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Mass Tech Transfer Center Awards Grants to Massachusetts Researchers with Spin-off Potential

Researchers from BU, Harvard Medical School, MGH and MIT Receive Spring 2008 Technology Commercialization Awards

 BOSTON- The Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) today announced its seventh round of Technology Investigation Awards for Massachusetts researchers.  The awards, which total $280,000 in seed funding-supporting proof of concept development to bridge the gap between invention and private sector investment- will go to seven Massachusetts researchers who have developed new technologies that they aim to develop into commercially-viable products.

The awards support the MTTC's unique mission of facilitating the commercialization of new technologies developed at public and private research institutions to new and existing companies in Massachusetts. Since 2004, the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center has helped launch more than 20 new ventures based on technologies licensed by Massachusetts researchers and students; its funded or coached start-ups have raised more than $70 million from investors or other grants.

Grants of $40,000 each are being made to investigators from Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for new commercial applications of a broad spectrum of technologies that include biotechnology, robotics and energy-related discoveries.

Translational awards such as these are very difficult to secure and the MTTC offers the first and only award program that is available to researchers at all Massachusetts research institutions. MTTC funding supports the demonstration of each new technology's commercial viability. It can be used for such purposes as developing a prototype, gathering data that show proof of concept, or to demonstrate a technology's competitive advantages over existing technologies.

"There were dozens of incredibly worthy submissions, but the technologies developed by these MTTC Technology Investigator Award recipients really stood out-we believe each technology has solid commercial potential," said Abi Barrow, Founding Director of the MTTC.

"It can be incredibly difficult for researchers to obtain proof of concept grants even in Massachusetts, which is a hub of universities, research institutions, entrepreneurs and venture capital. This funding is one of the ways that the MTTC connects the Commonwealth's researchers with the tools and contacts they need to bring their ideas to market," Barrow continued.

The MTTC was created in 2004 as a program in the Massachusetts Economic Stimulus Bill and it is housed at and supported by the University of Massachusetts President's Office. The University of Massachusetts has had a very strong record of technology commercialization in recent years-in Fiscal Year 2007, UMass research resulted in 174 invention disclosures, 106 patent applications, and 78 technology licenses across the University's five campuses.

Previous MTTC supported successes include the following spin-off companies:

  • SunEthanol, novel biofuel technology converting cellulosic material (biomass) from plant and organic matter into ethanol, (UMass Amherst)
  • Hepregen, an innovative liver tissue cell screening technology, (MIT)
  • Solasta Inc.,  a technology based on ultra-high efficiency solar cells using nanoscale elements, (Boston College)
  • Chat Threads,  independent offline word of mouth measurement and analytics,(Northeastern University)

The recipients of all seven spring 2008 MTTC awards and descriptions of their work are listed below.

WINNERS OF MTTC SPRING 2008 INVESTIGATION AWARDS

  •  Jeffrey M. Karp, Harvard MIT division of Health Sciences and Technology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School
    "A Tissue Adhesive Tape Inspired by Nature"
    Recently Dr. Karp and his colleagues nanofabricated a unique bio-elastomer with a thin coating of biocompatible glue to create the first gecko inspired tissue adhesive. The goal of Dr. Karp's current project is to significantly enhance the level of adhesion of his tape based adhesives to candidate tissues through manipulating the substrate chemistry and morphology. These systems will be designed to prevent leaks after intestinal anastomosis, pulmonary lung resection, or to deliver drugs to ischemic heart tissue following myocardial infarction.

 

  • Rajiv Gupta, Ph.D., Volume CT Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Alexander Slocum, Ph.D., Precision Engineering Research Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Nevan Hanumara, Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Conor Walsh, Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    "Robopsy-Inexpensive Medical Robotics"
    Medical imaging now allows the inside of the body to be visualized in great detail.  The Robopsy team is developing a new genre of lightweight and low-cost medical robots that use the imaging data to precisely guide a tool into the body. The MTTC award will fund development and pre-clinical testing of one such device to assist in earlier diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

 

  • Uday B. Pal, Department of Manufacturing, Boston University
    "Solid Oxide Membrane Electrolyzer for the Production of Pure Hydrogen and Syn-gas from a Source of Waste and Steam"
    The goal is to use the innovative Solid Oxide Membrane (SOM) Process technology to produce high-purity-reduced-cost hydrogen and syn-gas for clean energy generation applications. The process is environmentally benign and uses a feedstock that has a relatively high energy value and is in great surplus: waste. The award will be used to demonstrate the technology on a lab scale with various categories of waste including sawdust, coal dust, plastic, and food waste. Following demonstration, interested parties such as waste generators, fuel cell companies, gas companies, and other small and large businesses will be contacted to continue the work towards commercialization.

