Innovation Awards 2018

UC Davis Innovators Honored for Contributions in Agriculture, Pathology

UC Davis Innovators Honored for Contributions in Agriculture, Pathology

UC Davis Innovators Honored for Contributions in Agriculture, Pathology

The University of California, Davis, tonight (May 15) announced the recipients of the university’s 2018 Chancellor’s Innovation Awards at a ceremony on campus. Established in 2016, the awards recognize faculty, community partners and industry leaders for their work, dedication and success in improving the lives of others and addressing the needs of our global society either through innovations in technology or innovative societal engagement.

“These honorees reflect the growing importance of UC Davis as an incubator and promoter of innovation, not just in the Sacramento region, but in the world,” said Provost Ralph J. Hexter. “They are groundbreakers in finding new ways to feed the world, build community and develop technology that creates a better tomorrow for all.”

The university’s Venture Catalyst team manages the Chancellor’s Innovation Awards as part of its broader mission to enable innovative students, faculty and staff to engage effectively with the innovation community both within and outside the university. “Recognizing our campus innovators and celebrating how their research and innovative university activities positively impact society is one of the ways in which we are supporting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at UC Davis,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of research and the executive director of Venture Catalyst within the UC Davis Office of Research.

Innovators of the Year

These awards recognize individual faculty, staff or teams whose innovative research or accomplishments have made a measurable societal impact in the preceding year, or whose university activities have achieved important milestones, and present very strong potential for societal impact. Recipients receive $10,000 that can be applied to their research or to university enabled societal engagement efforts. This year’s recipients are the DryCard team from the Horticulture Innovation Lab and Richard Levenson, professor and vice chair for strategic technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

DryCard team

The DryCard team from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was selected for its simple, low-cost invention that helps prevent food spoilage. The reusable DryCard™ is about the size of a business card and uses a strip of cobalt chloride paper that changes color based on humidity. Instructions (available in multiple languages) are printed directly on the card. With a DryCard and an airtight container, farmers can test samples of their crops for dryness in 20 to 30 minutes. Crops that are stored before being sufficiently dry are susceptible to molds and dangerous aflatoxins. Mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem in developing countries, leading to food waste and foods that are unsafe for consumption.

Video: A inexpensive innovation to prevent food waste

The DryCard team from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was selected for its simple, low-cost invention that helps prevent food spoilage. The reusable DryCard™ is about the size of a business card and uses a strip of cobalt chloride paper that changes color based on humidity. Instructions (available in multiple languages) are printed directly on the card. With a DryCard and an airtight container, farmers can test samples of their crops for dryness in 20 to 30 minutes. Crops that are stored before being sufficiently dry are susceptible to molds and dangerous aflatoxins. Mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem in developing countries, leading to food waste and foods that are unsafe for consumption.

The DryCard team includes: Elizabeth Mitcham, director; James Thompson, postharvest specialist emeritus; Michael Reid, leader for innovation and technology; Angelos Deltsidis, international postharvest specialist; Archie Jarman, program officer; Anthony Phan, staff analyst; and Brenda Dawson, communications coordinator.

The idea for the card came from Reid and Thompson, who have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies to reduce crop losses. Last year the card was named as the top emerging technology for reducing food loss and waste across the African continent at the All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition in Kenya. Through the Horticulture Innovation Lab, the team has collaborated with a network of independent businesses in Africa and Asia that have manufactured and distributed more than 10,000 DryCards. Helping local entrepreneurs manufacture the cards inexpensively but for profit is the team’s strategy for helping spread the product throughout the developing world.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

Richard Levenson

Levenson, professor and vice chair for strategic technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine, has been selected Innovator of the Year for the development of Microscopy with Ultraviolet Surface Excitation, or MUSE, to obtain high-resolution images of biological tissue specimens without first requiring the time-consuming preparation of thin sections mounted on glass slides.

Video: Richard Levenson on MUSE microscopy

The technology, based on intellectual property jointly developed at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and UC Davis, uses ultraviolet light to penetrate the surface of tissue samples to a depth of a few microns, about the same thickness of tissue slices on traditional microscope slides. The result is a detailed, diagnostic-quality image in minutes instead of the many hours that traditional methods require. MUSE has the potential to transform the practice of pathology, especially in low-resource settings, and to have a major global impact in health care by greatly reducing the cost and time to deliver definitive diagnostic results. The ability to obtain such nearly instant, high-resolution, full-color images can also be a valuable tool for researchers who want to get tissue-based insights at the laboratory bench. Levenson is the co-founder of MUSE Microscopy Inc., which is working to commercialize the technology.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation

Gurdev Khush, a world-renowned plant geneticist, is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation for his truly extraordinary leadership in developing rice strains that have enhanced the quality and quantity of global rice supplies. The award recognizes an acknowledged innovator whose career accomplishments include innovations that have led to a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who is an inspiring influence for other innovators.

