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 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.


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UC Davis

AJ Cheline




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UC Davis Venture Catalyst Expands Program to Accelerate Technology Commercialization with STAIR-Plus Grants — Announces Recipients

UC Davis Venture Catalyst Expands Program to Accelerate Technology Commercialization with STAIR-Plus Grants — Announces Recipients

John Voss STAIR Plus recipient

To support campus innovators in advancing their cutting-edge technologies towards commercialization, Venture Catalyst – within the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research – has offered Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIRTM) Grants for the last four years. The unique STAIR Grant program provides funding and support to help innovators demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility for their technologies. To date, a total of $897,000 has been awarded to 19 faculty members as part of this program.

This year, Venture Catalyst announced the addition of the STAIR-Plus™ Grant program, intended to offer 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. Each recipient receives up to $20,000 in funding to be deployed over a one year period. Funding for the STAIR-Plus program was made possible by the State of California’s Assembly Bill 2664, which was passed in 2016.

2017 STAIR-Plus Grant Recipients


Gino Cortopassi, professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Transition to Patentable New Chemical Entity Shc Inhibitors for Fatty Liver Disease

Cortopassi and his team have identified several compounds that inhibit Shc, a signaling protein that regulates the body’s response to insulin and resistance to pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. With assistance from the STAIR Grant, the team conducted medicinal chemistry optimization to narrow dozens of functional parent molecules down to several of the most productive candidates. The STAIR-Plus Grant will allow the team to conduct additional screening and test the two most potent inhibitors in-vivo in an animal model.


Tony Simon, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Translation of Neurotherapeutic Video Games to Virtual Reality

Simon has invented a “neurotherapeutic” video game designed to help improve the cognitive abilities of children with one of several genetic disorders, the healthy aging and patients with many forms of traumatic brain injury or stroke. The STAIR Grant enabled Simon and his team to build prototypes utilizing desktop computers and game consoles which were used to conduct tests to provide evidence of clinical benefit. Simon plans to use funding from the STAIR-Plus Grant to develop, with his game design partner, a second generation prototype utilizing a virtual reality platform and to conduct preliminary tests for usability and efficacy potential.

John Voss, professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

A Novel Nitroxide-Based Agent to Produce Contrast Enhancement

for Amyloid Beta Peptide Detection by MRI

Voss’s team is developing technology based on a small molecule with potential for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The compound is innovative for its paramagnetic properties, which affect MRI intensities correlating to an early and prominent marker for Alzheimer’s. Unlike available imaging methods, this approach would be less expensive, enable greater patient access and eliminate radiation exposure for the patient. Voss utilized the STAIR Grant to conduct in vivo tests to demonstrate effectiveness and to synthesize nine novel small molecules. Voss plans to use the STAIR-Plus Grant to conduct additional optimization leading to the selection of a lead candidate. He also plans to use high resolution imaging to better correlate the contrast signal with identifiable brain structures.

Each application was reviewed by the STAIR-Plus Grant review committee, which included Office of Research staff and external industry reviewers with specific domain expertise. The review committee considered the technical merit, commercial potential, outcomes from previous STAIR Grant milestones, and alignment of budget with projected activities for each project.

"I’m thrilled that the California Legislature’s investment in innovation and entrepreneurship at the university is enabling us to extend the bridge between cutting-edge research and its potential for transformative human impact,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Research and executive director of Venture Catalyst. "These funds, in addition to the prior investment by the university through our STAIR grants, are accelerating the commercialization of new technologies from UC Davis.”

An important component of the STAIR-Plus program is the engagement of award recipients with additional entrepreneurial and technology commercialization support and resources through a unique collaboration between Venture Catalyst and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UC Davis. Award recipients will participate in a cohort-based series of innovation and commercialization clinics designed to develop the skills and networks needed to explore and expand the commercial potential and resulting societal impact of their ideas.

These highly customized business clinics will include engagement with industry experts and mentors to supplement the workshops, which will be focused on commercialization elements including market and business model validation and coaching for effective business communication. 

“We’re honored to help such talented innovators from across our campus to commercialize their work and ensure that the benefits of their research move from the lab and out into the world,” said Cleveland Justis, the institute’s executive director.

AB 2664 Spurs Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Assembly Bill 2664, also referred to as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion bill, was authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, and signed last fall by Governor Jerry Brown. AB 2664 is designed to propel new innovation and entrepreneurship efforts across the University of California through investments in infrastructure, incubators and entrepreneurship education programs. The $22 million investment was dispersed equally to each of the ten UC campuses at the beginning of 2017. Venture Catalyst is the program lead at UC Davis and is implementing a variety of innovation and entrepreneurship expansion activities in conjunction with partners on campus, including the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Student Startup Center, the Office of the Provost, Graduate Studies and the Internship and Career Center, as well as external community partners.

Media Contacts

AJ Cheline (530)219-8739


STAIR Grant program past recipients
“Digital neurotherapeutic” game in development at the UC Davis MIND Institute

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