UMass Amherst Institute of Applied Life Sciences Announces Six Winners of the Inaugural Manning/IALS Prize

Mission is to move the cutting-edge science at UMass Amherst into the real world
IALS building
Institute for Applied Life Sciences

AMHERST, Mass. – Peter Reinhart, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS), has announced that six campus research teams have been named recipients of the first Manning/IALS Seed Grants. The awards will support next steps in their research such as proof-of-concept studies and business development, fundamental research into new products, technologies and services to benefit human health and wellbeing.

Earlier this year, alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program. It provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. 

The seed grants announced this week were awarded after a competitive process that narrowed 35 teams to six winners. Faculty researchers will not only receive seed funding of $100,000 each over three years, but also business training and mentorship from IALS, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship and the Isenberg School of Management, among others.

The winning team leaders and their projects are:

  • Derek Lovley, microbiology, “Fabricating Protein Nanowires for Unique Sensing Capabilities”
  • Jeanne Hardy, chemistry, “Development of Potent Zika Virus Protease Inhibitors”
  • S. “Thai” Thayumanavan, chemistry, and Steve Faraci, “Pre-Clinical efficacy evaluation of liver-targeted, thyromimetic-encapsulated IntelliGels for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)”
  • Neil St. John Forbes, chemical engineering, “Bacterial delivery of therapeutic peptides to treat advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Shelly Peyton, chemical engineering, “GelTech” to enable tissue-specific drug discovery and help eliminate potential false-positive hits from screening
  • Madalina Fiterau Brostean, computer science, “4Thought: Unlocking Insights into Your Mental Health”

The Manning Foundation’s gift provides an investment in UMass Amherst as a partner of choice in advancing and applying knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society.

Peter Reinhart, founding director of IALS, says, “The Manning/IALS Innovation Program provides much-needed support allowing promising UMass Amherst research programs to move towards translational technology, prototypes, product candidates. This in turn will facilitate follow-on investments from venture organizations such as the Maroon Fund.

Paul Manning, a 1977 graduate of UMass Amherst, is an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, who most recently founded PBM Capital Group in 2010. It is a healthcare-focused private investment group that looks for opportunities to use its entrepreneurial and operational experience to make high-growth pharmaceutical, molecular diagnostic, gene therapy, life science, health/wellness and consumer product investments.

Manning was also the anchor investor in Maroon Venture Partners, the first venture-capital fund at UMass Amherst. Created in 2017, the fund is a $6 million for-profit investment vehicle created to support alumni, faculty, and student businesses in their early stages. IALS was established in 2014, supported by a total investment of more than $150 million from the Massachusetts Life Science Center and the campus.