Gurdev Khush

Gurdev Khush, a world-renowned plant geneticist, is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation. (Credit: International Rice Research Institute)

Khush is known one of the heroes of the Green Revolution, a movement that sought to significantly increase agricultural yields, particularly in developing countries.

Khush earned a B.Sc. from Punjab Agricultural University in India and a Ph.D. from UC Davis. He played a key role in the development of more than 300 innovative rice varieties. One of these, IR36, is the most widely planted food crop ever grown. He spent over 30 years at the International Rice Research Institute, or IRRI, directing and participating in both genetic research and the delivery of rice varieties to underserved populations around the globe.

Owing in large part to Khush’s contribution, world rice production increased from 257 million tons in 1966 to 718 million tons in 2011. Khush has won numerous international awards and has received honorary doctorates and degrees from multiple universities. After he retired from IRRI in 2002, Khush returned to UC Davis as an adjunct professor of plant sciences. Khush is also the recipient of the 2018 UC Davis Medal, given to those who have made exceptional and sustained contributions to the UC Davis community and beyond.

Innovative Community Partner Award

Seed Central is the recipient of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovative Community Partner of the Year Award, given in recognition of significant contributions to driving regional economic impact through innovation, entrepreneurship or support for growing the startup ecosystem in collaboration with university.

Francois Korn, managing director of Seed Central, and Kent Bradford, distinguished professor of plant sciences and director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. Seed Central is the recipient of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovative Community Partner of the Year Award. (Credit: AJ Cheline, UC Davis)

Francois Korn, managing director of Seed Central, and Kent Bradford, distinguished professor of plant sciences and director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. Seed Central is the recipient of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovative Community Partner of the Year Award. (Credit: AJ Cheline, UC Davis)

Seed Central energizes the seed and ag-biotech industry around UC Davis and contributes to economic development in the region. The public-private partnership was co-founded in 2010 by Francois Korn, managing director, and Kent Bradford, distinguished professor of plant sciences and director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. The innovative partnership facilitates communication and research collaboration between campus and industry in order to bring science to market faster. Seed Central connects campus scientists and students with industry researchers and managers at monthly networking events and encourages and helps industry sponsor research on campus. Seed Central also connects students with industry through frequent networking opportunities, field trips, shadowing experiences, internships, career development workshops and special events centered on outreach to women in STEM fields.

Media contact(s)

AJ Cheline, UC Davis Office of Research, 530-752-1101, acheline@ucdavis.edu

2018 Chancellor’s Innovation Awards Nominees

Ramsey Badawi, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering; Simon Cherry, Distinguished Professor, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
The world's first total-body Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner.

John Boone, Professor, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
Breast CT system that is capable of generating 300 to 500 tomographic slices of the breast using the same radiation levels as two view mammography.

Robert Brosnan, Professor of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
Discovery and development of a new inhaled general anesthetics, which led to the discovery of a novel analgesic.

Gino Cortopassi, Professor, Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
Advanced the understanding of mitochondrial disorders, neuro-degeneration in humans and animals, as well as an understanding of diabetes and metabolic disorders.

Paul Feldstein, President and CEO at Circularis Biotech
Unique ribozyme design that is capable of discovering all active promoters in an organisms’ genome so that they can be analyzed and then evolved for enhanced performance.

Allen Gao, Ralph de Vere White Professor, Urology, School of Medicine
Prostate cancer therapies with special focus on cases of intractable cancers that become resistant to standard treatments.

Bruce Hammock, Distinguished Professor, Entomology and Nematology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Inhibitors of the sEH enzyme which degrades natural mediators, thereby reducing hypertension, inflammation, and pain.

David Horsley, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering
Miniature sonar sensor by combining microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) ultrasound transducers and ultralow-power integrated circuits in a tiny, millimeter-scale package.

Tina Jeoh, Associate Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Herbert Scher, Research Engineer; Scott Strobel, Ph.D. Candidate; Yuting Tang, Ph.D. Student; College of Engineering.
An inexpensive and effective method for encapsulation of chemicals or biologics in stable, identifiable capsules that enhance the stability and control the release of their encapsulants.

Austin Johnson, Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine; School of Medicine; Jason Adams, Assistant Professor, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine; School of Medicine
VentRight uses advanced sensors and waveform analytics to optimize ventilation for patients with acute respiratory failure. Endovascular Perfusion Augmentation for Critical Care (EPACC) represents a device that optimizes blood pressure management during shock using automated dynamic control of an intra-aortic balloon-tipped catheter.

Samuel Louie, Professor of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine
The ROAD (Reversible Obstructive Airways Disease) Project addresses healthcare disparities and unmet needs in patient education and safety for the COPD population captured by UC Davis Health.

