5 Researchers Awarded Grants to Aid Commercializing their Inventions

Five Amherst campus researchers are sharing $100,000 in technology grants from the university system’s Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund to assist in accelerating the commercialization of their inventions.

Eight $25,000 grants to faculty at the Amherst, Lowell and Worcester campuses were announced March 26 by President Robert L. Caret.

“Every year, we identify game-changing research with commercial promise in laboratories on UMass campuses that speak to the major role that the university plays in advancing scientific discovery and improving and saving lives in the Commonwealth and around the world,” Caret said. “It is critically important that the university help advance these projects so that they can enter the marketplace and contribute to increasing our entrepreneurial activities, contribute to the rate of commercialization of early stage technologies and contribute to the Commonwealth’s overall economic development efforts.”

Postdoctoral associate Amy Biddle and associate professor Jeffrey Blanchard of the biology department were awarded a grant for their project, “Probiotics for Equine Digestive Health.”
The researchers have identified novel bacteria from the equine gut microbiome with the potential to reduce digestive disorders leading to colic, the leading cause of death in horses after old age. The development of their technology will help horse owners to improve the quality and extend the useful life of their horses.

Chemistry professor Dhandapani Venkataraman
 received a grant for his study of "Organic Photovoltaic Devices Based on Water-based Nanoparticle Dispersions,"
a method to fabricate efficient organic photovoltaic devices from aqueous dispersions of polymer nanoparticles. His method replaces aromatic solvents in the current fabrication processes with water. The funding will be used to fabricate prototype flexible organic photovoltaic cells from these dispersions.  

Qiangfei Xia, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded support for his project, “All-silicon-based Resistance Switch Arrays with In-Situ Diodes as Selectors.”Xia’s group focuses on developing emerging nanodevices for the next generation data storage and unconventional computing. The technology addresses the compatibility of materials selection, fabrication process and operational parameters of such devices with the state-of-the-art manufacturing infrastructure in the integrated circuits (IC) industry. The CVIP fund will be used to solve issues pertaining to devices in an array, and to develop a prototype of this technology.

Professor Igor Kaltashov of the chemistry department received a grant for his work on “Protein Conjugates Based on Bacteriostatic Proteins as Antimicrobial Drugs for Treating Infections in the Central Nervous System.” The new technology seeks to target pathogens that shield themselves from the vast majority of existing medicines by taking advantage of the host organism's blood-brain barrier (a natural defense protecting the central nervous system from harmful molecules that could be present in the blood). This is done by attaching a microbe-destroying protein to transferrin, a natural transporter of iron that can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Established in 2004, the fund was created and is maintained through licensing revenues supplemented by a contribution from the President's Office. The awards are given annually to faculty members across all five campuses to accelerate commercialization of their early-stage technologies in a wide range of disciplines, including the life sciences, chemistry and engineering.

Over the past 11 years, the program has funded 82 projects resulting in numerous commercial licenses and patents, five start-up companies and more than $3 million in additional research funding for the recipients. The fund is managed by William Rosenberg, executive director of CVIP.

UMass is a national leader in technology licensing income, consistently ranking among the top 15 U.S. universities. It ranked 11th on a recent list of U.S. universities with the highest licensing revenue for every $1 million it spent on research.