University of Iowa Ventures and the UI Research Foundation (UIRF), two programs within the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, have jointly awarded $750,000 in gap funding to 11 faculty innovators in FY2015. These awards are designed to help researchers bridge the gap between their basic research discoveries and their first commercially relevant results.
Gap funding is available through the UI Commercialization GAP Fund Program when research has potential commercial applications that faculty wish to pursue or for which a potential licensee has been identified. The goal is to use these funds to reduce the risk of early stage technology for companies, investors and entrepreneurs looking for IP or startup opportunities. Gap funding applicants submit pre-proposals and then work collaboratively with the UI Ventures team over the summer to analyze the potential market, assess the IP, and set milestones and timelines for the full proposal.
“The goal is to put together a strong proposal in the eyes of industry, investors and entrepreneurs so that researchers can receive the funding they need to lead to the commercialization of their technologies,” said Director of New Ventures Paul Dymerski.
This year’s awardees are:
- Sandeep T. Laroia, M.D., Radiology, Improved method for injectable clot-busting drugs
- Ron O. Abrons, M.D., Anesthesiology, Articulated oral airway device
- Richard Hurtig, Ph.D., Speech Pathology and Audiology, Smart Switch for patient communication
- Max Baker, Ph.D., Anesthesiology, Drug delivery device for urgent care
- Hillel Haim, M.D., Ph.D., Microbiology, Topical microbicide to prevent HIV infection
- Donghai Dai, M.D., Ph.D., Kimberly Leslie, M.D., and Kristina W. Thiel, Ph.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, Predictive algorithm to enhance personalized cancer treatment
- Markus Wohlgenannt, Ph.D. and Michael E. Flatte, Ph.D., Physics & Astronomy, Prototype for organic magnetoelectroluminescence
- Junyi Xia, Ph.D., Radiation Oncology, Error detection system for radiation therapy
- Brad A. Amendt, Ph.D., Anatomy and Cell Biology, New mRNA inhibitors to improve healthcare
- Michael Henry, Ph.D., Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Pathology, Prototype device to improve detection of cancer cells
- Zhendong Jin, Ph.D., Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry, Natural product-based cancer vaccine
UI Ventures will work with the awardees throughout the year to ensure they are moving toward a commercially viable product. The UIRF will then help to protect and license the IP to a company or startup that can bring the product or service to market.
Jin, an awardee who received funding for the second year in a row for the development of an anti-cancer drug he will license through his company InnoBioPharma, said he enjoyed writing the gap proposal and appreciated the direction and encouragement he received from Dymerski and the UIRF.
“I cannot thank them enough,” Jin said. “I really enjoy working with them.”
Amendt, who received gap funding to develop and market micro-RNA inhibitors to improve healthcare, said, “This is big. This is huge for us.”
Amendt formed his company NatureMIRI last fall to license the product, and he plans to start marketing it this spring. The gap funding allowed Amendt to develop a business and marketing plan.
“Without gap funding, I would not have done it,” Amendt said. “I would not have been able to push our products forward.”
Previous gap awardees have gone on to license their research through the UIRF or start new ventures based on applications of their research. Tony Vanden Bush, Ph.D., co-founder of Memcine Pharmaceuticals LLC and former research scientist in the UI Department of Microbiology, recently received $3 million in private funding for his vaccine enhancement technology. Tom Peters, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the UI College of Public Health Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, received gap funding in 2012 and has since licensed his nanoparticle test system to a commercial partner.
“After years of research, it still takes several more years to commercialize discoveries,” Dymerski said. “Without the continued support from the university, the state, and investors, it would be even more difficult to move technologies from the lab to the market.”