Mark Mascal, Professor, Chemistry, College of Letters and Sciences
Processing waste biomass to produce plastics and bio-based fuels.

Prasant Mohapatra, Professor, Computer Science, College of Engineering
Computer networks with specializations in Wireless Networks, Mobile Communications and Systems, Cybersecurity, Wireless Performance, Quality and Security, and Network Analytics.

Jan Nolta, Professor, Institute for Regenerative Cures, School of Medicine
Cellular response to hypoxia and chemokines, cell motility, cell-to-cell interactions, and paracrine factors secreted by MSCs at the site of injury.

Hooman Rashidi, Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine
An advanced app focused on hematology assessment.

Michael Rogawski, Professor, Neurology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine
The first bench-to-beside translation for a therapeutic in postpartum depression.

Michael Siminovitch, Director, California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC)
Shifting of the paradigm in lighting and technology science from a sole focus on energy efficiency to a more complex understanding of the interplay among energy efficiency and quality, human health and well-being, and aesthetics.

Neelima Sinha, Professor, Plant Biology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Brad Townsley, CEO & Co-Founder of Amaryllis Nucleics; Mike Covington, CTO & Co-Founder of Amaryllis Nucleics
Technology for synthesizing, sequencing, and analyzing RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) libraries.

Gang Sun, Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering
Sensitive, wearable, disposable, color changing sensor, to rapidly detect the presence of fumigants.

Garen Wintemute, Attending Physician, Emergency Department, School of Medicine
Firearm safety and gun violence prevention research.

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Bayer Collaborates with UC Davis Venture Catalyst to Support Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Bayer Collaborates with UC Davis Venture Catalyst to Support Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Bayer Collaborates with UC Davis Venture Catalyst to Support Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Bayer Collaborates with UC Davis Venture Catalyst to Support Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The University of California, Davis announced today a strategic collaboration agreement with Bayer Crop Science to foster innovation and economic development in the Sacramento region by providing dedicated facility support for university-affiliated startups — particularly those in the areas of agriculture and food-related technologies. 

Located within Bayer’s West Sacramento Innovation Hub for Crop Science, the 3,000 square-foot CoLaborator is designed to house and foster innovative new ventures to transform modern agriculture.  It consists of a flexible floor plan that has the capacity for eight to ten researchers and provides basic equipment for agtech startups to quickly begin putting their ideas to the test.  San Francisco-bred Biome Makers, Inc., a rising startup in the field of microbiomes, is the CoLaborator’s first tenant and chose West Sacramento over the Bay Area as their headquarters

“Working with Bayer provides our campus entrepreneurs with another tremendous resource and further strengthens the growing regional innovation ecosystem,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Research and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis. “The value of this effort extends much further than addressing the need for appropriate facilities, it creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs to engage with other experts in and outside their field and build relationships critical for their success.”

As part of the agreement, Bayer joins the university’s Distributed Research Incubation and Venture Engine (DRIVETM) network of startup incubators. The DRIVE network is part of a platform of resources offered by UC Davis Venture Catalyst to support the successful translation of research and new technologies emerging from the university into new commercial ventures. Venture Catalyst is part of the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research.

“We are thrilled to be working with the University of California, Davis to help grow new ventures with the possibility to transform modern agriculture,” said Jon Margolis, Head of Research and Technologies BLX.  “While we at Bayer are proud of the advances in our own laboratories, we recognize that the challenges today’s growers face will require an open innovation strategy that taps into the larger scientific community.”

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 35,000 students, an annual research budget of over $780 million and a comprehensive health system. The university offers 102 undergraduate majors and 99 graduate programs through four colleges and six professional schools.

About Venture Catalyst

Venture Catalyst is one of three units within the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research. Venture Catalyst furthers the university’s educational, research and public mission by supporting UC Davis students, faculty and researchers in translating science, engineering and innovative research, through well-resourced startups, into societal impact.

About Bayer

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In fiscal 2017, the Group employed around 99,800 people and had sales of EUR 35.0 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to EUR 2.4 billion, R&D expenses to EUR 4.5 billion. For more information, go to www.bayer.com.

 

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Chirp Microsystems

Startup Founded by Researchers From UC Davis and UC Berkeley Acquired by TDK Corporation

Startup Founded by Researchers From UC Davis and UC Berkeley Acquired by TDK Corporation

Chirp Microsystems

By Lisa Howard

March 19, 2018

Chirp Microsystems, a startup enabled with technology developed at UC Davis and UC Berkeley, announced it has been acquired by Japanese electronics giant TDK Corporation.

Based in Berkeley, Chirp Microsystems makes tiny, ultra-low power sensors that function like sonar or echolocation, sending out ultrasonic sound waves and then measuring how long it takes for the returning echo to come back. The micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology enables extremely precise sensing, ranging from several centimeters to several meters.

