Four University of California, Davis, researchers have been given $50,000 each in the inaugural year of a competitive grant program aimed at facilitating the conversion of technology generated from university research into commercial applications.
The UC Davis Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) Grant program provides university funding and support for innovative research, thereby allowing selected researchers to generate early proof-of-concept models to demonstrate commercial feasibility. Typically, funding for this very early stage of commercialization can be difficult to obtain, creating a gap between cutting-edge academic research and market uptake.
The new program is offered by Venture Catalyst, a unit within the university's Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the Office of Research.
"Our goal is to help bridge this gap via programs developed and implemented through Venture Catalyst," said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor for technology management and corporate relations in the Office of Research. "With the STAIR Grant program, we hope to elevate the commercial potential of the remarkable research being conducted at UC Davis so that society can realize its benefits through future commercialization."
Each of the finalists is provided not only financial help but is paired with industry mentors who have volunteered to help guide the research teams on how to make the often difficult transition from academic research to commercial viability.
The four finalists were selected from a total of 38 applications. That larger group was narrowed down to 14 finalists through a rigorous multistage review process that included internal domain experts as well as external industry members.
The 2013-14 STAIR Grant awardees are:
- Kyria Boundy-Mills, research specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology: "Structure and activities of biosurfactants produced through a renewable, yeast-based, reduced cost process"
- Charles Hunt, professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: "Low-cost, high-quality energy-efficient light sources using field-emission lighting"
- Mark Mascal, professor, Department of Chemistry: "Simple, high-yield production of gasoline and renewable polymers from biomass"
- Jared Shaw, associate professor, Department of Chemistry: "A new class of antibiotics for treating infections resistant to current therapies"
The awardees were selected based on their technical merit, commercial potential, and alignment with the STAIR program's objectives.
One of the awardees, Jared Shaw, associate professor of chemistry at UC Davis, has discovered and is developing a novel class of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections, an area of growing concern within the U.S. and abroad.
"I am really grateful that the STAIR program was launched by Venture Catalyst," Shaw said. "Funding of this type is the missing link necessary for supporting translational research at universities and will be a positive force at UC Davis."
The funding from this grant will allow Shaw to further develop his discoveries and to generate additional preclinical data needed to support future testing of novel drug candidates.
The STAIR Program is one of several programs that Venture Catalyst is developing to support translational research and new venture development at UC Davis. These efforts are beginning to pay dividends, as the university launched 14 commercial startups during the last year, nearly twice as many as the preceding year and the largest number of new ventures based on UC Davis technology to be started in a single year. Venture Catalyst works closely with campus and local community resources, including the university's Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Engineering Translational Technology Center, to support the conversion of university research into commercial applications.