Bacteria-resistant textiles for hospitals to ward off hospital-acquired infections, a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer and a portable oxygen system were the winning technologies proposed by teams from three Pennsylvania universities competing in the fourth round of the QED Proof of Concept program run by the University City Science Center.
Early stage life sciences research teams at Lehigh University, Philadelphia Universityand Thomas Jefferson University have each received $200,000 as part of a two-year-old program designed to accelerate technology transfer in the Philadelphia region. Additionally, each research team receives one year of business guidance from the Science Center’s network of entrepreneurs to help bring their technologies to market. The three were selected from an applicant pool of 48 from 17 participating institutions.
Mayuresh Kothare and Shivaji Sircar of Lehigh University developed a way to miniaturize the mechanism that delivers oxygen-rich gas from ambient air, allowing greater energy efficiency and lower costs.
The Philadelphia University team, consisting of principal investigator Alex Messinger, Diana Cundell, Brian George and D.R. Widder, developed a new biocidal textile technology for hospitals and will look at technology to address market needs for killing bacteria, durability and washability requirements for new clinical applications, including lab coats that kill bacteria on contact.
The team from Thomas Jefferson University is developing the first clinically reliable test for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the primary form of pancreatic cancer that currently has no reliable system for early detection. the members of the team include Dr. Hwyda Arafat, professor of surgery and co-director of the Jefferson Pancreatic Center at TJU and Mon-Li Chu, professor and vice chair of Research in Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology.
The QED program was launched in 2009 following the recommendation of a report by the CEO Council for Growth. The report recommended that Pennsylvania establish a proof-of-concept program to bridge the funding gap between startups and commercialization. It is the only multi-institutional proof-of-concept program in the country and the only program of its kind to focus on early stage life sciences companies.
A group of 39 advisers from the industry and investor organizations review applicants in a two-stage selection process. Applicants spend two months putting together a plan for what they would use the money for and develop a program on how they would develop their technology within one year to commercialization.
“Given that at this stage of life science technology will take many years to develop, our goal is to get it to the point where someone from the private sector is interested in negotiating a license through the university,” said Chris Laing, the Science Center’s vice president of science and technology, who runs the Port Business Incubator.
Of nine projects that have received money through the program, five have negotiated a license or option to license. The companies seeking to enter license agreements are a mix of startups and established companies.
The program produced the first spinout at a children’s hospital — Vascular Magnetics. Dr. Robert Levy works as a professor of Pediatric Cardiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he directs the Cardiology Research Laboratory. He proposed developing magnetically guided nanoparticles to deliver drugs to diseased blood vessels for the treatment of peripheral artery disease in the second round of the QED program. The company’s CEO is Dr. Richard Woodward, an independent entrepreneur who participated in the program.
Among the feedback the program has received from individuals from the institutions that review the applications, Laing said: “Although technologies remain very high quality the whole way through, the pitches are a little more focused and the selection team of industry and investor organizations sense more of an awareness of what private investors are looking for and that’s one of the things we are trying to do — raise that awareness.”