Chirp’s sensor technology can be used in drones, robots, vehicles, smart home products, augmented reality and virtual reality systems, and many other applications. Because the transducers are just a few millimeters across, they use very little power compared to a conventional ultrasound transducer.

Chirp was one of 13 companies enabled by UC Davis research during fiscal year 2014–15. The company licensed intellectual property from the University of California and currently owns over 20 patents covering the core MEMS device technology, application specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) design, packaging, signal processing, ultrasound systems, and applications.

David Horsley, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is a co-founder of Chirp and the chief technology officer.

“Professor Horsley is an exemplar of the type of faculty entrepreneur who is driving societal impact through innovation in the collaborative environment that the University of California fosters, and that the UC Davis College of Engineering enables,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of research and executive director of Venture Catalyst. “The novel sensor system that he invented and that was developed by Chirp Microsystems, where he was co-founder and chief technology officer, is an example of the cutting-edge technology and engineering innovation being driven by our faculty.”

David Horsley, co-founder of Chirp Microsystems and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Davis, explains the technology behind Chirp's sensors at CES 2016. (Credit: National Science Foundation)

Horsley and his graduate students developed the sensor technology collaboratively with Bernhard Boser, a professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Much of the work was done at the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center, which conducts industry-relevant, interdisciplinary research on micro- and nano-scale sensors.

“UC research projects like ours fill an important role of conducting fundamental research that can have commercial impact,” Horsley said. “After the fundamental work was done, we founded Chirp based on a vision of tiny ultrasonic sensors in everyday devices, from smart-phones to robots. As part of TDK, Chirp will have the resources and global scale to make this vision a reality.”

The acquisition announcement from TDK highlighted Chirp’s synergies with TDK sensors and sensor fusion software libraries. TDK also noted the uniqueness of Chirp’s sensors: “Chirp’s ultrasonic sensors are robust, accurate, draw less power and are smaller than the ultrasonic range finders used in today’'s automotive applications and industrial solutions,” the company said in their statement.

Chirp will become a fourth business unit, Ultrasonic Tracking and RangeFinding, within InvenSense, a TDK Group company headquartered in San Jose. InvenSense is a world leading provider of MEMS sensor platforms. Chirp will remain based in Berkeley.

About Chirp Microsystems
Chirp Microsystems mission is to bring ultrasonic sensing to everyday products. Founded in 2013 based on pioneering research performed at the University of California, Chirp’s piezoelectric MEMS ultrasonic transducers offer long range and low power sensing capabilities in a micro-scale package, enabling products to accurately perceive absolute position in the three-dimensional world in which we live. Combined with Chirp’s embedded software library, these sensors advance user experiences with VR/AR, mobile, wearables, robotics, drones and occupancy detection.

About UC Davis
UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 35,000 students, an annual research budget of over $780 million and a comprehensive health system. The university offers 102 undergraduate majors and 99 graduate programs through four colleges and six professional schools.

About Venture Catalyst
Venture Catalyst is one of three units within the Technology Management & Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research. Venture Catalyst furthers the university’s educational, research and public mission by supporting UC Davis students, faculty and researchers in translating science, engineering and innovative research, through well-resourced startups, into societal impact.

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Collaboration between UC Davis Foods for Health and Company Spin-off Evolve BioSystems Identifies Detrimental Generational Change in Gut Bacteria of Infants

Collaboration between UC Davis Foods for Health and Company Spin-off Evolve BioSystems Identifies Detrimental Generational Change in Gut Bacteria of Infants

Collaboration between UC Davis Foods for Health and Company Spin-off Evolve BioSystems Identifies Detrimental Generational Change in Gut Bacteria of Infants

Collaboration between UC Davis Foods for Health and Company Spin-off Evolve BioSystems Identifies Detrimental Generational Change in Gut Bacteria of Infants

Evolve BioSystems, Inc., a spin-off from the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute (FFHI) that is developing novel solutions to restore and maintain a healthy newborn gut microbiome, announced findings from new research that connects elevated infant fecal pH levels to a change in the infant gut microbiome. Their release states that over the past 100 years, the average pH of a baby’s stool, which can indicate the type of bacteria in the baby’s gut, has undergone an alarming increase from pH 5.0 to 6.5. The study, published in the American Society for Microbiology journal mSphere, connects this rise in pH to a generational loss of Bifidobacterium, a critical gut bacteria during infancy, and an accompanying increase in a number of harmful bacteria.

The team reviewed 14 clinical studies published between 1926 and 2017, identifying a change in pH from 5.0 to 6.5 over this time period. The authors attributed this trend to an observed reduction of Bifidobacterium in the infant gut, along with an increase in potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Clostridia, resulting in “dysbiosis”, a potentially detrimental imbalance of the gut microbial ecosystem.

