News: Press Releases

April 20, 2017

President Meehan announces $200,000 in Tech Development awards

UMass seed-funding program aids in commercializing scientific breakthroughs across the five-campus system

BOSTON — New technologies aimed at extending battery life, preventing bedsores and rapidly diagnosing a mutated gene that causes ALS could get closer to market thanks to $200,000 in seed funding announced today by University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan.

Eight UMass faculty projects will receive $25,000 each via the Technology Development Fund, which helps bring cutting-edge UMass research to market.

“With these awards, we are recognizing innovation across our five campuses and investing in discoveries with the potential to contribute to the economy and change lives,” UMass President Marty Meehan said. “These awards highlight faculty excellence and underscore the role of a public research university to advance knowledge and spur entrepreneurship and economic development.”

The Technology Development Fund is overseen by the Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures (OTCV), based at the UMass President’s Office in Boston. This year’s recipients, selected from a field of 45 applicants, were chosen for their project’s commercial viability, with the hope that development of the technology will lead to a startup company or licensing agreement, according to Abigail Barrow, interim executive director of OTCV.

Since 2004, UMass has invested more than $2.5 million in faculty R&D projects, leading to $15 million in follow-on investment, generating numerous commercial licenses and patents and resulting in startup companies locating in Massachusetts.

“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see our investments result in new companies and new products being brought to market across the Commonwealth,” President Meehan said. “We’re proud to help our faculty turn their research breakthroughs into viable commercial ventures that impact the people of Massachusetts and beyond.”

Funding for the annual awards comes from commercial licensing income on previous faculty discoveries along with a grant from the President’s Office. The University has a strong record of generating income from the commercialization of its academic research and typically places in the top 15 universities in a national survey of income generated by technology transfer. Previous awards have led to numerous commercial licenses and patents as well as the creation of startup companies like Felsuma LLC in Somerville, Cyta Therapeutics in Lowell and Corsair Innovations in Dartmouth.

Previously, OTCV was known as the office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP).

This year’s recipients of the $25,000 OTCV Tech Development Fund awards are:

• Zuoshang Xu, M.D., Ph.D.; Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, UMass Medical School
“Development of rapid diagnostic tests for human DNA repeat expansion diseases with immediate emphasis on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)”
The team has developed a method to detect a mutated gene that causes a majority of inherited cases of the severe neurodegenerative disease ALS via patient skin cell specimens and looks to adapt the method to inner cheek cell specimens.

• Drs. Robert Giles and Cecil Joseph, The Biomedical Terahertz Technology Center, Department of Physics, UMass Lowell
“Grating Based Terahertz Spectrometer”
The team will design and fabricate an optical grating to spatially disperse the spectrum of a terahertz pulse, the first step towards developing a single-shot terahertz spectrometer.

• John Klier, Ph.D.; Shelly Peyton Ph.D., Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
“Novel associative hydrogels”
The UMass Amherst team of Yen Tran, Matt Rasmuson, Shelly Peyton and John Klier is developing novel microgel additives to dramatically enhance coating performance and appearance and enable new types of water-based coating systems.

• David Kazmer, Ph.D., Department of Plastics Engineering, UMass Lowell
“Fractal Screw Extrusion”
Professor David Kazmer will evaluate the technical and commercial feasibility of a novel feed screw design for use in polymer processing that has the potential to improve the cost and quality of manufactured products.

• Alexey Tonyushkin, Ph.D., Department of Physics, UMass Boston
“Novel Coil Design for Magnetic Particle Imaging Scanners”
The team will prototype novel coils to be used in a new generation of magnetic particle scanners.

• Raymond Dunn, M.D.; Kelli Hickle, M.D., Division of Plastic Surgery, UMass Medical School; John McNeill, Ph.D., Yitzhak Mendelson, Ph.D; Xinming Huang, Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute
“Wireless Sensor for Pressure Ulcer Prevention”
The team is developing a wireless-enabled disposable sensor patch designed to prevent pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, to be worn on at-risk locations on the body.

• Patrick Cappillino, Ph.D.; Ertan Agar, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMass Dartmouth; Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMass Lowell
“High-performance redox flow batteries with bio-inspired electrolytes for grid-scale energy storage”
The team is developing high-stability, bio-inspired non-aqueous redox flow battery (NRFB) electrolytes with high cell-voltage, high current density and low capacity-fade, with plans to commercialize the flow battery electrolytes.

• Deepak Ganesan, Ph.D., Department of Computer Science, UMass Amherst
“Connecting the next billion mobile, IoT and wearable devices”
The project outlines a novel radio technology that allows small battery-powered devices to take advantage of battery power in larger devices nearby for communication, with the potential to significantly extend battery life for wearable devices.