectual-property income in Fiscal Year 2009, making UMass a national leader in this area.

Each of the  following projects will be supported by a $25,000 grant from the 2010 CVIP Technology Development Fund awards:
CVIP Technology Development Fund 2010 awardees:

Chul Park, PhD, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UMass Amherst
"A New Sludge and Nutrient Reduction Method for Wastewater Treatment"

Park's new wastewater treatment technology allows for both sludge reduction and nutrient removal, which are major challenges in wastewater treatment systems. The invention also permits a significant simplification of reactor design and operation compared to current methods of biological nutrient removal and sludge treatment in wastewater treatment plants. Funding will provide proof of concept with engineering optimization as well as a full scale test at a treatment plant.

Surita Bhatia, PhD, Susan Roberts, PhD, Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
"Alginate Wound Dressings with Enhanced Oxygen Supply"

Researchers in the Bhatia and Roberts groups have developed techniques to create stable hydrogels with oxygen-carrying domains. These gels can be cast onto gauzes, creating wound dressings with improved oxygen transport to the wound site that will speed healing. Funds will be used to conduct in vivo studies and identify industrial partners for further development.

Uri Galili, PhD, Department of Surgery, UMass Worcester
"Accelerated Wound Healing With Liposome Nanoparticles"

The overall objective of this project is to study the technology developed at UMass Medical School on accelerated wound healing by topical application of a-gal liposomes. When applied on injuries, these liposomes interact with the most abundant antibody in humans -- the natural anti-Gal antibody. This interaction induces rapid recruitment and activation of macrophages in the treated wounds. The activated macrophages produce and secrete substances (cytokines) that mediate healing of injuries. If successful, the studies will help in the commercialization of this technology by UMass and in establishing clinical trials on healing of chronic wounds in the general population and in patients with impaired wound healing, such as diabetic patients and the elderly.

Weibo Gong, PhD, Sheng Xiao, MS, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, UMass Amherst
"Wireless Secret Key Management Using Communication Randomness"

Communication randomness, such as transmission errors and user movements are considered negative factors in wireless communications. This UMass technology converts the randomness into security shields against hackers. The new security model offers much better security at very low cost. The CVIP Technology Development Fund award will be used to develop a prototype of this technology for commercialization.

Michael Green, PhD, MD, Program in Gene Function and Expression, UMass Worcester
"Methods for Efficient Production of Bioactive Recombinant IGFBP7, a Promising New Therapeutic Agent for the Treatment of Melanoma and Other BRAF-Positive Cancers"

Green's group has identified IGFBP7, which encodes a secreted protein, as a melanoma tumor suppressor gene whose expression is lost during melanoma development.  Restoration of IGFBP7 function by addition of purified, recombinant IGFBP7 (rIGFBP7) induces apoptosis (cell death) in BRAF-positive human melanoma cell lines, and systemically administered rIGFBP7 markedly suppresses growth of BRAF-positive melanoma in mouse xenograft models of both primary and metastatic melanoma; thus rIGFBP7 represents a promising new treatment for BRAF-positive melanoma and therefore has significant commercial potential.  Funding will be rapidly utilized to develop methodologies for the efficient production of rIGFBP7 in a biologically active form, and to determine the optimal conditions that suppress growth of BRAF-positive melanomas in xenografted mice.

Alonzo Ross, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, UMass Worcester
"A Method for Enhancing Chemotherapy of Glioblastomas"

Glioblastoma brain tumors are a tremendously difficult clinical problem and are invariably fatal. Current therapies reduce tumor burden but do not provide a real cure. This novel approach combines a chemotherapy drug with a specific inhibitor of a signaling pathway. Using this approach, Ross has gotten very promising results analyzing tumor formation in mice. His goal is to expand these results and provide a foundation for a clinical trial as well as licensing of his patent.

Daniel Schmidt, PhD, Department of Plastics Engineering, UMass Lowell
"Practical, High-Performance Bisphenol A (BPA) Free Epoxy Resins"

This technology attempts to address growing concern surrounding the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in epoxy can liners used in the vast majority of metal food and beverage cans. In particular, new formulations have been identified that show significant promise as replacements for BPA-based epoxies from a properties and cost standpoint and which contain no components with structural similarities to human hormones.  CVIP TDF support will be used to support immediate scale-up of this technology, as well as the generation of application-specific data to prove industrial relevance.

Ramaswamy Nagarajan, PhD, Jayant Kumar, PhD, Department of Plastics Engineering, Department of Physics and Applied Physics and Center for Advanced Materials, UMass Lowell
"A New Class of Halogen-free Greener Flame Retardant Materials"

Brominated and halogenated flame retardants are used extensively world-wide in textiles, plastics and consumer electronic items to reduce their flammability but unfortunately show adverse effects on humans as well as the environment. They have been banned in the European Union and in the states of California and Maine. Nagarajan and Kumar (UMass Lowell), along with Bryan Coughlin, PhD and Todd Emrick, PhD (UMass Amherst)) have demonstrated that flame retardant additives derived from phenolic materials using "greener" synthetic routes show promise of replacing some of the more toxic materials currently used.


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, PhD, is based in the Office of the President and there are CVIP offices on each UMass campus. Licensing of UMass intellectual property generated $73 million in Fiscal Year 2009 for the University.

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-548-0238


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