Evolve’s founding team, which includes UC Davis faculty members Bruce German, David Mills, Carlito Lebrilla and Daniela Barile, along with former FFHI Assistant Director Samara Freeman, has been conducting research at the forefront of infant nutritional health for over a decade, focusing on the key role that breast milk plays in creating a healthy intestinal tract.

The full release can be found here.

 

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TechAccel

TechAccel Makes Further Pledge to the UC Davis Venture Catalyst STAIR Grant Program to Promote Agriculture

TechAccel Makes Further Pledge to the UC Davis Venture Catalyst STAIR Grant Program to Promote Agriculture

March 7, 2018

UC Davis Venture Catalyst has entered into an expanded agreement with Technology Acceleration Partners (TechAccel, LLC) in support of the Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR™) Grant program which provides funding for proof-of-concept research aimed at demonstrating commercial feasibility of university-generated technologies.

TechAccel will commit $50,000 in grant funding to an expansion of the Venture Catalyst STAIR grants, which are in their fifth year of enabling the commercial translation of UC Davis research and technologies through proof-of-concept funding.

This promise of additional funding is intended to elicit more agricultural-focused technologies.  TechAccel’s additional funding will support a sixth STAIR grant this year to focus exclusively on a technology in plant or animal agriculture, animal health, animal nutrition, or technologies to reduce post-harvest food waste and increase food safety. If successful, this expanded program may be repeated.

Applications for program funding are now available to UC Davis researchers. The deadline is March 12, 2018.

“We are proud to collaborate with the world-class talent at UC Davis,” said Michael Helmstetter, Ph.D., President and CEO of TechAccel. “Together, we see opportunities to make a greener, healthier future by helping advance agriculture, animal health, and food safety technologies to market.”

Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor for Research and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis, agreed.

“We’re thrilled with this generous enhancement to our existing collaboration with TechAccel which has already provided support for novel translational research at the university,” he said. “TechAccel’s unique focus and its combination of business and technical expertise provide the perfect complement to our strengths at UC Davis in technology development and product innovation for societal impact.”

TechAccel is a technology and venture development organization focused in agriculture, animal health and food technology. The company invests in innovative technology and funds science advancement programs to accelerate readiness for commercialization.

TechAccel began its collaboration with UC-Davis in 2016 with participation in the UC-Davis Venture Catalyst STAIR-PlusTM program, which supports STAIRTM grant recipients who successfully achieve their commercialization milestones.

As part of the program, TechAccel executives participate in the review and assessment of grant applications in agriculture, animal health, food and nutrition. TechAccel executives provide mentorship to grant-winning researchers, who may also be considered for future TechAccel emerging company investments.

TechAccel also recently announced an investment in a science advancement project underway at The Siegel Lab in the Genome Center at UC Davis. This project, led by Justin B. Siegel, Ph.D., Faculty Director of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, is directed towards identifying mutations in a wheat enzyme can produce plants capable of thriving in warmer temperatures.

 

About TechAccel

TechAccel LLC was founded in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind technology and venture development company in the agriculture, animal health and food technology sectors. TechAccel sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization. For more information, visit www.techaccel.net. Follow us on Twitter at @Tech_Accel.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 35,000 students, an annual research budget of over $780 million and a comprehensive health system. The university offers 102 undergraduate majors and 99 graduate programs through four colleges and six professional schools.

About Venture Catalyst

Venture Catalyst is one of three units within the Technology Management & Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research. Venture Catalyst furthers the university’s educational, research and public mission by supporting UC Davis students, faculty and researchers in translating science, engineering and innovative research, through well-resourced startups, into societal impact.

 

Media Contacts:

UC Davis

AJ Cheline

530.219.8739

acheline@ucdavis.edu

 

 

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TechAccel

TechAccel Initiates Protein Engineering Project with UC Davis to Improve Wheat Yield

TechAccel Initiates Protein Engineering Project with UC Davis to Improve Wheat Yield

TechAccel

KANSAS CITY, MO, and DAVIS, CA – February 22, 2018–TechAccel LLC, a Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, today announced it has initiated a protein engineering research project with The Siegel Lab in the Genome Center of the University of California, Davis.

The project will determine if specific mutations in a wheat enzyme can produce plants capable of thriving in warmer temperatures.

“The Siegel lab, with its advanced enzyme design and engineering capabilities, is the perfect partner for this important research,” said Brad Fabbri, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of TechAccel. “If we are successful in demonstrating the enzyme’s effectiveness, the next step will be to employ gene editing to produce a non-GMO wheat with significantly improved yield.”

It has been recently reported that global warming is already slowing wheat yield gains, with global wheat production expected to fall by six percent for each degree Celsius increase. The optimum temperature for wheat during the development of the grain is about 15-20 degrees Celsius (59-68 degrees Fahrenheit), but yield diminishes as temperatures increase–a big problem as growing seasons become warmer as a consequence of climate change.

