UB recognizes standout innovations with commercial potential through the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund Awards. These funds help to advance innovations to make a big impact.
Since the University officially launched the Innovation Hub in May 2019, this dynamic initiative helps to close the gap between innovators and the marketplace by connecting researchers, students, and entrepreneurs to the funding, facilities, and expertise they need to commercialize their ideas more rapidly and effectively.
As part of the original “I-Hub” announcement in April 2019, UB and partner institutions can apply for “Accelerator awards” to develop new technologies to solve existing market challenges. From innovative therapeutics for respiratory failure, to more efficient and sustainable batteries, to new approaches in the battle against major health epidemics, these collaborations are paving the way for positive future advancements and opportunities across many industry sectors.
Funding was awarded to the primary investigators, and they have a 12-month term to accomplish predetermined development milestones to move thier innovations closer to market.
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University of Buffalo
Many believe that the future of factories and manufacturing includes the deployment of collaborative robots (or “cobots”) that are able to physically interact with humans to gain unique and synergistic benefits. Before the broad deployment of cobots, they must be designed and tested to assure the protection of people working within close proximity. As recipients of a $55,720 award, Dr. Ehsan Esfahani and his team are focused on making cobots a reality with a robot hand that is safe to interact with humans. They have developed a variable stiffness robotic gripper that is able to detect unwanted collisions by adjusting itself to protect those around it. The team is currently launching a startup company to commercialize the gripper, while licensing technology from the University.
While lithium-ion batteries are the common choice in consumer electronics and electric vehicles, their storage capacity is limiting. To overcome this issue, Dr. Mark Swihart and Adam Raszewskihave turned to silicon, which can hold 10 times as many lithium ions as current materials, thereby boosting energy storage capacity. This team is using their $62,320 award to investigate the production, characterization, and testing of silicon-carbon nanostructures for lithium-ion battery anodes. The funds will also support the development of a unique process and material, which promises a low-cost manufacturing route to higher-capacity batteries.
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Given the national opioid crisis, many in the medical community have greatly reduced their prescriptions. With that change comes the reality that the need for good alternatives to treat post-surgical and chronic pain remains. Dr. Arin Bhattacharjee, Dr. Elsa Daurignac, and doctoral student Rasheen Powell are collaborating to develop non-opioid analgesics, which promise long-lasting post-surgical pain control. They received a $98,777 award that will enable them to demonstrate efficacy at 24 hours in a post-surgical pain model, provide evidence of reduction in pain behavior and characterize the extended analgesia duration.
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Improving survival rates during respiratory failure is also an unquestionable need within the medical and healthcare sectors. Under the guidance of Dr. Bora Baysal, a pathologist at Roswell Park, his $87,000 award is focusing on the development of an anti-mortality drug for hypoxic lung disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can cause hypoxia, is the third leading cause of death in the United States as it hinders a patient’s ability to adequately capture oxygen from the air. Once fully developed, this drug expects to increase survival and reduce dependency on supplemental oxygen.
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As the type 2 diabetes epidemic grows in prevalence, identifying a simple, effective, and realistic alternative to the now required dailyinsulin shots is both critical and timely. Dr. Qing Lin and Husan-Yi Wu were awarded $81,250 for their work in seeking a solution to this dilemma with a new drug and application that promises to treat diabetes, while also reducing blood sugar weight. In addition to treating the condition, another promising element of their approach is that the proposed therapeutic would be taken orally, thereby eliminating the need for insulin injections and reducing medical waste from injection pens.
Current cardiac pacemakers require special wires (leads) to deliver energy to the heart. One issue with leads is that they are dependent on battery power, and batteries eventually need to be replaced. Additionally, leadless pacemakers that are much smaller and placed directly into the heart chamber are almost impossible to replace. Dr. Amin Karami and Mostafa Anbarani are using their $50,000 award funding to develop a solution for this. They are working to create an energy harvesting device that will capture energy from a beating heart to power a leadless pacemaker, which will result in more efficient implants and reduce the need for follow-up procedures for patients.
Dr. Rosemary Dziak and Dr. Mark Swihart have been awarded $64,000 for their work to find a solution to the ethical and patient concerns around regenerative bone therapy. Current bone grafting materials are often either extracted from cadavers or from patients themselves. While synthetic materials are available, they are infrequently used. To further the field of synthetic grafting and address the aforementioned concerns, this team is exploring the optimization of a nanocalcium sulfate product for the development of synthetic nano bone grafting materials that will provide both superior strength and usability characteristics.
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