August 4, 2016: Venture Catalyst, a unit within the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 Science Translation and Innovative Research, or STAIR, grants.
Now in its third year, the competitive STAIR grant program provides awards of up to $50,000 to help campus entrepreneurs demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility of their technologies.
This year’s award recipients are undertaking innovative projects to address a variety of unmet market needs. The 2016 STAIR award winners are:
Gino Cortopassi, professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences; Alexey Tomilov, assistant project scientist, Department of Molecular Biosciences
Cortopassi and Tomilov have identified several compounds that significantly inhibit Shc, a signaling protein that has been shown to improve the body’s response to insulin and produce resistance to pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Richard Levenson, professor and vice chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Farzad Fereidouni, assistant project scientist, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Levenson and his team have created an innovative new method for spectral imaging that drastically reduces the amount of data needed for analysis. Their novel approach uses a conventional camera sensor fitted with either a filter wheel or beam-splitting optics.
Kai Liu, professor, Department of Physics
Liu and his team invented a new method that creates stable skyrmion lattices at room temperature and in zero magnetic field, making them an excellent candidate for energy efficient data storage as well as other nanoelectronics applications.
Tony Simon, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Simon has invented a “neurotherapeutic” video game designed to help improve the cognitive abilities of children with genetic disorders such as chromosome 22q11.2 deletion, fragile X, Turner and Williams syndromes, among others.
“The STAIR grant program is unique in many ways,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor for research at UC Davis and executive director of Venture Catalyst. “The structured review process we have developed enables our independent reviewers to effectively assess proposals for technical merit, market need and the ability to effectively achieve commercial milestones. Additionally, this process allows us to provide detailed written feedback to all applicants, which makes the STAIR program part of a continuous improvement and learning process rather than simply a funding opportunity.”
Each STAIR award recipient, as well as all award finalists, are assigned one or more volunteer mentors who review project milestones, offer commercialization guidance, provide business advice, and facilitate networking opportunities and connections to industry. The mentors are selected from the UC Davis Venture Catalyst MentorNet™ program and represent a mix of industry professionals, entrepreneurs and investors. Members of the Venture Catalyst MentorNet also serve on the grant application review committee.
The annual STAIR grant program is open to anyone with principal investigator eligibility at UC Davis. Postdoctoral scholars and staff are eligible to apply as co-principal investigators.
Past STAIR Grant Recipients Make Progress with Innovations
Previous years’ STAIR grant recipients have made significant progress in moving projects forward along the path to commercialization.
Richard Levenson has received a STAIR grant two years in a row. In 2015, he proposed developing a prototype for a new type of microscopy instrumentation. Microscopy with Ultraviolet Surface Excitation, or MUSE, as the novel technology is called, permits the creation of diagnostic-quality images of tissue samples that are generated in minutes using LED light, and eliminates the need for the traditional time-consuming preparation of samples and glass slides.
Levenson credits his STAIR grant as being pivotal in funding the opto-mechanical design of the prototypes that he and his team are assembling which will soon ship to collaborators. “Without STAIR funding, we would not have had the resources to move forward as we have.”
In addition to the creation of the prototypes, two patents have been issued for the invention and a third patent application has been submitted and published. The team has also launched a startup company, MUSE Microscopy Inc.
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BASF and UC Davis collaborating to unlock new potential in human milk oligosaccharides
The University of California, Davis (UC Davis), and BASF announced a collaboration to unlock new benefits of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). The long-term objective of this strategic research partnership is to develop and validate second-generation HMO molecules as potent bioactive compounds that can influence the establishment and maintenance of the gut microbiome and provide benefits beyond the gastrointestinal tract, such as brain health, for infants, children and adults.
Human milk contains a multitude of HMOs, a class of indigestible carbohydrates that is gaining recognition for a variety of health-promoting activities. Substantial evidence demonstrates that the high diversity of structures and concentration of HMOs in human milk contribute to improved health outcomes associated with breastfeeding.
“This collaboration is an essential cornerstone of our strategic initiative to become a leading science-based player in the fields of HMO and microbiome,” said Stefan Rüdenauer, director of Development and Scientific Marketing Human Nutrition at BASF.
The two-year partnership with UC Davis’ research team is part of BASF’s California Research Alliance (CARA), which brings together experts from major universities on the West Coast to collaborate on new materials and their applications, biosciences and related technologies.
“We are pleased to see this expansion to our existing collaborative engagement with BASF via the CARA network,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor for Technology Management & Corporate Relations in the UC Davis Office of Research. “BASF’s commitment to supporting innovation at UC Davis is resulting in direct benefit to our faculty researchers, to the company, to the region and to society at large through helping us realize societal benefit from cutting-edge university research.”
Professors Daniela Barile, David Mills, Helen Raybould, Xi Chen, and Bruce German from the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis will use their collective expertise to reveal new applications for HMOs. BASF’s contributions to the partnership include its proficiency in fermentation products and the development of human nutrition solutions, as well as project funding.
“We are excited to partner with BASF to unlock novel HMO functionalities,” said Professor Barile. “This project will employ a range of microbiological and physiological studies employing cutting-edge glycomics and metagenomics tools to explore how HMOs interact with the human host and the microbes within them.”
BASF Corporation, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF has more than 18,200 employees in North America, and had sales of $17.9 billion in 2017. For more information about BASF’s North American operations, visit www.basf.com.
The California Research Alliance (CARA) is one of four BASF scientific excellence clusters that collaborate with research groups on a regional level, maintaining a network between BASF, the campuses of the University of California system, Stanford and Caltech. The researchers at CARA work in a variety of scientific disciplines including new materials, biosciences, formulations, and catalysis, as well as computational and engineering disciplines.
The CARA collaboration, started in 2014 with 10 postdoctoral positions, has been extended to approximately 50 postdoctoral positions today. CARA researchers have filed 10 patents, and have had more than 20 peer-reviewed papers accepted or published. In addition, the first research projects have already been transferred to BASF R&D for further development. Peidong Yang, CARA co-director and professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, said, “With this newest collaboration, we now have multiple CARA research projects active between BASF, the UC campuses, Stanford, and Caltech. The broad research expertise represented by this vibrant West Coast scientific community will surely expedite the discovery process for many scientific and technological questions.”