At The Siegel Lab, researchers will use advanced techniques in protein structure prediction to construct and test a handful of enzyme variants that TechAccel has been studying. The ultimate goal is to create a “recipe” for enzyme improvement to produce wheat that can thrive in warmer growing seasons–up to 10 degrees Celsius above the ideal range.

“We are excited to bring the cutting-edge technologies of computational protein design and synthetic biology to tackle this important problem,” said Justin B. Siegel, Ph.D., Faculty Director of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine at UC Davis Genome Center. “The unique combination of technologies and discoveries brought together in this endeavor by TechAccel and UC Davis has the potential to build wheat varietals that we need in a world with an ever-changing climate.”

TechAccel is a technology and venture development organization focused in agriculture, animal health and food technology. The company invests in innovative technology and funds science advancement programs to accelerate readiness for commercialization. Financial terms and additional project details were not disclosed.

TechAccel began its collaboration with UC-Davis in 2016 with its participation in the UC-Davis Venture Catalyst STAIR-PlusTM program, an expansion of the Venture Catalyst Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIRTM) grants, which are in their fifth year of enabling the commercial translation of UC Davis research and technologies through proof-of-concept funding. The STAIR-Plus program offers additional support to STAIR grant recipients who have successfully achieved their projected commercialization milestones and are poised for commercial impact pending completion of specific targeted activities.

About TechAccel

TechAccel LLC was founded in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind technology and venture development company in the agriculture, animal health and food technology sectors. TechAccel sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization. For more information, visit www.techaccel.net. Follow us on Twitter at @Tech_Accel.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 35,000 students, an annual research budget of over $780 million and a comprehensive health system. The university offers 102 undergraduate majors and 99 graduate programs through four colleges and six professional schools.

About Venture Catalyst

Venture Catalyst is one of three units within the Technology Management & Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research. Venture Catalyst furthers the university’s educational, research and public mission by supporting UC Davis students, faculty and researchers in translating science, engineering and innovative research, through well-resourced startups, into societal impact.

Media Contacts:

TechAccel
Michael Kellner 512.960.8223
techaccel@treblepr.com

UC Davis
AJ Cheline
530.219.8739
acheline@ucdavis.edu

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Charles Lee

UC Davis Startup Receives FDA Clearance for Polymer That Can Help Injured Bones Regrow

UC Davis Startup Receives FDA Clearance for Polymer That Can Help Injured Bones Regrow

Charles Lee

Charles Lee, the founder of Molecular Matrix Inc., is a stem cell biologist and an assistant adjunct professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Molecular Matrix has received Food and Drug Administration clearance for a synthetic bone void filler, Osteo-P, that can help injured bones regrow. (Gregory Urquiaga, UC Davis)

By Lisa Howard
January 25, 2018

A biotechnology startup enabled by UC Davis, Molecular Matrix Inc., has received Food and Drug Administration clearance for a carbohydrate-based polymer that can help injured bones heal and regrow.

Osteo-P™, a synthetic bone graft substitute, supports and guides the growth of new bone — such as when there is a loss of bone due to injury or surgery — after which the biomaterial is resorbed and replaced with the patients’ own bone during the healing process. With the 510(k) FDA clearance, Molecular Matrix will now be able to take Osteo-P to market.

“This is yet another meaningful milestone for UC Davis and our technology commercialization efforts,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Technology Management and Corporate Relations, and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis. “Our focus on innovation and technology commercialization is a direct reflection of its being one of the most tangible ways in which the university can fulfil its mission of public benefit and societal impact.”

For Charles Lee, the founder of Molecular Matrix and also an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy at the UC Davis School of Medicine, the FDA clearance marks an exciting turning point for the company UC Davis helped him found in 2011.

“What began as an idea from UC Davis has reached all the way to FDA clearance,” Lee said.

Lee received his B.S. in microbiology and Ph.D. in comparative pathology and did his postdoctoral work at UC Davis. He became fascinated by stem cells as an undergraduate when he had an internship with Alice Tarantal, professor of pediatrics and cell biology and human anatomy in the UC Davis School of Medicine, and the associate director of the UC Davis School of Medicine Stem Cell Program.

Tarantal gave him a line of stem cells to culture.

“I fell in love with those cells,” Lee said. “That’s how I got into stem cell biology. There was nothing else I wanted to do than study and research them.”

The stem cells he worked with were grown in a single layer, but Lee began thinking about new ways to grow them.

“Stem cells behave much differently when they are grown in an aggregate as opposed to a monolayer,” he said. “But building up stem cells is not easy. It requires a scaffold — a matrix or structure — to help support the cells to grow into an organoid.”

