Igniting innovation

Commercialization grants aim to turn research into marketable enterprises

The Texas Ignition Fund (TIF) has awarded three grants to UT Arlington researchers for projects that show promise of reaching the marketplace.

The grants come from a $2 million fund approved by the UT System Board of Regents in 2007 to speed commercialization of products created at UT System institutions. The UT System awarded nine grants totaling more than $450,000 this year in the fourth round of TIF funding.

UT Arlington’s three awards totaled more than any other UT System institution.

UT Arlington research endeavors show promise in advancing from the laboratory to the marketplace.

“These awards reflect the kind of groundbreaking research that is advancing UT Arlington toward its goal of becoming a national research university,” President James D. Spaniolo says.

One of the recipients, bioengineering Professor Hanli Liu, is developing a low-cost, real-time, optically guided needle biopsy system that improves prostate cancer diagnosis (see Silencing a killer).

In a second project, mechanical and aerospace engineering Assistant Professor Brian Dennis and industrial engineering Professor John Priest are building a bench-scale “proof of concept” that converts North Texas Barnett Shale natural gas to synthetic gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. A regional Texas oil company has committed to funding the development of a full-scale microrefinery based on the researchers’ microreactor process.

A third project involves collaboration between bioengineering Assistant Professor Digant Davé and chemistry Professor Richard Timmons. They have developed a technique to detect and quantify biomolecules without using color labeling. Their work will expedite drug development by enabling faster, more precise and less expensive screening of drug molecules.

Through four rounds of TIF awards, the UT System Office of Research and Technology Transfer and the Ignition Fund Advisory Board have approved $1.6 million for 29 proposals from 11 institutions. TIF awardees report five startup companies, one of which has received a Texas Emerging Technology Fund commercialization grant. Two more startups are in the works.

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