A new way to gather DNA for testing. A better tool for training healthcare workers. Improved physical therapy. An innovative approach to stem cell therapy. These technologies are all under development at regional universities and have been funded by the latest round of the University City Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Program.
Launched in 2009, the program provides a boost to novel university-born technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and commercialization. To date, 28 funded QED projects have attracted over $15 million in follow-on funding and led to seven licensed technologies.
QED goes to the heart of the Center's mission as a nonprofit organization that supports early-stage innovation. In its latest funding round -- the eighth -- QED awarded $600,000 to support researchers at the University of Delaware, Penn State University and Rutgers. The awards are half funded by the Science Center and half by the researchers’ institutions.
The four awardees were selected from a pool of 62 applicants and 12 universities in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Amy Cowperthwait of the University of Delaware is revolutionizing healthcare training by addressing the shortcomings of mannequin simulation. A qualified nurse, Cowperthwait has teamed up with lead engineer Amy Bucha to develop a tool for teaching healthcare workers airway management in emergency situations, improving patient safety and providing feedback from the patient’s perspective.
Dr. Judith Deutsch, professor of rehabilitation and movement science at the Rutgers University School of Health Related Professions, led a team of physical therapists and engineers to create a customized low-cost rehabilitation technology that selectively tracks movement and heart rate. The technology will aid in balance, mobility, coordination and fitness training for older adults as well as persons with neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions such as a stroke.
Dr. Melik Demirel of Penn State is using proteins to coat the surfaces of biomedical swabs, improving DNA capture. These swabs will allow gene analysis from even tiny amounts of blood or other biological samples; the DNA swab industry is the primary market for this product.
Dr. KiBum Lee, an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers, is developing an innovative platform for programming human patient-derived stem cells for use in stem-cell therapies. His methods would help people with incurable and debilitating diseases and disorders. Lee's strategy is unlike conventional approaches because it doesn’t rely on the use of viruses to modify the cells' genes.
"The QED program excels at finding innovative, commercially relevant solutions for pressing problems in healthcare and life sciences," notes Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "Our latest round looked for innovative approaches to collaboration as it emphasized partnerships between two groups that don’t typically work together: medical professionals and engineers. Putting together these groups’ different skill sets and perspectives -- as exemplified by Amy Cowperthwait’s and Judith Deutsch’s projects -- creates another path to improving patient care. You can expect to see more of these special emphasis areas in the future."