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Research News

Catalyst Fund provides $213,762 to develop UB inventions

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published May 24, 2013

robert genco
“This kind of gap funding is critical to spurring the creation of new high-tech businesses and jobs.”
Robert Genco, Director, Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach

UB’s Catalyst Fund has awarded $213,762 to five UB inventors or research teams developing promising technologies in the life sciences.

The financial support will enable the researchers to conduct efficacy studies and other projects that demonstrate the commercial value of potential products. The goal is to move promising technologies closer to the market.

The new round of funding brings the total number of awards distributed by the UB Catalyst Fund to 10, with nearly $450,000 disbursed since the fund's establishment in 2011.

Since its inception, the fund has supported the development of UB inventions ranging from sensors to surgical tools. The current round of funding will support a number of potential advancements in medicine, including a novel bone-replacement material and self-seeding blood-vessel grafts.

“The UB Catalyst Fund helps faculty members move beyond government-sponsored basic research to explore the market potential of their inventions,” says Robert Genco, the UB vice provost who heads UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR). “This kind of gap funding is critical to spurring the creation of new high-tech businesses and jobs.” 

Alexander N. Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development, described the Catalyst Fund as an important tool that will help commercialize discoveries by UB researchers.

“By providing for the translation of UB research that could lead to new therapies, new products, new company startups, these funds demonstrate that UB research can directly and positively impact the local economy,” he says.

Money for the UB Catalyst Fund comes from a variety of sources. For the initial round of awards in 2012, the John R. Oishei Foundation provided $236,000 to the fund to help develop five UB inventions.

The money for the current round of UB Catalyst Fund awards came from the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund, which was established anonymously by a UB faculty member with a commitment to match up to $1 million in contributions to the memorial fund by other donors. The memorial fund is named for Bruce Holm, the late UB senior vice provost who worked diligently to attract high-profile researchers and inventors to Buffalo.

The researchers who received the new awards are:

  • Rosemary Dziak, professor of oral biology. Dziak is studying the use of a novel, nanosized calcium sulfate material for its beneficial effects in replacing lost bone in patients who have conditions such as osteoporosis, periodontal disease or craniofacial defects.
  • Mark Ehrensberger, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Kenneth A. Krackow Orthopaedic Research Lab, and Anthony Campagnari, professor of microbiology and immunology. The research team is testing and optimizing a novel electrochemical technique for eradicating biofilm infections on metallic medical implants.
  • Venkat Krovi, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Pankaj Singhal, associate professor of gynecology-obstetrics and division chief of gynecologic oncology, minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery at UB; and Jason Corso, assistant professor of computer science and engineering. The research team is studying how to repurpose video-based micromotion analysis, traditionally used to evaluate industrial manipulative skills and efficacy, in evaluating proficiency and improving training of doctors performing robotic surgeries.
  • Daniel Swartz, assistant professor of pediatrics, chemical and biological engineering and physiology and biophysics. Swartz and collaborators are developing specialized vascular grafts that, if successful when implanted, would be stimulated to become functional as a native tissue when placed into a patient’s body. This would alleviate the need for donor blood vessels from the patient.
  • Janet Morrow, professor of chemistry. Morrow is developing a series of “smart” contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These contrast agents hold promise to be developed as tools for monitoring the progress of cancer treatments and deciding which treatments to implement, including for patients who can’t tolerate current MRI contrast agents.