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MTRAC awards spur biomedical innovation at Wayne State University

October 19, 2016

Five Wayne State University research teams were recently awarded funding from Wayne State’s Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program. The goal is to accelerate the translation and commercialization of their innovative biomedical technologies by providing the resources to validate technical and market opportunities. The MTRAC program is supported by a $1.07 million award from the Michigan Strategic Fund, which is administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, with matching funds from Wayne State.

The WSU MTRAC program is broadly focused on medical devices and biomedical materials.
The successful applicants for the 2016 MTRAC funding are:

• Abhilash Pandya, Ph.D., associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Luke Reisner, Ph.D., research assistant, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Anthony Composto, research scientist, Electrical and Computer Engineering: “Autonomous Camera Movement System for Minimally Invasive Surgery.”

• Amar Basu, Ph.D., associate professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering: “Continuous Heart Rate Monitoring for Endurance Athletes.”

• Thomas Sanderson, Ph.D., associate professor and associate director of basic science research, Emergency Medicine and Cardiovascular Research Institute; Maik Huttemann, Ph.D., associate professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Christian Reynolds, research assistant, Biological Sciences: “Neuroprotective Device to Treat Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury.”

• Weiping Ren, Ph.D., associate professor, Biomedical Engineering: “Novel Bone Graft Substitute for Orthopedic Applications.”

• Gaurav Kapur, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics; Sean Wu, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Mechanical Engineering; Yong Xu, Ph.D., professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and William Lyman, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics: “Noninvasive Blood Pressure Measurement for Intensive Care Setting.”

The awards — which range from $50,000 to $100,000 — are the culmination of a competitive selection process that began with the submission of letters of intent from faculty for 21 prospective projects. The faculty worked closely with Wayne State’s Technology Commercialization Office and MTRAC Program Director Scott Olson to identify the clinical and market opportunities and the commercialization roadmap. The researchers presented their proposals before a 10-member oversight committee consisting of medical device experts, entrepreneurs and investors from across the country.

“The MTRAC program is a perfect complement to a number of the innovation programs provided by the Technology Commercialization Office. These programs include the monthly ‘Commercialization Conversations’ educational breakfast sessions, mentors-in-residence, innovation fellows and the Technology Development Incubator proof-of-concept funding program,” said Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president for Technology Commercialization at Wayne State. “Projects may transition between these programs, and each of the successful MTRAC applicants benefited from their prior engagement with one or more these programs.”

Dunbar credited the availability and coordination of the programs for the recent upswing in deal flow, the launch of startup companies at WSU and the ability to successfully transition technologies from academia.

“As a major research institute in Michigan, the Wayne State MTRAC biomedical program is crucial in helping advance research into commercial application,” said Denise Graves, University Relations director at MEDC. “The success we continue to see across MTRAC programs throughout the state reinforces the vital role universities play in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Wayne State University is one of four universities with an MTRAC program. Others include the University of Michigan, Michigan Technical University and Michigan State University. Each has a different focus for projects that aim to accelerate commercialization in agriculture, biology, life sciences, advanced transportation and biomedical.

Developed and managed by the MEDC, MTRAC programs have funded 86 projects, helped develop 13 start-up companies, created 38 jobs, secured $23.8M in follow-on funding and licensed technology to three Michigan companies through June 2016.

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