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New UB grant helps small businesses grow

By GROVE POTTER

Published October 20, 2016

“It’s a terrific opportunity for promising companies to grow their businesses with UB as a partner.”
Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development

Five scientific companies have been awarded grants from UB through a new program designed to help small businesses expand their research capabilities by partnering with the university. And UB hopes to award many more.

The grants — called the UB Small Business Innovation Awards (SBIA) — are designed to help link companies with UB, where they can access world-class scientists, engineers and facilities that can enhance small business research and development programs.

The UB award is available to any company that has qualified for a federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant. Qualifying companies that subcontract at least 30 percent of the federal grant to UB may receive up to a 20 percent SBIA match to fund additional work by the UB research team.

The five firms benefitting from the new award — which goes toward work being conducted at UB by a UB researcher — are:

  • Abcombi Biosciences, a UB spinoff that is developing products including a therapy for drug-resistant flu strains. Abcombi received a $300,000 STTR grant from the National Institutes of Health, and UB has awarded the company $35,039 through the SBIA program. Abcombi will work on research and development with UB faculty members Paul Knight, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Anesthesiology, and Microbiology and Immunology; Bruce Davidson, research associate professor of anesthesiology; and Paras Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering.
  • Intra-Cellular Therapies, a New York-based biopharmaceutical company developing PDE2 inhibitors for treatment of various central nervous system (CNS) and non-CNS disorders. The firm received a $348,094 SBIR grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and a $35,578 SBIA grant from UB. Intra-Cellular will work with James O'Donnell, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • X-Therma, a Berkeley, California. company, developing nanopores to facilitate delivery of intracellular cryoprotectants for biopreservation at low temperatures. X-Therma received a $224,995 SBIR award from the National Science Foundation and a $14,000 SBIA grant from UB. X-Therma is working with UB chemistry professor Bing Gong.
  • Angiograft, of Amherst, which is developing self-endothelializing, off-the-shelf vascular grafts for use in surgery. Angiograft received a $223,501 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a $14,750 SBIA grant from UB. The company is working with Stelios T. Andreadis, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
  • CH3 BioSystems, an Amherst-based supplier of high-performance molecular tools and services for the discovery of protein methylation pathways in cells and tissues. It is developing a drug discovery platform for protein arginine methyltransferase inhibitors. CH3 received a $157,500 STTR grant from the National Institutes of Health and a $15,000 UB SBIA grant. The company is working with Jun Qu, associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

 Attracting and nurturing startups has become an important part of university economic development initiatives, and UB has launched the SBIA program to help support commercialization of small business innovations that will benefit the public good.

The federal grants come in two phases, the first being a smaller “proof of concept” award. If the company shows promise, it can apply for a Phase II grant of up to $1 million. A company that has affiliated with UB works with a professor who provides research guidance and acts as an “investigator” in the grant process. “UB has great students who can become employees, and great researchers and facilities and equipment that can supplement small business development teams,” says Christina Orsi, associate vice president in the Office of Economic Development.

Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development, says the new grant program not only supports small businesses, it also provides expanded research opportunities for faculty and staff, and experiential learning opportunities for students.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for promising companies to grow their businesses with UB as a partner,” Govindaraju says. “And it is an additional benefit our faculty can offer to small business they have an opportunity to work with.”  

UB hopes to work with both local and national companies. More information about the UB SBIA program can be found online.

In addition to launching the SBIA program, UB also has introduced a new streamlined process for companies sponsoring research projects with UB investigators. Called UB SWIFT (Sponsorship With Industry Focused Terms), the program empowers both entities to set research and licensing terms at the project planning stage, eliminating lengthy, costly negotiations from the partnering process. Companies have the option to pay an upfront preferred terms fee to lock in exclusive license terms that include a 1 percent royalty rate and  “royalty-free periods” where no royalties are due until sales exceed fixed cumulative sales levels.

The goal of UB SWIFT is to speed up the contracting process with favorable licensing terms so companies and researchers can get to work, says Jeff Dunbar, director of technology transfer.

For information about the SBIA grants or SWIFT program, call Jennifer Mandina at 716-645-8952 or visit http://www.buffalo.edu/research/ubswift.