President Meehan announces $200,000 in technology development awards

BOSTON -- New technologies aimed at protecting premature infants from heart problems, producing hydrogen for use in electric vehicles, treating Alzheimer's disease and helping to diagnose chronic medical conditions could get closer to market thanks to $200,000 in seed funding announced today by University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan.

Eight UMass research projects will each receive $25,000 via the Technology Development Fund, which helps bring scientific breakthroughs at UMass to market.

"I'm proud to invest in our faculty, who are engaged in cutting-edge research with the power to bolster the economy and improve lives," said President Meehan. "These awards will help bring promising and potentially life-changing research to market for the benefit of the Commonwealth and beyond."

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 35 applicants, were chosen for their project's commercial viability, in hopes 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 $2.75 million in faculty R&D projects, leading to $22.6 million in follow-on investment, generating 10 commercial licenses and patents and resulting in six startup companies, including Felsuma LLC in Somerville, Cyta Therapeutics in Lowell and Corsair Innovations in Dartmouth.

Funding for the annual awards comes from commercial licensing income on previous faculty discoveries. UMass has a strong record of generating income from the commercialization of its academic research and typically places among the top 25 universities in a national survey of income generated by technology transfer.

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

Derek Lovley, Ph.D., Department of Microbiology; Jun Yao, Ph.D., Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Amherst
"Prototype Protein Nanowire-Based Sensor"
The team is making a wearable sensor for non-invasive, real-time monitoring of a wide range of biomarkers that help to diagnose chronic medical conditions.

David Ryan, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, UMass Lowell
"Efficient Hydrogen Production by Catalytic Water Splitting at Low Temperatures"
The project aims to develop a flow-through reactor that can continuously produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells for electric vehicles or in other applications.

Javed Mannan, M.D., MPH, and Lawrence Rhein, M.D., MPH, Department of Pediatrics/Division of Neonatology, UMass Medical School
"Effect of Chest Shielding on the Incidence of Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Premature Infants undergoing Phototherapy"
The team is developing a non-invasive chest shield that will protect premature infants under going light therapy for jaundice from developing enlarged hearts or heart failure, which is a common side effect of the treatment.

Hang Xiao, Ph.D., and S. Thai Thayumanavan, Ph.D., Departments of Food Science and Chemistry, UMass Amherst
"Liver-targeted delivery for the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis"
The project aims to develop a unique system to deliver thyromimetics -- compounds that mimic the action of thyroid hormones or the thyroid gland -- to the liver to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a significant and growing problem with no approved treatment.

Chul Park, Ph.D., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UMass Amherst
"Promoting the co-op anaerobic digestion for communities in New England using the UMass Anaerobic Side-stream Reactor Process"
This project aims to implement a system to minimize the production of sludge -- byproduct generated from wastewater treatment -- using anaerobic side-stream reactor treatment and anaerobic digestion.

Arghavan Louhghalam, Ph.D., and Mazdak Tootkaboni, Ph.D., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UMass Dartmouth
"MASSive Road IDEntification (MASS-RIDE): Crowd sourcing and realtime Inverse analysis for road roughness characterization and fuel consumption estimation"
The team is developing a system that uses measurements from drivers' cell phones, crowd sourcing and mathematical models to estimate road surface conditions, excess fuel consumption and corresponding environmental impact in real time without the need for instrumentation of vehicles.

Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, Ph.D., Department of Engineering, UMass Boston
"Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Emerging Outbreaks"
This project uses nanoparticles of different colors to make low-cost, point of care tests for infectious diseases.

Jeanne Hardy, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, UMass Amherst
"Development of potent, selective caspase-6 inhibitors for treatment of neurodegeneration"
The Hardy lab is developing and testing inhibitors for a protein called caspase-6 that is involved in both Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.