Stem cell substrates did exist, but Lee said none was ideal. “I specifically wanted to use a carbohydrate, a sugar, for scaffolding. I wanted it to be degradable and nontoxic, to not affect stem cells in any way,” Lee said.

The invention he came up with, a hyper-crosslinked carbohydrate polymer technology, provides a platform for stem cells to grow both in vitro and in vivo. Lee explained that the platform is all about cross-linking.

“We chemically crosslink the carbohydrate molecules to build a massive structure. It’s crosslinked so much that it can hold its shape under heat and pressure.”

Helping bones regrow

For its first clinical launch, Molecular Matrix focused on creating a polymer product to help bones regrow without stem cell transplantation.

“Bone is a good place to start,” Lee said. “It is simpler to regenerate than other organic systems.” The polymer platform has potential to be used for other clinical and research applications. “Cartilage or heart tissue, for example,” Lee said.

In its unprocessed form, Osteo-P is spongy and porous and can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Lee explained that the unique composition of Osteo-P creates an optimal microenvironment for bone precursors such as osteoblasts, leading to the formation of healthy bone.

“The need for bone substitute products is expected to expand,” said Jim Keefer, COO of Molecular Matrix. “The global bone graft and substitutes market was estimated at $2.1 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow to $2.7 billion by 2020.”

The company plans to release the product for single-patient use possibly as early as mid-March. It will be available as large pore granules, sheets, cubes, wedges and cylinders or in custom sizes.

Lee credits the Technology Management and Corporate Relations unit at UC Davis as being essential to Molecular Matrix’s success, helping him navigate the dual roles of innovative researcher and entrepreneur. TMCR provided support for everything from patent processing to incorporation to networking to helping him raise capital.

Starting out, Lee thought he would need to focus primarily on raising capital to grow his startup, but focusing on people turned out to be his best investment.

“I ended up getting more and more people who believed in the technology, and when the people came together, the money followed,” Lee said. “Jim Keefer, our COO, was instrumental in getting broader interest in the company.”

“What is most heartening about how Charles has grown and developed Molecular Matrix is his engagement of UC Davis students as interns and employees within the company,” said Pathak. “Charles could have set up the company anywhere, but he chose to build and grow it in proximity to UC Davis, thereby benefiting from close access to university resources, including Venture Catalyst, while contributing to regional economic impact. Charles’ recognition of the talent pool that UC Davis represents is no small driver of the company’s success.”

Despite the challenges of juggling many roles, Lee never once considered letting another company commercialize the scaffolding technology he developed.

“We scientists have fun developing projects, ideas and concepts into something that can ultimately help patients,” Lee said. “I can’t imagine stopping in the middle and having someone else have all the fun. I want to take it all the way — from benchtop to bedside.”

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Cristina Davis

UC Davis Licenses Technology for Miniaturized System That Can Detect Chemicals With High Specificity and Sensitivity

UC Davis Licenses Technology for Miniaturized System That Can Detect Chemicals With High Specificity and Sensitivity

Tom Turpen TMCR

Tom Turpen, president and CEO of SensIT. “We see valuable opportunities to apply this technology to problems in defense and security, food and agriculture, process engineering and health care,” said Turpen.

By Lisa Howard

December 18, 2017

The University of California, Davis, is pleased to announce a licensing agreement with SensIT Ventures Inc. for a breakthrough technology that can be used to identify a broad range of chemicals from environmental samples.

The license, negotiated by the InnovationAccess team within the UC Davis Office of Research, provides exclusive access to an ion mobility spectrometer capable of detecting trace chemicals at a fraction of the size, weight and power requirements of traditional detection instruments.

This micro-electro-mechanical system — what’s known as a MEMS — can detect molecules present at parts-per-billion while operating on common direct-current batteries, such as a 9-volt or watch battery.

The programmable devices enabled by this technology are expected to be cheaper to build and operate than traditional ion mobility spectrometers, and can be linked to wireless data transmission with associated cloud-based management and analytics. The chip-based technology also has the potential to be integrated with smartphones.

“We see valuable opportunities to apply this technology to problems in defense and security, food and agriculture, process engineering and health care,” said Tom Turpen, president and CEO of SensIT. Potential applications enabled by the technology include detecting explosives, plant diseases and environmental triggers for asthma.

The technology was developed by a team led by Professor Cristina Davis in the Bioinstrumentation and BioMEMS Laboratory at UC Davis.

“Professor Davis is a consummate innovator,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Technology Management and Corporate Relations and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis. “Her inventive genius and market intuition combined with the business and entrepreneurial experience of the seasoned SensIT founding team, are the prefect mix for translating this cutting-edge UC Davis research into societal impact,” said Pathak.

Davis is a professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and an expert in chemical sensing. She has developed innovations that range from a “breathalyzer” that can detect the health of dolphins to a noninvasive way to detect citrus greening, a plant disease that can devastate citrus crops.