 

  • Satish K. Singh, Ph.D., Department of Gastroenterology, Boston University;Mark N. Horenstein, Ph.D., Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University; Andre Sharon, Ph.D., Fraunhofer Center for Innovative Manufacturing,
    "Variable Stiffness Endoscope with Smart Articulated Joints"
    Variable stiffness scopes are of proven clinical benefit in flexible endoscopy and natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgical (NOTES) procedures. Drs. Singh Horenstein, and Sharon have developed a new technology using "smart articulated joints" that permit the construction of variable-stiffness endoscopes of virtually any size or diameter for a wide range of endoscopic/endosurgical applications. In collaboration with the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation at Boston University, the award will be used to design and test prototype scopes that could form the basis for future preclinical and clinical test units.

 

  • John A. Porco, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, Boston University
    "Chemical Synthesis of Cyclopenta[b] benzofurans and their Development as Adjuvants to Chemotherapy"
    The Technology Investigation Award will focus on synthesis of derivatives of silvestrol, a new chemotherapeutic agent which has been found to modulate a novel protein synthesis pathway. The specific goal will be to identify readily accessible and proprietary silvestrol analogues which may synergize with doxorubicin against various forms of cancer.  The adjuvant therapies that are identified should have reduced side effects leading to an overall reduction in cancer chemoresistance.

 

  • Rajeev Ram, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    "Manufacturability of Application Specific Microbioreactor Modules"
    The team is developing integrated microfluidic bioreactor modules to improve the quality, cost, and speed of bioprocess development for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals.  MTTC funding will support the development of a commercially viable manufacturing process for the disposable bioreactor modules and also the production of modules for beta testing by potential customers.

 

  • George Tegos, Ph.D., Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital
    "Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) with efflux pump inhibitors to combat localized MRSA (Methicillin -Resistant Staphylococcus aurous infections)"
    Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are primarily caused by an evolving bacterium that has spread with "extraordinary transmissibility" throughout the US during the past five years.

    A strategy combining two classes of different antimicrobial agents without reported development of resistance; PDT which involves the use of photoactivatable compounds (photosensitizers-PS) and harmless visible light to produce toxic effects in microbial cells and small molecules which block microbial efflux pumps. PDT with efflux pump inhibitors will be tested in vivo to treat their established models of excision wounds or burns on the mouse infected with luminescent MRSA. This pivotal study will guide them in the selection of the most appropriate agents in terms of activity, toxicity, immune response and efficiency in avoiding systemic invasion. They will develop a platform formulation that could be incorporated in topical skin creams, applied as a coating for orthopedic prosthetic devices, and even used as a spray in hospitals and nursing homes for the prevention and treatment of localized MRSA infections.

About the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center

The Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) was created in 2004 as a program in the Massachusetts Economic Stimulus Bill. Its goal is to support technology transfer activities from public and private research institutions to companies in Massachusetts. To achieve this goal, the Center works with technology transfer offices at more than 30 Massachusetts research institutions; faculty, researchers, and students who have commercially promising ideas; successful entrepreneurs; venture capitalists and companies across the Commonwealth. 

In addition to making seed funding awards, the MTTC hosts annual technology showcase conferences (industry specific events for life sciences, clean energy, and nanotech & microtech), offers mentoring and coaching to new entrepreneurs in both one-on-one and group settings and invites promising entrepreneurs from research institutions to participate in "Platform" investor pitches. To date, more than 20 new ventures have been formed, earning more than $70 million in external funding. The MTTC is housed in the University of Massachusetts President's Office.  More information is available at www.MaTTCenter.org.

6/26/08

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