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Commercialization Gap Fund supports high market potential research in 2022

An improved method for treating age-related eye diseases is one of nine projects by Washington State University researchers awarded with commercialization gap funding this year. 

The Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF) provides funding to help WSU scientists such as Kuen-Ren “Roland” Chen bring their technology from the research laboratory to the market. Chen is developing a microneedle technology that could ultimately help reduce the frequency of intravitreal injections patients need to treat macular degeneration and other age-related eye diseases. 

The CGF funds research projects with high market potential and provides researchers up to $40,000 to booster their ability to make an economic impact on society. 

“We are excited to recognize this year’s Commercialization Gap Fund recipients and grateful to the Washington Research Foundation for its continued support of this program at WSU. Through their research, our faculty are creating innovations that will make an economic impact and provide solutions to real-world challenges. As a result, the Commercialization Gap Fund demonstrates WSU’s commitment to its land-grant mission and tradition of service to society,” said Sita Pappu, assistant vice president for research in the Office of Commercialization.

Since the re-establishment of the program in 2014, the CGF has awarded more than $3.09 million in funding to 71 projects. These projects include technologies with 17 issued patents, 42 provisional patents filed, 2 trademarks filed, and 5 copyrights filed. Additionally, 16 of the technologies have signed licensing deals with outside companies and 15 start-up companies have been formed. The gap funding support resulted in $10.8 million follow-on funding for these technologies. 

The 2022 CGF recipients and their projects are: 

  • Xiao Zhang, associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, has invented a method to produce lignin oligomers with controlled structural properties.
  • Kuen-Ren “Roland” Chen, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has developed a microneedle technology for sustained drug delivery in a minimally invasive manner with reduced treatment frequency for age-related eye diseases.
  • Jinwen Zhang, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has invented a preparation method for fatty acid-derived epoxies using an aromatic non-coplanar bio-tripoxy as a co-monomer to achieve an overall high performance. 
  • Sandip Roy, professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has developed a commercially viable low-cost perimeter defense system for regional infrastructures using a protected technology that enables differentiation of aerial objects based on trajectory data. 
  • Xiaochao Xiong, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, has created a novel metabolic control system for a non-conventional yeast strain that enables cells to de-couple the competing tasks of cell growth and target overproduction, improving bioproduct production.
  • Subhanshu Gupta, Subhansha associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, has invented a next-generation wireless technology that incorporates hundreds to thousands of antenna elements using time-based signal processing and miniaturized silicon engineering.
  • Yang Hu, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has created a portable near-infrared sensor to detect spouting damage in wheat, which causes $140 million in annual losses. 
  • Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has developed a new low-cost nanoform catalyst to replace expensive Pt-Ru for water splitting.
  • Xianming Shi, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has developed nano modified sealer compositions and methods featuring synergistic use of trace amounts of graphene oxide and nanoclay to enable the production of high-performance sealer to protect concrete foundations, piles, piers, decks, and pavements. 

To apply to the Office of Commercialization’s Gap Fund program, applicants must submit a letter of intent and a pre-proposal. An internal committee selects the top pre-proposals. The top applicants are then invited to present in front of an external committee. Funds are available to clarify market needs, refine a value proposition, and decrease technical risk through prototyping. 

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