The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute has awarded funding to four University of Pittsburgh Innovator teams to help them move their discoveries towards commercialization, where they can make a positive impact on society. The teams were selected by a panel of judges from a pool of two dozen applicants that was narrowed into a group of 10 finalists. Two of the recognized teams include affiliated faculty leadership from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide these funds to entrepreneurial Pitt faculty and graduate students to help expedite their commercialization journey,” said Marc Malandro, PhD, Founding Director of the Innovation Institute. “Often the most difficult hurdle to climb for commercializing University research is providing so-called ‘gap’ funding that can bridge the space between a promising idea and a marketable product.”
The winning projects of $35,000 each include:
Thermoresponsive Hydrogel for Orbital Volume Augmentation
Morgan Fedorchak, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Chemical Engineering, and Clinical and Translational Science, and Jenny Yu, MD, Assistant Professor and Vice Chair, Clinical Operations Department of Ophthalmology, have discovered a non-degradable hydrogel material that can be injected into the orbit of the eye following ocular trauma or as a treatment for genetic eye disorders. The material can also be used to administer anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medications.
The funding will be used to provide proof-of-concept studies. Data from the successful completion of the studies will better position the innovation for application to the Department of Defense for funding to explore the therapeutic potential of the technology. Also, matching funds for this effort will come from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Military Medicine Research, whose mission is to address combat-related injuries.
Reactive Extraction of Water: Desalination Without Membranes or Distillation
Eric Beckman, PhD, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering, has developed a chemical method for desalinating water that requires less energy than the longstanding existing methods such as reverse osmosis or flash distillation. The award will fund testing to validate the technology.
The Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds were established to provide support for promising early-stage Pitt innovations to assist in reducing the technical and/or market risk associated with the innovations and make them more attractive to investors or potential licensees. One of the paths for identifying funding opportunities is through a request for proposal program that was launched in November of 2016 and recently culminated in these awards.