Faculty Receive Seed Funding as Part of MTTC Acorn Innovation Fund

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Three research projects at UMass Amherst are among 13 at colleges and universities across the state sharing $195,000 in seed funding from the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) Acorn Innovation Fund.

The $15,000 grants were awarded to researchers from the UMass system, Boston University Medical Center, Northeastern University, Tufts University and Western New England University to assist them in testing the viability of their technologies and potentially bringing their research to market.

At UMass Amherst, Byung H. Kim, and Yubing Sun, mechanical and industrial engineering, received a grant for a project titled, “A SERS-based immunoassay for cancer biomarkers detection.”Kim and Sun have developed a novel SERS-based antigen detection system that can quantify the concentration of biomarker with ultra-high sensitivity, reproducibility, and low cost. With Acorn funding, they hope to improve the technology so that it can be used to detect cancers in their early stage to increase the survival rate of patients. The funding allows them to test their technique to detect four different type of cancers: lung, liver, ovarian and pancreatic.

Blair Perot, mechanical and industrial engineering, has received a grant for a project called “Wind turbine power augmenter.” This device increases the power of wind turbines, especially when they are located near each other. This grant will be used to perform wind tunnel demonstrations of the effectiveness of the technology.

Caitlyn S. Butler and Symeon Gerasimidis, civil and environmental engineering, received funding for a project, “3D printed biomimetic biofilm supports for treatment systems.” Wastewater treatment processes in the U.S. and globally are antiquated and struggling to meet emerging demands. Adoption of large-scale biofilm treatment systems is increasing because they are physiologically robust and intensify conventional suspended growth treatment. With the support of the ACORN funds, the team will design 3D-printed microtrusses to emulate the mechanical properties of biofilm, creating a low-density, high-strength biofilm support that could retrofit and improve existing infrastructure by increasing longevity, promoting diffusion through and resisting predation of biofilms.

The MTTC Acorn Awards are funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and overseen by MTTC. Hosted at the UMass President’s Office, MTTC enables public and private research universities and medical centers in Massachusetts to lead the nation in translating basic research to the market, creating jobs and spurring economic development.

“These awards help bring promising research to market for the benefit of the Commonwealth, which is central to our economic development mission,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “We are thankful to the Legislature for establishing the Commonwealth’s Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund, which makes these grants available.”

MTTC accelerates research commercialization at Massachusetts public and private research institutions. The Center enables the state’s universities and medical centers to lead the nation in translating basic research to the market by connecting superior science and technology to an unmatched pool of business talent and capital. MTTC was founded in 2003 by the Massachusetts Legislature and is housed in the UMass President’s Office.