News: Press Releases

May 25, 2013

UMass awards research grants for faculty technology

  • The UMass System
Nanotechnology, germ detection, radiation reduction and a metals detecting 'electronic tongue' among cutting edge UMass faculty innovations cited by President Caret

BOSTON - May 25, 2013: Celebrating the 10th annual awards for groundbreaking faculty inventions, UMass President Robert L. Caret today named eight projects on four campuses to receive $200,000 in funding from the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund.  The funds are generated through commercial licensing ventures in partnership with a contribution from the UMass President's Office.

"These are the discoveries that help change the world for the better, create new jobs and businesses and make us very proud of the groundbreaking work being done on the campuses of the University of Massachusetts," said President Caret in presenting the $25,000 awards.
"This year, we are recognizing work that will make our beaches and pools safer, improve medical outcomes, provide better detection of tumors, and help us to find dangerous levels of heavy metals in our water and food."

Eight awards are being made to faculty members from the Amherst, Boston, Lowell and Worcester campuses. To date, the CVIP Technology Development Fund has backed 74 projects, with impressive results, including numerous commercial licenses and patents, the creation of four successful start-ups, and significant licensing income and equity.  The University has a strong record of generating income from the commercialization of its academic research, having placed three years in a row in the top 15 of a national survey of income generated by technology transfer.

"CVIP recognizes and rewards cutting edge research projects that not only put our faculty and students at the forefront of their industries, they have the potential to create steady streams of revenue for our campuses," said William S. Rosenberg, CVIP Executive Director.

The 2013 CVIP Technology Development Fund awards will be given to the following project team leaders:

Gang Han, Ph.D.
UMass Worcester
Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Department
"Development of Novel Biocompatible Core/Shell Upconversion Nanoparticle Technology"

Dr. Gang Han's lab has developed nanoparticle technology that, used with deep tissue imaging, could provide clinicians with a new tool to see and diagnose tumors more clearly from the outside. The technology connects novel bio-compatible up-conversion nanoparticles with unnatural optical behavior, which offers a single solution to all levels of needs of biological imaging. Funding will be utilized to develop methodologies for large-scale synthesis of these nanoparticles and for imaging instrumentation optimization.

Vincent Rotello, Ph.D.
UMass Amherst
Department of Chemistry
"A Rapid Colorimetric Test Strip Sensor for Environmental Bacteria Detection"

Dr. Vincent Rotello and colleagues are developing paper test strips that provides a visual readout of water quality within 5 minutes - a tool that could help determine the safety of pool, lake or ocean water instantly. These strips use nanoparticles that generate a colored response when bacteria are present, providing an instant readout. The CVIP funding will help the team optimize particle and printing conditions for economical, large-scale manufacturing of these strips.

Robyn Hannigan, Ph.D.; Francesco Peri
UMass Boston
School for the Environment
"2-Stage Peltier Cooled Laser Ablation Cell: Prototyping and UL Certification"

Using lasers to generate fine particles (laser ablation) and to move them into an analytical detector is now a standard method of analysis of glass, steel, and mineral resource but adopting that technology for biomedical research has been hampered by the fact that lasers "cook" biological materials and alter their chemistry.  Funds provided by the CVIP award will advance the development of a "cold" cell that maintains biological materials at low temperatures during the laser sampling process. CVIP funding will be used to refine the system, making it smaller and easier to use, and also will support certification of the system's safety for use in research and industry labs.

Jie Song, Ph.D.
UMass Worcester
Department of Orthopedics & Physical Rehabilitation; Department of Cell & Developmental Biology
"Amphiphilic Degradable Polymer-mineral Composites as Versatile Synthetic Tissue Grafts"

This technology addresses the critical challenge of the inadequate bonding of degradable polymers with bone minerals that has inhibited the successful translation of synthetic composite tissue scaffolds for the repair of skeletal tissue. Dr. Song's polymers are far superior in their ability to bond with bone and have led to substantial improvements in the performance of synthetic degradable composites. This CVIP award will enable the development of a number of prototype tissue scaffolds based on this technology.

Stephen Miller, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, UMass Medical School
"Enhanced Bioluminescence Imaging in Live Mice"

The glow of the firefly is widely used by scientists to image biological processes that are otherwise invisible. The Miller lab has developed new technology that greatly improves this imaging method for visualizing gene expression and enzyme activity in living animals. Funding from CVIP will be used to establish the scope and application of this technology to problems in both basic research and drug discovery.

Paul Kaufman, Ph.D.; Daniel Schmidt, Ph.D.
Program in Gene Function and Expression; Program in Molecular Medicine (UMass Worcester); Plastics Engineering Department (UMass Lowell)
"Active Plastics as a Novel Anti-Fungal Strategy"

Dr. Kaufman and Dr. Schmidt's team has identified a small molecule that can potentially be used as a medical device coating capable of preventing colonization by common disease-causing fungi. They will test the ability of this compound to effectively treat the surfaces of a range of medical plastics used in catheters and endotracheal tubes, which may serve as entryways for infection. They will assess this compound's ability to block infection by other pathogens as well.

Erno Sajo, Ph.D.; Piotr Zygmanski, Ph.D., DABR
UMass Lowell; Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Physics and Applied Physics; Department of Radiation Oncology
"Method for High-Sensitivity X-ray Detection and Patient Dose Reduction in Medical Imaging Using Nanostructures"

The project will investigate a new x-ray detection method that can accomplish the previously mutually exclusive goals of reducing patient x ray exposure while increasing image quality. Funding will be used for prototyping the enabling technology.

Pradeep Kurup, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE.
UMass Lowell
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
"Development of a Versatile "Electronic Tongue" for Food Safety Applications and for Environmental Monitoring"

Professor Pradeep Kurup, Associate Professor Ramaswamy Nagarajan, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jung Hwan Cho, and graduate students Timothy Ponrathnam and Seth Robertson won the CVIP grant to develop an intelligent "electronic tongue" to detect toxic heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium, lead, and mercury in water, soil, food and beverages. Initial funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation. The CVIP funds will be used to develop a low cost, compact and user-friendly prototype in order to attract potential licensees and secure external funding to create a startup company.


Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) is responsible for the commercialization of discoveries made on the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. The Executive Director, William Rosenberg, is based in the Office of the President and there are CVIP offices on each UMass campus.

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073, Ann Scales, 617-287-4084