December 23, 2015

UMass researchers awarded $320,000 in grants to develop promising technologies

From safer helmets to new virus vaccines

BOSTON - Dec. 23, 2015: The Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) today announced $320,000 in awards to eight UMass faculty researchers who are developing promising technologies that range from an electronic “tongue” for food safety tests to a new energy-absorbing material for helmets that last week was named as one of five winners of the NFL’s Head Health Challenge. These Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund grants provide financing to researchers who have invented or developed projects with commercial potential and include innovations as diverse as virus vaccines and non-toxic epoxy resins for food can liners. The MTTC is a state organization that assists the transfer of technology from the state’s research institutions to private industry. It is housed within UMass’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures (OTCV). These awards provide follow-on funding to the original UMass OTCV Technology Development Fund grants that helped launch each of these researcher’s innovative projects. “The discovery and innovation underway at all five UMass campuses advances education and science while helping to fuel our economy. These awards develop new technologies that are of strategic importance to the Commonwealth and help nurture innovation and entrepreneurism throughout the state,” President Meehan said. “We believe these are exactly the kinds of inventions that will help create new startup companies, industries and jobs of the future.” Awarded through a competitive process, these eight grants of $40,000 are focused on developing technologies in industry sectors such as advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, clean energy, communications, cybersecurity, defense, information technology, life sciences and marine science. “These awards are designed to support the commercial development of some of the exciting new inventions coming out of UMass labs and fueling our innovation economy. We look forward to seeing these technologies become the foundation of new start-up companies throughout the Commonwealth,” said Katie Stebbins, assistant secretary of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Housing and Economic Development and Chair of the MTTC’s Advisory Board. The University of Massachusetts’ Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures (OTVC) provided initial funding to chosen researchers to prove the technology worked in the laboratory. With this second round of financing, inventors must develop market data and a commercialization plan. The goal of seed money research grants is to further develop a concept or product to a stage that will help attract private industry financing. The University of Massachusetts, which ranked 57th in Thomas Reuters inaugural rating of the World’s Most Innovative Universities, is a national leader in converting faculty discoveries into innovative products and licensing income – generating $34 million in licensing income in fiscal year 2015. This typically places the University in the Top 15 nationally for such revenue, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. The University’s annual research expenditures climbed above $600 million last year, and the number of patents awarded to UMass faculty rose to 65 in fiscal year 2015. Based on its calendar year awards of 40 patents, the University placed 40th in the nation, 53rd in the world, and behind only MIT and Harvard in New England. The following initiatives and faculty researchers were selected to each receive a $40,000 grant to further develop promising technologies: “Commercial development of Flocked Energy Absorbing Materials (FEAM) for sport apparel and equipment applications,” UMass Dartmouth. Yong K. Kim, Bioengineering Department: Flocked Energy Absorbing Materials (FEAM), are an innovative impact attenuating material for use in sports and military helmets that mitigates both linear and rotational forces involved in blows to the head. Corsair Innovations, a newly formed company, will be partnering with Kim to execute the sales and marketing of this exciting technology. On the basis of this UMass Dartmouth invention, Corsair, was recently awarded $250,000 as one of the five winners of the Head Health Challenge III. The open innovation competition to develop advanced materials that better absorb or dissipate impact is sponsored by a consortium of the National Football League (NFL), Under Armour, General Electric, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (For more information on this award see: “Development of protocols for large-scale production of virus-like particle vaccine candidates for Respiratory Syncytial Virus,” UMass Medical School. Trudy G. Morrison, Virology: The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a substantial health threat most severely affecting infants, young children, and the elderly. Morrison’s laboratory has developed a novel and very effective RSV vaccine candidate that has performed extremely well in preclinical trials. The award will help develop protocols for large-scale production of this vaccine candidate and move forward to human clinical trials. “Radiation detection and monitoring for radiation safety and medical applications employing self-powered High Energy Current (HEC) nanofilms,” UMass Lowell. Erno Sajo, Department of Physics and Applied Physics: HEC nanofilms are self-powered thin-film radiation sensors that harness the energy of the radiation it detects to provide a usable signal without requiring external bias voltage and signal amplification. Sajo’s device is scalable, as it can be fabricated in pixelated arrays or in large integral areas with a per-unit cost that is a small fraction of present radiation detectors. “Bisphenol A (BPA) free epoxy resins for food can liners,” UMass Lowell. Daniel Schmidt, Department of Plastics Engineering: Schmidt’s team previously identified a commercially available, food contact-approved molecule with no structural similarities to bisphenol A or human hormones, and converted that molecule to an epoxy. This funding will enable further development of this technology to create a practical drop-in replacement for food can coatings that provides the many benefits of an epoxy while avoiding molecules with a high potential to mimic human hormones. “Catheter Based Ultrasound (CBU) fiber optic temperature distribution measurement system for controlling the radiofrequency ablation,” UMass Lowell. Xingwei Wang, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Wang’s team uses hair thin optical fibers to fabricate an ultrasonic probe that can measure the temperature distribution during the arterial fibrillation ablation procedure, which will help physicians calculate the best time to stop the ablation. The funding will help the team to conduct more tests and signal processing. “Commercialization of a 2-stage Peltier cooling cell,” UMass Boston. Robyn Hannigan, School for the Environment: Analysis of “wet” materials like biological tissues is often chemically messy. Hannigan will commercialize a transfer device she developed that allows for cryogenic (extreme cold) sampling of materials by laser ablation and delivery of these cold particles to a mass analyzer allowing for accurate measurements in samples that used to require time and the consumption of chemicals to prepare. “Versatile nano-polymer platform for therapeutic delivery,” UMass Amherst. Sankaran Thayumanavan, Department of Chemistry: Nanotechnology has the promise of making a great impact on therapeutics in general, cancer therapy in particular. To fulfil this promise, the Thayumanavan group has been working to make robust nanomaterials with the ideal combination of characteristics more accessible. The funding will be used to assist translating these nanoparticles from an academic invention to a clinical reality. “Versatile electronic tongue for environmental monitoring and food safety applications,” UMass Lowell. Pradeep U. Kurup, chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering: An electronic tongue (E-Tongue) probe comprising an electrochemical sensor array, data acquisition/control and intelligent pattern recognition software is designed to fill the unmet need for rapid, low cost, on-site characterization of toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, zinc, and mercury in water, sediments and food. The Phase-2 funding will help Kurup’s team develop a deployable E-tongue probe for field demonstration and to conduct customer acceptance tests. For more information contact: Jan Brogan, 781-467-9900