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UT System awards UT Arlington three commercialization grants

News Release — 15 July 2009


Media contact: Herb Booth, (817) 272-7075,

ARLINGTON - Three Texas Ignition Fund (TIF) grants were awarded to The University of Texas at Arlington for research projects that show promise in advancing out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.

The UT System awarded nine grants totaling nearly $453,000 this year in the fourth round of TIF funding, which debuted in December 2007. The winning entries, each awarded $48,000 to $55,000 grants, are described in detail online.

UT Arlington's three awards totaled more than what any other UT System institution received individually.

"We're very pleased that UT Arlington continues to receive numerous TIF grant awards," UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo said. "The awards reflect the kind of groundbreaking research that is advancing UT Arlington toward its goal of becoming a national research university."

State legislation was passed in June that set up a funding mechanism by which public universities in Texas can accelerate and enhance research programs. Texas currently has only three Tier One universities - UT Austin, Texas A&M and Rice University. The goal of the legislation is to advance more institutions toward Tier One status.

Recipients of the UT Arlington awards were:

  • Hanli Liu, a bioengineering professor. Her research is developing a low-cost, real-time, optically guided needle biopsy system that improves prostate cancer diagnosis.
  • Digant Dave and Richard Timmons, a bioengineering assistant professor and chemistry/biochemistry professor, respectively. They have developed a technique in which biomolecules are detected and quantified without using color labeling. The technology will expedite drug development by enabling faster, more precise and less expensive screening of candidate drug molecules.

• Brian Dennis and J. Priest, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and professor of industrial engineering, respectively. The project will build a bench-scale "proof of concept process" that converts North Texas Barnett Shale natural gas to synthetic gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. A regional Texas oil company has committed to fund UT Arlington for the development of a full-scale microrefinery based on the researchers' microreactor process.

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. Through four rounds of TIF awards the Office of Research and Technology Transfer and the Ignition Fund Advisory Board have approved $1.6 million for 29 proposals from 11 UT System institutions. TIF awardees report five new startups formed, one of which has received a Texas Emerging Technology Fund commercialization grant. Two more startups are in the process of being formed.
"The TIF continues to generate quality proposals in a broad range of disciplines from UT System health and academic institutions all over Texas," Assistant Vice Chancellor for Commercial Development Cathy Swain said. "Start-up companies already derived from this program so early in its history are merely a preview of potential commercial opportunities. This fall we will be actively pursuing funding to perpetuate this important program."
The TIF fund was authorized to address the challenge that research discoveries and inventions at UT institutions often require additional funding to develop product applications that can attract investor capital to achieve their commercial potential. TIF funds are used primarily for personnel, equipment, supplies, instrument use fees, market analyses and business plans.
The TIF program was created by the UT System's Office of Research and Technology Transfer, whose charge is to develop and implement strategies to expand and enhance research and commercialization activities at UT System institutions. With a total research expenditure of $2.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 by the UT System, research and product development activities funded by the RTT resulted in 25 start-up companies (83 in the last five years), 99 U.S. patents (572 in the last five years), and 716 invention disclosures (3,207 in the last five years), ultimately creating new jobs, products and services.


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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.