6 Faculty Awarded Technology Development Grants by President’s Office

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Six Amherst campus faculty are among the recipients of $200,000 in seed funding from the UMass system’s Technology Development Fund.

Announced April 18 by President Marty Meehan, the $25,000 awards will support the development of new technologies aimed at protecting premature infants from heart problems, producing hydrogen for use in electric vehicles, treating Alzheimer’s disease and helping to diagnose chronic medical conditions.

“I’m proud to invest in our faculty, who are engaged in cutting-edge research with the power to bolster the economy and improve lives,” said Meehan. “These awards will help bring promising and potentially life-changing research to market for the benefit of the Commonwealth and beyond.” 

The Amherst campus projects receiving funding are:

  • “Prototype Protein Nanowire-Based Sensor,” Derek Lovley, microbiology, and Jun Yao, electrical and computer engineering. The team is making a wearable sensor for non-invasive, real-time monitoring of a wide range of biomarkers that help to diagnose chronic medical conditions.

  • “Liver-targeted delivery for the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis,” Hang Xiao, food science, and S. Thai Thayumanavan, chemistry. The project aims to develop a unique system to deliver thyromimetics—compounds that mimic the action of thyroid hormones or the thyroid gland—to the liver to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a significant and growing problem with no approved treatment.

  • “Promoting the co-op anaerobic digestion for communities in New England using the UMass Anaerobic Side-stream Reactor Process,” Chul Park, civil and environmental engineering. This project aims to implement a system to minimize the production of sludge—byproduct generated from wastewater treatment—using anaerobic side-stream reactor treatment and anaerobic digestion.

  • “Development of potent, selective caspase-6 inhibitors for treatment of neurodegeneration,” Jeanne Hardy, chemistry. The Hardy lab is developing and testing inhibitors for a protein called caspase-6 that is involved in both Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Awards were also made to researchers at the Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses and the Medical School in Worcester.

The Technology Development Fund is overseen by the Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures (OTCV), based at the President’s Office in Boston. This year’s recipients, selected from a field of 35 applicants, were chosen for their project’s commercial viability, in hopes that development of the technology will lead to a startup company or licensing agreement, according to Abigail Barrow, interim executive director of OTCV.

Since 2004, UMass has invested more than $2.75 million in faculty R&D projects, leading to $22.6 million in follow-on investment, generating 10 commercial licenses and patents and resulting in six startup companies, including Felsuma LLC in Somerville, Cyta Therapeutics in Lowell and Corsair Innovations in Dartmouth.

Funding for the annual awards comes from commercial licensing income on previous faculty discoveries. UMass has a strong record of generating income from the commercialization of its academic research and typically places among the top 25 universities in a national survey of income generated by technology transfer.