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University of Massachusetts announces Science and Technology Initiatives Fund Awards, five selected to lead research projects on UMass campuses

Grant program created by President Wilson responsible for $145 million in research funding

BOSTON - President Jack M. Wilson today unveiled the latest research projects to receive grants from the President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund, which has provided $6.7 million to UMass researchers since 2004, leading to an additional $145 million in funding for vital research efforts.

"We have used this fund to seed the breakthroughs and discoveries of tomorrow," President Wilson said. "Researchers on all five of our campuses are producing ideas and discoveries that will improve our lives and shape our future, and we are eager to support that work."

The President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund is one of three funds that President Wilson has created to support the work of University of Massachusetts faculty members. The other two are the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund and the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund.

Speaking to the Board of Trustees Committee on Science, Technology and Research, President Wilson said the projects receiving grants this year from the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund are:

  • Center for Soft Materials Immunology (Principal Investigators: Greg Tew and Maria Santore, UMass Amherst) - An example of the campus's strategy to grow its life sciences research programs, this project focuses on a partnership between leading faculty in Amherst's Polymer Sciences and Veterinary and Animal Sciences to develop new therapies to combat disease. Additional collaborators include UMass Medical School (UMMS) and the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute.
  • Collaborative Data Mining Center (Principal Investigator: Dan Simovici, UMass Boston) - The center will develop core computing research programs in data mining along with applications across disciplines including climate change research, astronomy and the social sciences. One project currently being advanced involves Sociology and Computer Science faculty working with the Boston Police Department on better prediction tools for criminal activity. 
  • Cranberry Health Research Center (Principal Investigator: Catherine Neto, UMass Dartmouth) - The Center builds on campus research strengths in biochemistry and a long-standing partnership with Amherst's Cranberry Station, as well as new collaborations with UMMS faculty.  The research center will be unique in its focus on health and will benefit from industry collaborations on one of the Commonwealth's most important agricultural products, the cranberry.
  • Biopharmaceutical Process and Control Consortium (Principal Investigator:  Seongkyu Yoon, UMass Lowell) - Earlier Science and Technology Fund investments in biomanufacturing set the stage for a new consortium that will address key processing challenges for the biopharmaceutical manufacturing cluster in order to enhance manufacturing efficiency.  Helping to improve the climate for biopharmaceutical manufacturing is a priority for the University and the Commonwealth.
  • Massachusetts CTSA Consortium Partnership (Principal Investigator: John Sullivan, UMass Medical School) - This project will assist the UMass Medical School in continuing to expand the activities of the NIH-funded UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, specifically through providing faculty with incentives for collaboration with researchers at other clinical and translational science centers at Harvard University, Tufts University, and Boston University.

President Wilson established the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund in 2004 and since then has provided more $6.7 million to support 48 projects.  These projects have leveraged $145 million in funding from sources outside the university system, which has led to the creation of nearly 20 research centers on the five campuses. Previous awardees have received on average $140,000 for projects that support research initiatives on all five campuses. This year's award amounts will be determined following the passage of the final state budget.

The goals of the initiative are to provide seed-level support to help better position faculty researchers for larger, long-term investments; to advance strategic university research priorities; and to spur partnerships with state industry that leverage the university's expertise while enhancing the competitiveness of companies with which UMass is working.

"The Science and Technology Initiatives Fund has allowed the University of Massachusetts to invest in the vision and creativity of our faculty," said President Wilson.  "At the same time, our investment has paid off in our ability to leverage additional funding from outside sources and aided in expanding the scope of our research.  Most importantly, however, our researchers and faculty have developed important technologies that create jobs, save lives, and preserve the environment through these grants."

A separate competitive fund also established by President Wilson in 2004, the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund, provides grants to advance the commercial development of important technologies discovered in laboratories on UMass campuses.  Since 2004, the Fund has awarded 49 grants totaling $1.3 million to university researchers from all five campuses for technology commercialization, which has resulted in the creation of four new companies. Revenue from the licensing of UMass technologies exceeded $40 million in Fiscal Year 2010.  Over the last 15 years, licensing income for the University of Massachusetts has totaled $450 million.  

President Wilson's third innovation fund, the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, created in 2007 to complement the Science and Technology Fund, reinforces the University's continued commitment to the social and economic development of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Fund has supported the preservation of the W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Home in Great Barrington, helped to establish the Lowell Youth Orchestra and a permanent Jack Kerouac education and tourism site in Lowell, and supported the creation of a women artisan's cooperative in New Bedford. During its first four years, the Fund made 39 awards totaling approximately $1 million and anticipates making an additional 10 new awards in early summer. 

"President Wilson's vision for increasing the system's research spending and output has provided a tremendous incentive for the campuses to think creatively," said Mike Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  "The Science & Technology Initiatives Fund, in particular, has helped our faculty and researchers prepare to access highly-competitive funds at the state, federal, and foundational levels.  Because of it, and the general climate of innovation on our campus, UMass has seen terrific growth in our research centers and capabilities."

Previous award winners that either began or were propelled forward because of the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund include;

  • Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing (UMass Amherst) - Funding from the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund enabled this leading research and education center to receive a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to serve as the agency's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC).
  • Massachusetts BioManufacturing Center (Dartmouth and Lowell) - Investments helped both campuses position themselves for large state investments in new research facilities and supported the center's ongoing industry collaborations to help biotechnology companies transition from drug discovery to manufacturing.
  • Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) (Lowell and Worcester) - Funding helped launch this center that provides medical device prototyping services and research collaborations to small companies across the state. The center assists companies in meeting Food and Drug Administration standards for medical device design and controls, materials selection, material procurement and control, prototype development, process development and validation. To date, the center has helped more than 6 companies receive Small Business Innovation Research grants.
  • UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science (system-wide project led by UMass Worcester) - Funds assisted in the creation of a UMass Medical School-led, system-wide clinical and translational research center funded by the National Institute of Health.
  • Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy (Boston, in partnership with Dana-Farber / Harvard Cancer Center) - Investments helped launch this joint project that is intended to address the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality. The new center seeks collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in order to develop and commercialize affordable clinical test kits for detailed sub-type analysis of individual patient tumors.

These three funds have been an integral part of UMass' growing acclaim as a center of research and academic excellence.  The university recently announced that it had broken the $500 million mark in terms of research spending.  In December, the Association of University Technology Managers released a report that ranked UMass as number eight in a list of universities generating income from the licensing of faculty-derived discoveries and products.  Also in recent months, the Times of London ranked the University of Massachusetts 19th in its World Reputation Rankings.  These rankings are based on a survey of academics from around the world, who rated schools based on their reputation in teaching and research.

"The faculty at the University of Massachusetts works hard every day to improve the lives of residents of Massachusetts, the United States, and the world," President Wilson said.  "I look forward to being a part of those efforts when I begin my tenure as Distinguished University Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Lowell."

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073


5/25/11

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