President Wilson Announces Technology Development Grants

04/07/2011
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

BOSTON - University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson today announced $200,000 in grants to UMass researchers. 

The awards are made annually from the university’s Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund. Wilson established this fund in 2004 and to date has granted more than $1.3 million to university researchers on all five campuses. The fund was created and maintained through reinvestment of a small portion of licensing revenues plus a contribution from the President’s Office. The fund is managed by William Rosenberg, executive director of CVIP.

Eight awards of $25,000 each are being made to faculty members from the Amherst, Lowell and Worcester campuses, including two teams comprised of Lowell and Worcester faculty. 

Investing in early stage technologies has proven to be a good financial move. Revenues from the licensing of UMass technologies exceeded $40 million in fiscal year 2010 and over the last 15 years, licensing income has totaled $450 million, making UMass among the nation’s technology transfer leaders. The previously funded technologies have been the basis of four new companies (Anellotech, Dartmouth Medical Research, Reflectance Medical and Wesfolk) and have resulted in a number of licenses to existing companies plus several million dollars in additional research funding.

“This program has aided UMass scientists in their quest to translate today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s new products and medical treatments,” Wilson said. “It has also helped to establish and maintain our status as one of the leading technology transfer universities in the nation. In awarding these grants, we are seeding innovation and seeding the future.”

The awards are directed at advancing the commercial development of leading-edge technologies discovered in laboratories on UMass campuses to make them more attractive to industry and more likely to be commercialized.

Applicants were graded on technical merit, stage of technology, cost to complete development, commercial potential and business viability, probability of commercial success, and the ability to execute the business plan. Their technologies represent a broad range of disciplines and were selected as the leading technologies from among dozens of submissions for support from the fund. Over the past seven years, awards have gone to scientists on all five campuses.

The 2011 CVIP Technology Development Fund awards were given to the following project team leaders:

Stephen P. McCarthy, Ph.D.; Raymond Dunn M.D.; Ronald Ignotz, Ph.D.; Scott Wharram Ph.D.   
Department of Plastics Engineering, UMass Lowell; Department of Plastic Surgery, UMass Worcester; Department of Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology, UMass Lowell
“Biodegradable Bandage for Wounded Skin Regeneration” 

The ability to provide antibiotics and other drugs or biotherapies through safe, biodegradable bandages has the potential to accelerate and improve healing for patients undergoing surgery or suffering from deep wounds, such as those suffered during a trauma. Using a novel electrospinning process developed at UMass Lowell, researchers have engineered a wound healing bandage that can accelerate healing, deliver drug therapies to a wound site and dissolving as the skin regenerates itself. The electrospinning process uses an electrical charge to draw very fine (typically on the micro or nano scale) fibers from a liquid. These fibers form scaffolding for regenerating tissue and can also be used to proved medicine to the wound site. As the wound site heals, the bandage slowly dissolves. After 21 days, when healing is complete, the bandage will be completely gone. This funding will allow clinical researchers to evaluate the wound healing ability of this electrospun silk dressing.

Xingwei Wang, Ph.D.; Kurt Barringhaus, M.D.
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UMass Lowell; Department of Medicine, UMass Worcester
“Disposable Miniature Pressure Sensors in Cardiology”

Miniature fiber optic pressure sensors developed at UMass Lowell have the potential to help cardiologists better evaluate patients prior to angioplasty, the process of mechanically widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel using stents. Used in tandem with current stent guidewires, these sensors can help determine the exact location, extent and severity of the obstruction or narrowing of the blood vessel. With this information, cardiologists can determine if medication may provide similar benefits as introduction of a stent. This optical pressure sensor also has a number of potential applications in the industrial sector as well. This is the second year of funding by the CVIP. This year’s funding will be used to continue the development of sensor packaging and to test its effectiveness. 