“It is very satisfying for me to see this technology advance to broad commercial use, especially through a local startup here in Davis where I can continue to contribute to the success of the company,” Davis said.

Davis is chief scientist and one of the co-founders of SensIT. Other co-founders include Jim Dukowitz, Dan Hanson and Turpen, who serve as the management team and have worked together through Technology Innovation Group, a consulting firm that works to link innovation to societal needs.

“SensIT currently has multiple contracts, bids, and grant proposals pending to serve different initial customers in multiple markets. We expect to close our first contracts in 2018,” said Turpen.

Turpen is a successful serial entrepreneur who volunteers his time and expertise for the benefit of programs such as the UC Davis Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIRTM) Grant program and the College of Engineering’s Engineering Design Showcase. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year.

About SensIT Ventures Inc.

SensIT Ventures Inc. was founded in 2015 and is based in Davis, California. The company utilizes proprietary technology to develop, build and sell custom chemical sensors that provide solutions of great value to multiple industries. Because the sensors are miniaturized, inexpensive and require minimal power, they can be widely distributed and embedded in complex systems. SensIT is a member of the UC Davis Venture Catalyst DRIVE program and Inventopia with separate production and prototyping facilities headquartered in Davis, California.

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Laura Marcu

Laura Marcu Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Laura Marcu Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Laura Marcu, professor of biomedical engineering and neurological surgery at the University of California, Davis, has been recognized as a Fellow by the National Academy of Inventors.

Founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the NAI aims to enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

Marcu’s laboratory promotes better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of human diseases through optical spectroscopy and imaging techniques for medical diagnostics. In particular, her team uses fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy, ultrasound and optical coherence tomography to study disease processes in biological tissue. She is a fellow of the Optical Society, the International Society of Optical Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Earlier this year, Marcu developed a catheter probe capable of imaging arteries inside a living heart. This innovative tool could help cardiologists predict heart attacks more reliably.

“I am honored to be elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. My passion is to develop optical diagnostic technologies that can impact the management of human diseases and that address critical societal problems – for example, cancer and cardiovascular disease,” said Marcu. “It is very rewarding to see biophotonic devices engineered in my laboratory used in patients. I hope – in the not too distant future – our devices can impact the way patients are treated and save lives.”

Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

“The highly collaborative environment at UC Davis bridging the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine has nurtured innovative applications of our optical technologies,” Marcu added. “I am fortunate to be surrounded by very supportive colleagues as well as talented students and researchers in my laboratory who have helped translate ideas to reality.”

The NAI Fellows Program has 757 Fellows worldwide representing more than 229 prestigious universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. Collectively, the Fellows hold more than 26,500 issued U.S. patents, which have generated more than 9,400 licensed technologies and companies.

She will be inducted into the National Academy of Inventors at a ceremony in Washington, DC in April. Read about the Marcu lab here.

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UC Davis Startup Evolve BioSystems Announces Results of Clinical Study

UC Davis Startup Evolve BioSystems Announces Results of Clinical Study

baby holding mothers finger

 

Evolve BioSystems, Inc., a spin-off from the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute (FFHI) that is developing novel solutions to restore and maintain a healthy newborn gut microbiome, announced today the outcome of its clinical study evaluating the probiotic product B. infantis EVC001 in breast-fed infants.  In its press release, the company stated that the study showed that providing dietary B. infantis EVC001 resulted in rapid, substantial, and persistent remodeling of the gut microbiome in breastfed infants, leading to a reduction in the amount of potentially harmful bacteria.

Evolve’s founding team, which includes UC Davis faculty members Bruce German, David Mills, Carlito Lebrilla and Daniela Barile, along with former FFHI Assistant Director Samara Freeman, has been conducting research at the forefront of infant nutritional health for over a decade, focusing on the key role that breast milk plays in creating a healthy intestinal tract. The company is led by nutrition and health industry veterans Timothy Brown, the company’s CEO, and David Kyle, the company’s Board Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer.

“These results with B. infantis EVC001 demonstrate for the first time that when the appropriate probiotic bacteria are provided in combination with breast milk, they can rapidly and stably colonize the infant gut microbiome while significantly reducing levels of potentially harmful bacteria linked to long-term disease,” said Mark Underwood M.A.S., M.D., Chief of Pediatric Neonatology and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California Davis, and a principle investigator on the study. “This study is extremely important for infant health and nutrition because we may now have the potential to impact many common health issues by simply restoring the microbiome to its natural state.”

”We are thrilled to see the successful translation of university research into beneficial health outcomes for infants with the potential to persist into later life,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Research and executive director of Venture Catalyst at UC Davis. “This success is particularly heartening given the close working relationship developed with the company and support provided by the InnovationAccess and Venture Catalyst teams at UC Davis”

View Evolve’s press release for more information.

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