UMass awards technology development grants

Four projects with UMass Worcester faculty receive money to seed innovation

April 06, 2011
grant awarded article

Jie Song, PhD, was awarded a $25,000 grant from the UMass Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund for her FlexBone research.

UMass President Jack M. Wilson announced $200,000 in grants to UMass researchers, including two individual researchers at UMass Worcester and two teams comprising faculty from the Worcester and Lowell campuses. 

The awards are made annually from the University’s Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund. President Wilson established this fund in 2004 and to date has awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to university researchers on all five campuses. The fund was created and is 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. 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 product 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.

Applications 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. The technologies represent a broad range of disciplines and were selected as the leading examples from among dozens of submissions for support from the fund. 

The 2011 CVIP Technology Development Fund awards were given to the following projects that involve UMass Worcester faculty:
 

  • Uri Galili, PhD, professor of surgery and medicine, for “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. 

  • Raymond Dunn, MD, professor of surgery and cell biology, with Stephen P. McCarthy, PhD, Ronald Ignotz, PhD, and Scott Wharram PhD, UMass Lowell, for “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 dissolve 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 provide 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.

     

  • Kurt Barringhaus, MD, assistant professor of medicine, and Xingwei Wang, PhD, UMass Lowell, for “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 benefits similar to 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. 

  • Jie Song, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedics & physical rehabilitation and cell biology, for “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 assist the translation of this technology for medical applications.