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Four projects awarded through Proof of Concept Fund

Thu, 03/13/2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas continues to move innovations from the laboratory to the marketplace. As part of this effort, four KU research projects that are near the commercialization stage have been awarded $50,000 each through the university’s Proof of Concept Fund.

The Proof of Concept (POC) Fund supports KU projects that have the potential to produce new products, technologies and cures in the near future. The POC Fund supports projects for one year to make the technologies more attractive for private investment, ideally within 12 months of being awarded funding. The fund supports all areas of technology, including electronics, software, communications and engineering. Supported projects must have industry involvement.

The awardees and a summary of their translational research projects are as follows:

  • Mark Fisher, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; and John Karanicolas, Department of Molecular Biosciences — This project seeks to accelerate and validate small-molecule pharmacological chaperones that directly target any disease protein that has a tendency to misfold using a combination rapid in silico drug discovery and rapid validation platforms. This is particularly important in rare and neglected diseases.
  • Paul Hanson, Department of Chemistry — Pharmaceutical research companies often benefit when new technologies are employed in research. Hanson and his collaborator, Patrick Kearney from HD Sciences, propose optimizing a new material – functionalized magnetic nanoparticle reagents – and using them to synthesize large numbers of compounds. These chemical libraries, which can be used for biochemical screening, are often the first step in finding a chemical compound en route to a new medicine.
  • Minae Mure, Department of Chemistry — This project seeks to develop antibodies to selectively detect a protein produced by some types of highly invasive breast cancers. Such antibodies would have great potential to be used as tools for early diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. This project also seeks to produce large quantities of a highly pure form of the protein. If great quantities of high-quality protein are available, this protein could be used in research to develop drugs to treat breast cancer.
  • Peter Rowe, Department of Internal Medicine — Dr. Rowe and his colleagues have bioengineered a novel peptide that markedly increases hair growth when topically applied to the skin of wild mice. If successful in humans, the peptide formulation can be used to treat pattern baldness in men and women and also hair loss induced by chemotherapy. Pattern baldness affects nearly 50 percent of Caucasian men and women below the age of 40.

“The Proof of Concept Fund supports KU inventions that are close to attracting industry investment,” said Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and president of the University of Kansas Innovation & Collaboration, the unit that heads KU’s technology transfer activities. “The fund helps high-potential KU technologies further attract industry investors and partners in the immediate future.”

Applicants were required to clearly indicate the economic potential of their technology and identify companies that would be suitable partners to develop a commercial product. Preference was given to applications that have a monetary or in-kind match from industry partners. Proposals were judged by a panel of outside technical and business experts.

This is the second year KU has issued awards through the POC Fund.

Entrepreneurship and commercialization are key components of KU's strategic plan, Bold Aspirations. Some key metrics and outputs include:

  • In fiscal year 2013, KU filed for 143 patents and was issued 37 patents.
  • Last year, KU’s industry-funded research grew to $10.1 million.
  • KU also hosted 34 company visits in fiscal year 2013.
  • KU has 78 active license agreements for the commercial use of KU discoveries.
  • There are 24 active startups created from KU research.

For additional information on KU’s efforts in entrepreneurship and commercialization, see KUIC’s Annual Report.

“Part of KU's mission is to make discoveries that change the world," Goonewardene said. "That includes working to commercialize those discoveries into real-world cures, products, and solutions that help people live healthier and more prosperous lives."



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