Uri Galili, Ph.D.
Department of Surgery, UMass Worcester
“Regeneration of Ischemic Myocardium Using Alpha-gal Nanoparticles”

One of the leading causes of death and a major cause of hospital admission in Western countries, myocardial ischaemia, commonly referred to as a heart attack, is the result of a reduction in blood supply to the heart muscle, usually due to coronary artery disease. This loss of oxygen-rich blood leads to localized damage where heart muscle has died and is unable to regenerate. Using a substance called alpha-gal nanoparticles, scientists hope to “jump start” muscle tissue regeneration. By injecting the substance into injured heart tissue, scientists believe it may be possible to reverse heart damage suffered during a heart attack. The CVIP funding will enable researchers to determine the efficacy of alpha-gal in regenerating damaged heart tissue in experimental models and explore its potential as a therapeutic for heart attack patients.

T.J. (Lakis) Mountziaris, Ph.D.
Department of Chemical Engineering and UMass NanoMedicine Institute, UMass Amherst
“Platform Technology for Medical Diagnostics Using Optically-Responsive ZnSe Nanocrystals”
 
This project aims at demonstrating the commercial potential of a new class of biological sensors that enable rapid detection, high-throughput screening, and quantitative analysis of biological targets, such as antigens or single-stranded DNA. The sensors employ probe biomolecules conjugated to zinc selenide nanocrystals, whose fluorescence emission spectrum changes upon binding of the probe to its intended target. The CVIP funds will be used to develop and test rapid immunoassays for detecting infectious disease markers. The sensitivity, specificity, and stability of the biological sensors will be studied to enable commercial development of the technology for point-of-care diagnostics and public health screening applications.

George Huber, Ph.D.; Geoff Tompsett
Department of Chemical Engineering, UMass Amherst
"Production of Renewable Liquid Fuels through the Electrochemical   Reduction of Biomass-Derived Oxygenates in a PEM Fuel Cell"

The award will go toward advancing a new a process to make renewable gasoline from aqueous carbohydrates and electricity.  This process is able to convert the electricity into a renewable liquid fuel that can fit into the existing gasoline infrastructure thereby enabling us to store electricity as a fungible liquid fuel.

Gregory N. Tew, Ph.D.
Polymer Science and Engineering, UMass Amherst
“Novel Delivery Vectors Based on Protein Transduction Domain Mimics”

This technology relates to the use of a novel class of biomimetic polymers as delivery vehicles for human therapies. These novel polymers are synthetic versions of cell-penetrating peptides, and can transport therapeutic molecules into cells better than natural peptide analogs. They are capable of highly efficient delivery of many different cargos, such as siRNA, DNA and proteins, into a variety of cells. The CVIP Technology Development Fund will be used to perform key animal studies to collect in vivo data essential for translating this technology into a commercializable enterprise.

Kevin Fu, Ph.D.
Computer Science Department, UMass Amherst
“SMASH for Smarter Storage in Low-Power Devices”

SMASH memory consists of plug-and-play software to reduce energy consumption in low-power devices with embedded flash memory by upwards of 50%.  SMASH memory reduces manufacturing costs and makes battery-powered devices last longer (e.g., high-volume products such as carbon monoxide detectors, medical devices, TV remote controls, toys, and wireless computer peripherals).  The CVIP Technology Development Fund allows the team to extend their software to the most popular microcontrollers and to develop a demonstration kit for product self-evaluation.

Jie Song, PhD, Associate Professor
Department of Orthopedics and Department of Cell Biology, UMass Worcester
“Well-Defined Functional Polycarbonates and Poly(ester-carbonates) for Biomedical Applications”
 
The demand for synthetic grafts that can promote the repair and reconstruction of musculoskeletal tissue defects induced by trauma, aging, cancer and metabolic diseases is quickly rising. A robust synthetic technology that is biodegradable and capable of facilitating the repair or guiding the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues is needed. These synthetic polymers can also be programmed for less invasive delivery to patients, as well as to provide therapeutics to patients. The CVIP funding will help establish the degradation profiles and immunogenicity of these polymers and to assist the translation of this technology for medical applications.

About CVIP

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

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 14,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.