NSF Accelerating Research Translation Award Brings New Resources to Campus Innovators

A team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), Technology Transfer Office, Office of Research & Engagement and the Office of the Provost has won a $5.5 million Accelerating Research Translation (ART) award from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to support and expand faculty and student researchers’ efforts to translate research conducted in campus laboratories into tangible solutions to real-world problems. The award is one of 18 nationwide that have been announced in the program’s inaugural year, and the only award made in New England. 

“NSF endeavors to empower academic institutions to build the pathways and structures needed to speed and scale their research into products and services that benefit the nation,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “The Accelerating Research Translation program in NSF’s new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate identifies, and champions institutions positioned to expand their research translation capacity by investing in activities essential to move results to practice.” 

UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes commented that “the resources and nationwide network that this award brings to the campus will open new opportunities for our researchers to make a positive impact on society and will strengthen their ability to contribute to economic development in the region and beyond.”

“Receiving ART funding from NSF is a vote of confidence in the excellence of campus researchers and the potential for their work to translate into products, spinout ventures and social enterprises that solve important real-world problems” added Provost Mike Malone. 

The four-year award will fund Seed Translational Research Projects, training to prepare postdoctoral fellows and graduate students for careers related to translational research, and a network of ART Ambassadors, who will serve as role models, peer mentors and advocates for societally impactful translational research. In addition, UMass Amherst ART Ambassadors will be part of a nationwide network of ART Ambassadors from all funded institutions. Diverse, equitable and inclusive efforts will prioritize and champion the involvement of members of traditionally underrepresented groups in every aspect of the project.

“This ART award will help to grow the innovation economy in Western MA,” remarked Massachusetts Secretary for Economic Development Yvonne Hao. “The region has a lot to offer talented people who want to create new businesses, expand them, and to really succeed and thrive here.”

“Congratulations to the IALS team and the UMass Amherst campus on this significant award,” said MLSC Vice President of Economic Development & Partnerships Jeanne LeClair. “The Center is incredibly proud of its significant investments in IALS as an anchor institution of our burgeoning Western Massachusetts life sciences cluster. This award will only further spur innovation, translational research, and entrepreneurship for the region and our commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will serve as the Institution of Higher Education Mentor (IHE). The IHE Mentor relationship will enable the UMass Amherst team to take advantage of MIT’s research translation prowess to develop individual faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate student researchers as well as its know-how in the development of new startup companies.

Roman Lubynsky, executive director of the New England Regional Innovation Node at MIT, has already begun to work with the team as the lead mentor. “The IHE mentor role provides an ideal opportunity for us to build upon and expand our ongoing relationship with UMass Amherst, including facilitating access to and adaptation of best practices from across MIT’s translational enterprise,” he said.

“This award provides the campus with an unprecedented opportunity to build a sustainable ecosystem for translational research that will prepare students and faculty to contribute to the innovation economy, shorten timelines between ideation and de-risked technologies, and result in enterprises that include diverse leaders in the development of technologies to address important societal needs,” said Peter Reinhart, founding director of IALS. “The project will equip diverse groups of scientists and engineers from undergraduates to senior faculty with skills to extend research excellence towards impactful translational outcomes.”

Reinhart will serve as the award’s principal investigator with co-principal investigators Provost Mike Malone, Burnley Jaklevic, director of the UMass Amherst Technology Transfer Office, and Karen Utgoff, director of IALS Venture Development. In addition to MIT, partner organizations include MassVentures, the Berkshire Innovation Center, the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, and innovation accelerator FORGE of Somerville, Massachusetts. With a project start date of Feb. 1 , the team is already hard at work establishing the foundation for the future.

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